Pavla Janoušková Kubečková, Tomáš Hrubý and Štěpán Hulík

The Rise of Czech TV Series

In 2013, produced by nutprodukce and scripted by writer Štěpán Hulík, the three-part HBO miniseries Burning Bush received critical acclaim (11 Czech lions, Czech Oscar candidate) for the way it dramatised the true story of Prague history student Jan Palace. Three years later, HBO Europe has reteamed with nutprodukce and scriptwriter Hulík for Pustina (Wasteland), an eight-part drama set in the Czech Republic that focuses on a mining village on the verge of extinction.

Pavla Janoušková Kubečková and Tomáš Hrubý co-founded the production company nutprodukce in 2009. Now, it´s position is based on a wealth of experience raging from documentaries, high end tv series to animated works, and an artistically diverse selection of the best art house Czech cinema as the miniseries directed by Agnieszka Holland - Burning Bush (11 Czech lions, Czech Oscar candidate), Graffitiger (Student Oscar nominee) or animated short Pandas (Cinefondation 3rd Prize, Cannes 2013), feature film Spoor by Agnieszka Holland (Alfred Bauer Prize at the 67th Berlinale).

Štepán Hulík studied film history at Charles University in Prague and screenwriting at Film Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU). He won the most significant Czech literary award Magnesia Litera for his debut book Cinematography of Oblivion (2011), in which he mapped out the state of Czech film during the era of so called normalization during the 70s and 80s. His screenwriting debut miniseries Burning Bush. He continued his collaboration with nutprodukce and Agnieszka Holland as a script collaborator on Spoor. Also he worked as a scriptwriter for 8-part series Pustina (Wasteland)

The three-part series of hour-long episodes Burning Bush presents the factual story of Jan Palach, a student of history and political economy at Charles University in Prague. For the director Agnieszka Holland, Jan Palach’s story is of personal importance. As a student in Prague in the 1960s she took part in the student movement and the Prague Spring and knew some of the real-life characters. 

The executive vice president of original programming and production for HBO Central Europe, Antony Root, says, “With Burning Bush we are setting a new standard in terms of the scripted drama that we produce. The audience thinks this is a film about Jan Palach, but it’s really a longer look at events after his death. The subject matter is hugely resonant in the Czech Republic and the wider Central Europe region, but this transcends its locality with universal themes of good versus evil and individuals being morally tested. No other broadcaster or premium cable channel would do it.”

Antony Root recalls that Hulík proposed Pustina just a month after the premiere of Burning Bush. Pustina, the story, which opens with the search for a missing girl, first emerged with the help of producer Tomas Hruby, who conceived the plot of a community under threat. "With Burning Bush, we had set the bar for ourselves quite high and we didn’t want to make anything smaller than that show. We wanted to achieve something as appealing to the audience and as powerful and strong as Burning Bush. So it was difficult but it was also great motivation." said Hulík. 

Hulík talked about the script work on TV shows during one of the interviews: “The most difficult thing when writing TV series is to keep in mind all the sub-plots, all the characters. We have 100 speaking parts in the series so it’s very difficult to keep a map of the story in mind. To know where the key points are and to follow them is quite difficult. It’s much easier when writing a feature, where you have just a couple of main characters and your basic storyline is much more simple than with a TV series. But, on the other hand, with TV you have great space and time. In some ways, TV series are like a novel.”