The Story of Vadym Medvediuk
We all recognize the hum of a helicopter’s blades slicing through the sky. It’s something that most of us are used to, right? Now imagine getting used to an air raid siren. Picture that surreal noise becoming a part of your daily routine to the point that you just stop reacting to it—you stop going to the bomb shelter. Why so reckless? Because “it might just be another false alarm” or “it’ll probably miss home again” or you are “too tired to walk seven flights of stairs a couple times a day.” These are the quotes my mother told me after the first week of the war in Ukraine. She was trying to explain something that I, luckily, never experienced before and hopefully never will.
I was born in 1993, right after the USSR collapsed, in the free independent country Ukraine. I studied journalism in Poland and, during summertime, I would go back to my hometown to work as a local news correspondent. You see, being able to study abroad and travel to Europe was very much an “eye-opening” experience. When I’d go back home and see all the unfairness my own people would go through, my heart would ache. I needed to do something. So I started writing blogs, attending demonstrations and protests, finding likeminded people to unite, and hopefully help our country fight the internal enemy. It happened right before the revolution that took place in the end of 2013. During those years, I was getting more into film craft and understanding the possibilities of the art form—the way you can interact with the audience, communicate with them. Speaking your mind is as subjective as it is liberating. It’s up to the viewers to agree or to disagree after all. I didn’t feel that my message ever went far enough in journalism, so I started working in film. Parallel with that, I started to have a lot of problems with the government of my country. They did not take kindly to all of the protests over as quaint an idea as “free speech.” Pfff who needs that anyway? Things got so bad that in 2015, I had to leave Ukraine to protect my freedoms, liberty, and probably even my life. I was forced to seek political asylum in the U.S.
It took about three years of travels across America for me to experience life here and to have some solid integration into the local society. I knew eventually I’d have to end up in LA. All of my goals were there. As I would explain it to my friends, “Yes, you can make films anywhere, but why hit blood vessels if you can target the heart?” And so the pursuit of the big dream began. Targeting the heart of the industry was a bit of a long and difficult process. As is the case for most of us, I started as a PA, working for free, chasing coffee, driving trucks, and taking out the garbage. I worked on a lot of college and passion projects until my first big breakthrough—reality television! I booked my first solid big gig after almost a year of trying to break in—the overnight success—PA on an MTV reality show. I was proud of myself. Though it may not have been exactly what I aspired to, I now had a massive opportunity to network and develop contacts. And so I did.
While I was hustling on small gigs and nonscripted productions, I spent the next year writing and shooting personal passion projects. While shooting in my apartment complex, I met Michael Kish, one of my neighbors who has since become a close friend. We met in the elevator in the middle of the night after we’d both come home from our long workday.
I said, “Hi, long day at work huh?”
He replied, “Are you the guy who’s shooting porn in his apartment?”
For the record, no, I was not. But after a bit of an awkward silence, we both chuckled and introduced ourselves. Mike, as luck would have it, would be my insider into the scripted world. He was a background PA for ABC’s Black-ish at that time and he would always do his best to bring me on board. I will always be grateful to Mike for the opportunities he gave me. I started developing a new circle of colleagues who would help me find film and TV work. I started gaining more knowledge and understanding of what I want to do in the industry.
Then came March of 2020 and the entire world locked down.
Like most people reading this article, I was absolutely terrified by the pandemic. I lost my job. I felt cut off from my friends. I was afraid for my family and I was afraid for myself. And I had nothing but time on my hands. So I started writing and developing projects with my roommates, Dilek, Kyle, Natalie, and Emre. They may not have been filmmakers but they were passionate artists and I am thankful for all of them. It took bravery to go out and shoot in those strange days. We, of course, made it as safe as possible. Experience shooting during the pandemic helped me to start work with a German reality/challenge show as early as May of 2020. That job led to another one at the reboot of Saved By the Bell, which I believe was one of the earliest shows to resume production. And that show brought me to Star Trek: Picard. Boom baby, was back at it!
I started working on set of the second season of Star Trek: Picard in the COVID Compliance Department. I was that safety guy for a whole season of the show. But I was overjoyed just to be in that environment. I could watch and learn so much. Obviously, the safety of the set was the priority, but my job was literally just to observe people’s behavior and compliance. So I made a point to pay attention to the specifics of each department while I was at it. That’s how I met Amber Maher, the Video Assist Operator on the show. The possibility of watching the creation of the show through the QTAKE system sounded absolutely marvelous. She got to see and hear every single take and even strung together light edits on demand. It was the coolest thing. So, naturally, I went up to her and said, “Hi, my name is Vadym. Can I ask what you’re doing on set?” That went a long way.
Amber fought tirelessly to get me placed in the Y-16A Training Program with Local 695. I got my first official day in the end of October 2021. Since then, I have worked as a Y-16A Video Assist Trainee for eight hundred hours and about one hundred more as Y-7 Video Assist Engineer. Local 695 has been very supportive; keeping contact with me almost every week, checking on extra practical trainings or theoretical material I might need and you know, and just supporting me in any way they can. I mean you guys are reading this article right now, I’m blessed that the union has offered such an amazing opportunity just so I could share my story with you and hopefully, that will inspire something good in you. Thank you, Casey and James.
Star Trek ended up being more than just a job and the Star Trek family has done so much for me. They gave me experience, they gave me friendship, they gave me support, and a place to call second home for a while. Were it not for Amber’s decision to become my friend and mentor, I may never have made it into Local 695. And were it not for the compassion of my cast and my crew, I may never have been able to send money back home to evacuate my family to Poland following Russia’s invasion of my homeland. Words cannot express my gratitude to all of them and, particularly to Sierra Haworth, our on-set Camera Utility for organizing the crew’s GoFund me campaign to save my family.
My family escaped the acts of genocide that have spread across Ukrainian land and killed thousands of innocent people while forcing millions more to flee their homes. My family was lucky to have the support of my Picard fellowship. They could just as easily be among those we bid farewell to in our prayers each night. Under different circumstances, I could already be among the fallen. Any of us could, really.
That is why I am coordinating with my friends from the Filmanthropy nonprofit organization to gather funds in support our friends and loved ones still struggling in Ukraine. Our efforts ensure that any donations will go directly to those in need. If you have the means to donate, consider going to https://givebutter.com/SupportUkraine/vadymmedvediuk and making a contribution. With the help of my Local 695 kin, I hope we’ll be able to gather more support and do the right thing, the most humane thing, in order to help the ones in need.
Thank you for reading the glimpses of my life story and all the best to you, reader.