When Tatiana Zakharchenko ’10 calls in to update LMU School of Film and Television, it’s a bubbling visit full of news. This alumna has forged her own career path. Her latest success comes with her YouTube channel’s biggest show, which is about a little animated truck. Children from all over the globe know the name Leo from the show “Leo the Truck.”
Turns out, little Leo is the truck that could: The show commands staggering viewership of more than 1 billion views on YouTube. “That’s more than PBS kids,” said Zakharchenko, M.F.A production.
Having accomplished so much in the field of Direct-To-Consumer broadcasting, Zakharchenko feels strongly about encouraging others to do the same and she is visiting SFTV to announce internships with her studio for LMU School of Film and Television students.
Zakharchenko is from the small town of Navoi, Uzbekistan. She earned her B.A. in English and German linguistics in Moscow, Russia, in 2003, she went on to work at the British Embassy in Russia. But she realized it wasn’t the career path she wanted to take. So, she went back to school to get an associate’s degree in broadcasting, “I took a class on documentary production and knew right away filmmaking is what I want to do!”
With that in mind, Zakharchenko chose Loyola Marymount University on a Fulbright Scholarship and received a full-ride for three years of study. “I learned so much in the classroom here,” she said. “We worked together and were always there for each other. There were great crews on shoots and someone would always help you.
“In my first year, I made a narrative film, a five-minute silent comedy, which went down well,” she said, “and then I got to make my documentary on Marat Safin, the famous Russian tennis player. I learned that you can’t control the process, you just need to let it go and see where it takes you.”
She enjoyed editing and got compliments on her work. Zakharchenko hasn’t given up on documentaries entirely; she worked on several nature documentaries made for television right after she graduated from LMU, and this year she was a part of the post-production crew on an independent feature documentary.
Fulbright Scholarships invest in the idea that you bring back your knowledge, so after graduation Tatiana Zakharchenko returned to Russia, where she started dubbing Nickelodeon and Discovery shows for Russian networks. She went on to produce the Russian television versions of well-known American shows, such as “Jeopardy!” and “Law and Order: SVU and CI”.
“Dick Wolf was involved in the production of ‘Law and Order: SVU and CI,’ as it was the first time ‘Law and Order’ had been remade in another country,” said Zakharchenko. There have been four seasons to date. She also developed and wrote an adaptation for Russian television of the show “Psych.”
“‘Psych’ is a great example of why changes are necessary when you adapt a show for the local market. The pilot episode focused on the action around a spelling bee, but there is no such thing in Russia.” So, a rewrite was in order.
It was Zakharchenko’s job to get scripts approved and give notes to the writers and editors. “Essentially, I was making sure the network was getting what it paid for with these adaptations for the local market.”
After returning to the U.S., there were other adaptations and dubbing work, but this time it was on YouTube and the means to be in charge of her own channel was not lost on Zakharchenko. “It’s a royalties system, which means the smarter you work the more you get paid.”
In 2015, she started producing TV Para Niños, a YouTube channel for preschoolers in Spanish and very quickly, she had more views than PBS Kids. “My day-to-day involves a lot of post-production. I hire voice talent and singers, do voice over, vocals and music editing and upload videos to the platform, making sure they are search engine optimized. I get a lot of fan mail on social media; I love engaging with the fans. It’s very gratifying.”
Zakharchenko added, “I love what I do. I’m in charge of my schedule. I get to work with talented people from all over the world. I’d start my day catching up with my voice-actors from Barcelona, go on to give assignments to my singers in Mexico and wrap it up going over the script with my editor in Moscow.”
With her success comes expansion and Zakharchenko is accepting applications for internships in what is still a unique area. “Success is your own to make in DTC broadcasting,” she said. “My advice to students is: don’t forget there are other markets to work in. You can write a script and sell it abroad. You can provide editing services to someone in Australia or Canada. You can collaborate with someone in Amsterdam. It’s a world full of opportunities out there.”
Any students interested in the internships with Tatiana Zakharchenko’s studio, please contact Matthew.Mills@lmu.edu