You Should Get to the Heart of Things

02 May 2017

Film Industry Czech Film Center Introducing

You Should Get to the Heart of Things

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Pavla Janoušková Kubečková and Tomáš Hrubý are the owners of nutprodukce, the production company behind such acclaimed projects as Wasteland, an original TV series for HBO Europe, and Spoor, the Berlinale award winner directed by Agnieszka Holland. Janoušková Kubečková is this year’s Czech Producer on the Move.
by Louise H. Johansen

The two of them met in FAMU’s Film Production Department, where together they produced the student film festival and in the process realized they had similar tastes in film and art — and perhaps similar goals. We met Kubečková and Hrubý in their office, in a rundown building in north Prague, the so-called Art District, where many of the city’s creative businesses are based nowadays.

You were still young students when you started your production company back in 2009. Did you ever consider producing under someone who was established?
Pavla Janoušková Kubečková: Not really. Both of us wanted to be independent producers, but it’s pretty hard to be on your own. It’s always easier and more efficient to work with someone else. That way you have more projects and you can talk things over with them.

Tomáš Hrubý: We really sucked as line producers! We kind of knew we either had to make it as producers or we’d have to go and find something else to do. [both laugh]

Do you have to agree, to both be turned on by a project to do it?
PJK: Most of our projects we do together, and I think those are the ones with the best results, but of course our roles are different on every project. Tomáš is more into TV series and writing screenplays. He’s an excellent script editor! I’m more focused on international co-production of feature films. So right now the division is very clear.

How would you describe the film environment in Prague and the Czech Republic? Do you feel like you’re part of a generation?
PJK: Absolutely not. I feel connected to the people we work with: the authors, directors, screenwriters. That’s our safe environment, and we develop and grow inside of that. That’s our goal, to build strong long-term relationships. Some of them are people we’ve known since school.

TH: There are Czech filmmakers I admire, and I like the way they think, but I don’t feel like there’s any national movement we could relate to. I would say we have that feeling more about the generation 20 years before us. They got off to a great start after 1989. Their films made a mark internationally, and also did really well in terms of box office at home. They’re much more iconic than anything we’ve done so far.

Do you have a mentor?
TH: There’s one person that influenced me right at the start. A very nonconformist producer Čestmír Kopecký, who worked at Czech TV right after the revolution. We had him as our teacher our first few years at FAMU, and I really enjoyed his perspective on producing. He basically taught us that finances and all the stuff we talk about most in our profession isn’t really what’s essential, and what you should really be thinking about is the creative aspect — whether it’s new, original, interesting. You should get to the heart of things, and be picky, argue with the artists. All that was very inspirational. We already had it in us, but he helped bring it out even more.

PJK: It’s similar for me. We both chose this teacher at FAMU. Agnieszka Holland also influenced us a lot. She has her own unique point of view, not just on filmmaking but the world in general. She is truly inspirational, and sets the standard for us.

Breaking Through
The two producers first collaborated with the legendary Polish writer-director on the miniseries Burning Bush, followed more recently by the feature film Spoor, which nutprodukce co-produced as minor partner.

PJK: It all started when we had the script for Burning Bush and HBO was interested. We didn’t really feel like any Czech directors were right for it, so Agnieszka’s name came up. She read the script in like two days, then said we should come to Warsaw and meet her to discuss the next steps. There are a lot of funny stories from that meeting! When she first saw us, she was shocked that we had come to Warsaw by train, because we were students and didn’t have any money.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
PJK: It’s hard to say. We’re quite proud of Wasteland, our new TV series, since there were some worries about whether or not we could continue to work on the same level after Burning Bush. With Wasteland we really started from scratch.

What do you see as your main challenge?
TH: Our dream is to find a way out of the local market and do our work on an international scale. I think that’s a common dream, a common ambition we share with thousands of other people. And most of them fail, each in their own way. So our biggest hurdle is figuring out how to crack that problem.

What are you working on right now?
PJK: We have a new project we’re presenting at Cannes, the debut film by the director Zuzana Špidlová. She won first prize in Cinéfondation [in 2009, for her student film Bába], and now this project is going to have its world premiere at Cannes, hopefully in three years. She’s been working on it for a year now, and it’s a very personal film, about a woman in her thirties who has a son with Down syndrome. Her husband leaves her, and she feels marginalized by society.

TH: She decides to do this crazy thing where she goes off on a road trip to Italy with her son, and just ekes out a living doing manual labor, picking apples. It’s mostly set in Italy, and what we’re hoping is we can find Italian and French co-producers in Cannes — someone who can bring something to the project.

Pavla Janoušková Kubečková (b. 1985) studied Journalism and Media Studies at Charles University, and Film Production at FAMU. She is part of the 2017 EAVE Producers Workshop and is this year’s Czech Producer on the Move.

Tomáš Hrubý (b. 1986) studied Film Production at FAMU, and was Czech Producer on the Move in 2014.

Nutprodukce, founded in 2009 by Hrubý & Janoušková Kubečková, is the winner of multiple Czech Lions, including the 2013 Czech Oscar entry, Burning Bush, directed by Agnieszka Holland. Also in 2013, their animated film Pandas took third prize in the Cinéfondation selection at Cannes. In 2017, Wasteland, an original TV series for HBO Europe, won the Czech Lion for best TV series, and their co-production with Poland, Spoor (Pokot), also directed by Holland, received the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize at Berlinale 2017.

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