Unifrance: Why did you choose to make this portrait of Volodymyr Zelensky, a leader with an extraordinary career?
Théodore Bourdeau: In 2019, we covered Volodymyr Zelensky's presidential election bid with a reporting team that met him in Kiev. At that time, he was about to be elected and he was still shooting episodes of his series Servant of the People. We discovered an extraordinary character.
When the war in Ukraine started at the end of February, the figure of Volodymyr Zelensky immediately emerged, with his videos calling for help. We decided that we absolutely had to document his journey and his way of communicating with the media around the world.
In agreement with the TF1 group, we decided on the earliest possible broadcast date and to adapt the production conditions to this exceptional event.
How long did it take you to set up the project? How did it unfold?
TB: Zelensky: The Story was broadcast on March 9 and we had launched the production eight days earlier. Willy Papa, Nicolas Fresco, and Arthur Genre worked non-stop with our documentation department to collect a maximum of archives, some of which had never been seen before. They were accompanied by a Ukrainian translator with whom they worked hand in hand during these eight days. The last chapters of Zelensky: The Story were put together only a few hours before the broadcast. Editors, graphic designers, production teams: everyone participated with the goal of producing a film that documents the story, and paints the portrait of an exceptional character.
How was it received by French audiences after being broadcast on TMC?
TB: We didn't really have any rating objectives, but the audience came along with 1,260,000 viewers, an excellent score for a TNT prime time. All the feedback we received, especially on social networks, was very positive and valued the documentary's educational aspect as well as its topicality, so closely relating to current news.
Why did you choose to distribute the documentary? What position did you adopt?
Charlotte Tachet: We've been partners with Bangumi for a few years now, and we appreciate the quality of their work, their rapid responsiveness, and their creativity. We were immediately convinced of this documentary's strong potential.
Indeed, in addition to the news reports on the geopolitical context and on the ground that were available for export at the time, we felt a strong demand from international broadcasters to know more about Volodymyr Zelensky and his career. The production strategy and treatment adopted by Bangumi also allowed us to target a large audience in a very short time frame, as the vast majority of our broadcasters wanted to air the film within a few weeks of its launch.
We mobilized our internal resources to ensure the program was promoted, marketed, and delivered in record time, thanks to the excellent coordination of our sales, marketing, legal, and logistics teams. This is one of our shared strengths with Bangumi, and is essential for this type of project, and we are delighted to have been able to take on such a challenge together, in just a few weeks, from the program's production to its marketing. A second major asset, and also essential, was being able to mobilize our large network of international partners, who very quickly confirmed their interest in the program.
How did the broadcasters react to the program, and in which territories was it exported?
CT: Incredibly topical, this documentary has been a great success in the export market. To date, it has been broadcast in some twenty territories in just a few weeks, from the Baltic States to Australia, along with Eastern, Western and Southern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. The response from foreign audiences has been very positive. For example, its broadcast in Germany, both on the ZDF Main Channel and on ZDF Info, where it was consecutively programmed, exceeded the usual audience shares, and also attracted a younger audience (14-49 years old), garnering almost 2.8 million viewers in total, not including VoD. We are delighted with the program's exhibition with our partners and are continuing to market it.