When Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in late February, filmmaker Anton Skrypets’s first instinct was to join the fight.
Soon after the invasion began, he visited the Territorial Defence Forces — the military reserve component of Ukraine’s army — in hopes of volunteering, but was turned away.
“I went there but they said, ‘I’m sorry, we already have a lot of people,’ he told As It Happens guest host Robyn Bresnahan.
“That was actually good, because I feel that my weapon is filmmaking.”
Soon after, Skrypets began dreaming up a story set in the war that was unfolding all around him.
He imagined a woman, Katya, who volunteered to help reunite a young boy with his family in Bucha — and discovered her own superpowers along the way.
The main idea of the project is to scream about what’s happening right here, to make people see all of those things.– Anton Skrypets, filmmaker
That idea became the basis for The Day I Met Spiderman, which Skrypet’s team says is Ukraine’s first feature film shoot since the war began.
“The idea of the project is that after the war began, each of us … each Ukrainian … could be a superhero,” said Skrypets.
Filming alongside fighting
The first challenge, Skrypets said, was drumming up a team willing to take on the risk of making a movie with a war unfolding around them.
“You have to find people who are ready to do this,” he said.
He ultimately found willing partners in The Organization of Ukrainian Producers (OUP) — a group of seven film producers who banded together when the war began — and another production company called AMO Pictures.
The team began production in May, shooting against the urban backdrops of Kyiv, Lviv, and other locations around the country.
“Being the first who shoots a fiction movie in war-torn Ukraine is a challenge,” said OUP co-founder Alla Lipovetska in a press release about the film.
Skrypets says their work is sometimes interrupted by air alarms warning of nearby rockets.
“The most challenging thing is that we are in the middle of the war and you just have to do your job, when some rockets could show up any day,” he said.
The team’s goal is to release the film this autumn, and Skrypets has a clear idea of who he wants to see it.
“My target is civilized audiences” in Europe and North America, he explained.
“The main idea of the project is to scream about what’s happening right here, to make people see all of those things,” he said. “We’re making this movie for people outside of Ukraine.”
Interview produced and story written by Kate McGillivray.