Noir with several indeterminates: how the filming of Hide-and-Seek went

• 25.06.2019

The ambience of desperation, cold aesthetics of frames, unusual characters – ­Hide-and-Seek criminal drama is a truly atypical Ukrainian project. The series has already had a warm welcome in Europe; it is compared with the famous Scandinavian TV show Bron, a well-known American project True Detective, and a multi-episode drama Top of the Lake.  

True, in many aspects the work on Hide-and-Seek turned out to be innovational – series haven’t yet been filmed like that in our country. A careful and well-thought-out selection of locations, color solutions for the film, light and shadow play, unexpected angles for characters – all this creates a genuine ambience. Practically immediately the story about kidnapped children pulls the viewer in and doesn’t let go until the last moments… 


Our article will tell you how this project was filmed, which tasks were put before the film crew and how TV show authors achieved their goals.  

What is the story about?

In a city, children start disappearing in strange circumstances. First, a seven-year-old girl disappears from a locked apartment when playing hide-and-seek with her father. Then several more children disappear. With time, videos with children appear on the Internet – each child holds a piece of paper with a mysterious combination of numbers.

The investigation is delegated to Varta Naumova and Maksim Shumov. They will have to find the kidnapped children but before that must deal with their inner demons.


As director Irina Gromozda has noted, the series has several layers. Starting like a detective story, with time it acquires a dramatic angle. The film raises important social issues – lack of full parenting care, child trafficking, illegal adoption and also “surrogate vengeance” – when the hurt for the wrongdoing is directed not specifically at the offender but at the society in general.

“Initially we wanted to talk about responsibility of sorts: not before somebody, but before self. This means responsibility for one’s actions, thoughts and wishes,” says Irina Gromozda. “And we tried to look at our story not from the point of criminal code but from an ethical angle."


Screenwriter Oleksandr Protsyuk (the credits quote his literary alias Seemore Glassenko) has worked on the drama script for about 18 months. The first image he saw in his mind became the start of the film: father and daughter are playing hide-and-seek. It is only later that the protagonists, detectives Varta and Shumov, appeared. This is what Oleksandr told us about Hide-and-Seek:  

“I wrote relatively quickly but then made corrections, reworked and edited something. It happened that we worked for several days on one scene. I had the chance to come to the set, to work with the director and the whole crew. At the set, you immediately understand what needs to be changed. Some things I came up with totally disappeared but the real moments stayed because actors lived through them.”   

Cast: famous actors and new faces

The film features both well-known and young actors.

“Initially we were looking for fresh faces. And we were ready to risk with actors without big cinema experience,” says Irina Gromozda.  

The female lead, investigator Varta Naumova, was played by actress Yulia Abdel Fattakh. She was an ideal match for reserved Varta, admitting she understands her character very well.  

“Varta Naumova is a very controversial personality. For me at least. At the time she lived through a grave trauma – one might say, total solitude happened to her. And she had to learn to protect herself, to tell lies and truth apart. This is a kind of orphancy, fatherlessness. When you have family but they don’t connect with you emotionally in any way. In such situation people go into frustration of sorts. They stop trusting.”


Maksim Shumov, Varta’s partner, was played by actor Pyotr Rykov. He confessed that he loves criminal drama and has dreamed about such role for a longtime.  

“Maksim Shumov might seem a simple guy at first sight. He looks easy to talk to, not concerned about anything and even emotionally withdrawn. But this is not so. He also has an internal fracture… The story with kidnapped children becomes a wake-up call for him. He starts feeling and acting.”  

Vyacheslav Dovzhenko, a well-known Ukrainian actor, has a difficult controversial role in the project. No spoilers here, we’ll only say that charismatic Dovzhenko has had an unexpected typecast. “My character became a victim of tragic circumstances. His child has gone missing. And now he puts all his efforts into alerting the society to the problem of missing children which is hushed up in our country for some reason."

Locations: unforeseen, scary and beautiful

In five months of work we’ve had a whole load of adventures! The filming was launched in autumn – a special state of nature was needed to emphasize the ambience of anxiety in the series. But autumn sharply turned to winter – severe frosts and snowfalls started, so the filming even had to be suspended for this reason.  


Creative producer Olesya Lukyanenko told about unexpected challenges during filming:

“Cold, fog, endless draughts – this is how we saw our project initially. Warm sunny days are no match for noir. The more uncomfortable our characters feel onscreen, the sharper we feel their drama. We understood that the filming would be difficult but honestly didn’t expect it’d be so hard.”


During the filming, over 80 locations were involved or built. Each object had a unique artistic solution to work for the general ambience and dramaturgy of the TV show.  

