Producer Valentin Opalev: “Emanuel Vitorgan and Alexey Buldakov agreed to act in the series “Healing Love” not for money…”

22 October 2020

No one argues anymore with the fact that the series are needed. At first we watched Latin American soap operas, then American, and recently Russian series appeared on the screen in large numbers. “Are we worse?” – some viewers thought. “It’s ok, the sun will shine on our side of the fence!” – other viewers consoled themselves. It turns out that we are not worse, and, moreover, the long-awaited series sun seems to shine on our side at last. When the Film UA company and the creative association Mamadou started filming the 105-episode series “Healing Love” by the order of Inter TV channel, no one could forecast its result. Today, it can rightfully be argued that the film has stood the test of time and is one of the most successful television projects this year.

“Originally it was planned to film 105 episodes but now we conduct negotiations on filming 160 episodes”

– Valentin Olegovich, this is not your first experience in producing activities, right? – I ask Valentin Opalev, the producer of the series “Healing Love”.

– Previously there were “Long Noses Show”, “Mamadou”, “Comedy Quartet”. But such a large-scale project in Ukraine is being filmed for the first time – originally it was planned to film 105 episodes but now we conduct negotiation on filming 160 episodes.

– Were you afraid of such a venture? Projects like this have not been filmed in our country before.

– Circumstances developed so that our series just had to appear. On the one hand, the Inter TV channel was thinking about creating a series of this genre and was looking for whom to order it. On the other hand, my own production experience suggested: it is high time for that. The factor that I did not find Moscow partners who not only understood the need for the creation of the series, but also knew how to do it, played its role as well. After all, it only seems that shooting “soap operas” is easy. Not every screenwriter can write a screenplay for more than a hundred episodes in such a way as to keep the viewers attention daily. Not every director, even a specialist of the highest class, can film it. The series is, first of all, a technology that has nothing to do with either movie or television. It is special, “soap”. I have mastered it long and hard. Although, for sure, there were some concerns. We were very worried about how the viewer would accept the series, whether it would be successful. However, nothing risk, nothing win. We bought a huge – 1200 square meters – pavilion in the Kiev region, not far from the Makarov district center (there are simply no such areas in Kiev!) and started shooting.

– As it turned out, you worried in vain.

– Yes, ratings show that viewers are watching the series with interest.

– And not only in Ukraine?

– We are the distribution leaders in Russia, which is evidenced by the figures. Our series has the highest rating as compared to everything broadcast on the Russia channel, and it is stable. We have never been inferior to either the series or feature films in prime time.

– Is it true that other countries also want to buy “Healing Love”?

– India has already made such a proposal. Potential buyers said that in terms of mentality and character this picture is very close to the films in their country. Obviously, the genre of melodrama is close and interesting to all peoples. And it doesn’t matter what language the characters of the film speak and what clothes they wear – Indian or European.

– Moreover, you show it clearly in your series – the action takes place in Ukraine.

– By the way, this is the first such case. Television films with an eye on Russian broadcast have been shot in our country before, but it was customary to avoid even hints of Ukraine in them. For some reason, it was believed that it would not be interesting for Russian viewers. It refers to my films as well. It went to the point that we had to hide not only signs in Ukrainian, but also license plates. There is nothing of the kind in “Healing Love”. The action takes place in Illichevsk, near Odessa. Most of the scriptwriters are our compatriots, the film crew consists entirely of Ukrainian specialists. “Healing Love” is a Ukrainian product that has conquered the Russian market. By the way, compared to Russian TV shows, our product is cheaper.

“I managed to persuade Tonya Venediktova and Lika Volskaya to move to Kiev for permanent residence”

– How did you choose the actors?

– Both Ukrainian and Russian actors work with us, which is absolutely normal for world cinema. Casting was insanely complicated, I spent many days in Moscow, worked with talent agencies. The most important thing was to find a leading woman, since the fate of the whole film depended on it.

– And where did you find her?

– In Kiev! Natasha Rogoza is still too young to be a certified actress. When she came to the set, she was 18 years old, now she is 19. She is a student at the Kyiv Academy of Circus And Variety Arts. By the way, there were a lot of disputes with potential customers: they doubted whether an unprofessional actress could play a major role. But the girl has something that professional actresses lack sometimes – human charm, sincerity, which outweighed the scales in her favor. In addition, Natasha is a very talented person. She sings great, songs performed by her will sound in the series. I think we should not exaggerate our role in her fate, she would succeed any way.

