The telephones of a small society of Stockholm media rights They don’t stop ringing and they all call for the same thing: broadcast the series of the former comedian and current hero of the resistance in Ukraine, Volodimir Zelenski, in which he acted as president of the country. “We are overwhelmed. They arrive petitions from all over the world to spread it“explains in the elegant premises of the Swedish capital Nicola Soderlund, co-founder of the Echo Rights society.
From the first days of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, on February 24, television networks such as the British Channel 4, the Greek ANT 1 and the Romanian PRO TV negotiated the broadcasting rights of the ‘Servant of the people’ series, created in 2015.
“We have signed about 15 agreements and we are negotiating twenty more,” explains Soderlund, who has a framed poster for the series in his office. “We are in talks with Latin America, with the United States, with Netflix… With many people.”
In Italy, three or four buyers fight for the rights. In Greece, the series is broadcast on television every night.
For the Swedish executive, “there is at the same time a solidarity with the Ukrainians and a curiosity to see who he is” Zelenski, who went from being an unknown actor outside his country to becoming the resistance symbol against the Russian invasion.
However, Soderlund has known him for 10 years. In 2012, Zelensky created a comedy contest (‘Crack them up’), based on make money making people laugh to a jury of comedians, of which adaptations were made in countries such as Vietnam, China or Finland.
“I had lunch with him in Kiev, he had all these crazy and funny ideas,” he recalls.
On his mobile phone, he shows the photos he took with Zelensky at the Cannes International Film Festival (France) in 2016.
Impossible to believe, at that time, that this “actor so funny and loved by the Ukrainian public” would become Vladimir Putin’s black beast, admits Soderlund, despite having played the role of Napoleon invading Russia.
For Soderlund, “now he is a world leader who embodies and speaks to the entire nation”, from the besieged capital, Kiev.
“We needed a hero like him, after the Trumps and company“, adds the director of Eccho Rights, Fredrik af Malmborg.
However, the theme of the series “Servant of the People” was prescient: a history teacher who becomes the president of Ukraine. A public success in Ukraine that served Zelensky to launch himself into politics and win the 2019 elections at the head of a party he called… ‘Servant of the People’.
Presidents actors in the USA
“He always told us that in the United States they had had acting presidents“, says Malmborg amused.
Eccho currently has no contact with Zelensky, but was recently able to speak with his interlocutors in Ukraine, after days without news due to the war.
“One of them fled to Turkey and another to Rotterdam and they maintain contact with ‘Vova’, the diminutive of Volodimir, who continues to use his environment” to communicate.
The figures are confidential, but Eccho believes that the contracts signed, and to come, represent “close to one million euros” ($1.1 million). And in his catalog he has another Zelensky series, “Svaty” (‘In-laws’).
Eccho Rights, which has about 40 employees, announced that it was donating 50,000 euros to the Ukrainian Red Cross and plans to continue sending money, according to the contracts.