One of the most important locations is a barge. For outdoor filming, a real barge was used. However, it wasn’t as big as we would have wanted. And according to film set designer Aleksandr Batenev, they had to make additions to it in 48 hours. And the barge interiors were selected at one of the ships of former ship-repairing factory “Smithy in Rybalsky” (formerly “Lenin’s smithy”). This is an object difficult to access; even one person in good physical form and with the necessary equipment will have a hard time to get inside. And Hide-and-Seek ­film crew brought in the equipment, children, rats and filmed some of the most complicated scenes.

One more unusual location is a church. “In our story it is a contemporary church where the sermons happen in the form of a meeting: people come together and listen to the pastor’s speech. Initially we were looking for an unusual object and chose one abandoned workshop. We liked its semicircular form. Then we used an imaginative approach to the decor and, as I feel, we obtained a very interesting object – a church, which is captivating and scary at the same time,” Aleksandr says.  


Several objects were built at FILM.UA studio. First of all, it is an apartment where a girl goes missing in the beginning of the story, and then a police station. The latter was decorated in gray and blue hues and looks like a labyrinth where one can easily get lost.  

This is a conceptual decision,” emphasized Aleksandr Batenev. “First we wanted to disorient the audience and then lure them in the necessary direction.”  

But the heart of the project, as the authors say, is the city of Energodar (Zaporizhya region). Most outdoor scenes were shot there.


This is how Irina Gromozda explained the crew’s choice: “Initially, we were looking for an industrial city. A closed-off, a standalone one. With special energy you’ll never encounter in a megapolis. And these industrial wastelands were important for us. We believe there is some special fascinating beauty in those. There is a feeling that social life is not really happening in this city. You experience a peculiar feeling of solitude here. And if we imagine people – or in our case children – going missing in this city, we understand it will be very hard to find them.”

In noir style

But probably the most interesting aspect of the film is its visuals. Noir is first of all stylistics, special mood and ambience.

Cameraman Sergey Krutko told about his understanding of noir visuals:

“Noir for me is a genre where anything can happen. Where you can and should drop hints and speak in half-tones, hiding something from the audience so that they draw their conclusions. That is why we often filmed actors from the back, underexposed the image, made disbalanced compositions or immersed actors in the shadow. By doing this we wanted to emphasize that each character has own inner conflict and everything happening is not what it seems at first sight.”


The color in the series plays a very significant role. A hint for you: when you watch the film, pay attention to the color details, they don’t appear in the frame by accident.

Irina Gromozda explains:  

We have three themes the story revolves around. Family. System. Violence. For ourselves we decided that the system is about blue, family is brown hues. And violence is yellow.”

Varta’s curls and DiDi’s outfit

Makeup artists – the project involved Viktoria Ostapuk and Ksenia Tischenko – told about many curious nuances of their work.  

The project’s style was about the characters being as natural as possible. That is why we made capillary nets, freckles and even pimples – to create texture of natural skin,” said Vika.

Ksenia remembered how they worked on the image of Kipling the journalist.

We intentionally made greasy tresses so that the whole look was a bit unkempt. We added life to the characters because in reality people are rarely ideal and don’t look straight out from glossy magazines for sure.”

The girls confessed that the hardest character for them was Varta Naumova because her cute red curls constantly came undone due to challenging weather conditions.  

And the most interesting in terms of creating an image was a character nicknamed Tsypa. He’s an odious man, one of the main suspects whose body is fully covered in tattoos.  

Actor Vasya Kukharsky literally told us: ‘Do with me whatever you want!’ And we thank him for that. So we did our best. We invited Vasya to come to my place and experimented for five hours! We cut and dyed his hair, sent photos to the director, then cut and dyed his hair again. Did tattoo tests – in short, we were creating a complete look…” said Ksenia.  

Costume designer Alyona Gres was no less eager to share the secrets of her work. The simplest for her was Maksim Shumov because this character constantly wears the same clothing – a crude sweater and a leather jacket. Varta’s image is motivated by the character’s inner state – her aloofness and fear of touch. This is why she wears gloves and almost never takes them off. “I also worked out another detail: Varta even tucks her sweaters inside pants to get away from everyone. Later, when the character changes, she wears her sweater differently and even takes her gloves off which are like her second skin,” Alyona said.  


The look of singer DiDi (played by Darya Polunina) also turned out to be impressive. She is the mother of one of the kidnapped children. For DiDi, a special glowing outfit was developed to emphasize the strangeness and aloofness of the character.

No doubt, Hide-and-Seek has special creative energy, and this is obvious from the first shots. The series will surely become the most expected project of the following season, and not only in Ukraine.  

The project already has a big international distributor ZDFE (Germany) captured by the visuals of the series.

Hide-and-Seek became the first Ukrainian TV show which has made it this year to MIP DRAMA SUMMIT (Cannes) as one of ten most expected TV show releases of the following year.

International distribution starts in June from the premiere in Budapest at NAPTE.

Autumn will see the Ukrainian premiere at ICTV channel.  

Congratulations to everyone who took part! And we wish you big international victories!