– Nevertheless, it was your series that gave her a chance.

– Someone has to give a chance to a talented person. Three more young actors are being shot in the film, I think they will also have a bright future. Katya is played by Alexandra Afanasyeva-Shevchuk, the daughter of the famous actress Irina Shevchuk, whom the audience remembers and loves for the role of Rita Osyanina in the film “The Dawns Here Are Quiet …” And the two guys I found in Moscow. Kirill Burdikhin (Kostya) works at the Satire Theater, Denis Kharitonov (Alexey) – at the Roman Viktyuk Theater. By the way, Roman Grigoryevich did not really want to let him go. Denis came to the theater not so long ago, and, obviously, the master rested certain hopes on him. But, we must give credit where credit is due, as a result he not only let him go, but also retained his position in the theater. Perhaps, my words also played an important role here – I said that Denis might become famous about this series. “There is a chance,” I told Roman Grigoryevich, “that in a year you will get back an actor who can play leading roles in performances.”

– Canny move – you played the right card!

– I’m a producer as well, so I have to look for methods of persuasion. Especially when it comes to actors. I have managed to persuade such well-known Moscow actresses as Tonya Venediktova (viewers know her from the series “The Thief”) and Lika Volskaya (“Two Fates”) to move to Kiev for permanent residence. Despite the fact that in Moscow they have families and work. By the way, the actresses justified the hopes that we laid on them, they work great.

– And how did you tempt the superstars – Emanuel Vitorgan and Alexey Buldakov?

– Not with money! I think the decisive role was played by the fact that we were able to offer these actors the roles that are not characteristic for them. Vitorgan once already starred in my 12-episode comedy film “Merry Company”, so I immediately offered him the role of smuggler Yakov. Buldakov, who recently plays either the military or the bosses, liked the role of a lighthouse keeper – a person with criminal inclinations. Already during the filming, Alexey Ivanovich was offered to play the next district-level official in another film, and he refused. He said that we are more interesting for him. By the way, the same story happened with Amalia Mordvinova. She had never played the characters like the fortuneteller Rimma before. I must also say about two Ukrainian actors – Vladimir Goryansky and Oleg Maslennikov. We have been friends with Volodya for a long time. And when I read the screenplay, I realized: he should play Samoilov. The fact is that for now the audience thinks that this character is positive, but over time, negative traits will also appear in him. As for Oleg, the role specialization of this actor is a pronounced hero, a true man. In addition, we needed recognizable faces and Oleg has been filmed a lot. In general, it seems to me, we got it right with the actors.

– Are the viewers to date familiar with all the characters, or will someone else appear along the way?

– If you notice, all the characters entered the film not at once, but gradually. It is understandable, famous actors need to be skillfully framed like precious stones. In order to keep the interest of the audience we will definitely introduce another character, but a little bit later. I think it will be one of the young, but famous actors.


“We shoot 32-34 minutes of screen time per day, that is, filming an episode takes us a day and a half”


– Who did you entrust to shoot such a crucial project?

– The director of the picture is Bata Nedich. I know him for a long time, last year he shot my New Year’s detective “Howler” and proved himself to be a good organizer, which is extremely important for the series. The fact is that according to the “soap” technology, the director participates neither in writing the screenplay nor in the directorial development, he gets it ready. He also does not participate in editing, because he simply has no time for this. The series is a conveyor, where each specialist is responsible for his own area of work. In this situation, the director, first of all, should be a coordinator and a diplomat, capable of finding the necessary compromise in a difficult situation. Two film crews work on site every other day, usually until two to three in the morning. While the director is on set all the time. Whole year round! To withstand such stress is insanely difficult both physically and mentally. We shoot 32-34 minutes of screen time per day, that is, filming an episode takes us a day and a half. If for some reason we get less than half an hour, I start to get very nervous.

– You are right, it is difficult to relax in such environment!

– This is out of the question, the series technology does not provide for relax. Actors learn the text directly on the set and must pronounce it as accurately as possible. They has no right for any major improvisations, only within the framework of the topic set.

– Why?

– Just because neither they nor the director know what will happen to their heroes in 20-30 episodes.

– Do you know?

– I know. But I will not say.

– But can we hope for a happy end?

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