Searchlight: Patrick Jean

Now if you’re of a geekier persuasion, you may well have seen Patrick Jean’s spectacular Pixels film doing the rounds earlier in the year. It notched up squillions of hits, and has now been optioned by Adam Sandler’s production company to develop a feature version. We can definitely see the appeal: Retro arcade games crashlanding in New York – as these things go its pretty irresistible. We decided to track Patrick down and find out about how things have changed since Pixels went stratospheric and what he’s working on next (clue: includes meetings with Adam Sandler).

How did Pixels come about? Were you a big gamer as a kid?

Yes, I played all these games when I was younger, on Commodore 64, Amstrad or arcade machines. UnfortunateIy I don’t have the time to play anymore…too much work.

Pixels has had a phenomenal response – were you expecting it to be so popular? How have things changed for you since Pixels was released into the internet?

No I never expected something like that… nobody expects to have 1 million people seeing your short movie in one day. I have to say things have completely changed for me. I spent the last 3 months going to festivals, meetings and doing interviews or TV shows. So sometimes it’s very difficult for me to focus on work; I think the most important point now, besides having now the opportunity to do big commercials and music videos, is to have new ways to produce my next short movies. I still have a bunch of ideas I want to make happen, and I’m now hoping that it will be easier after Pixels. I also met a lot of important actors of the film industry. Agents, directors and producers…

What inspires you?
As Stanislavski explains in his method of acting, sometimes you have spontaneous inspiration when working on a project. You can’t explain it; it’s here, but no matter what you do, you can’t control it. So the rest of the time you have no choice to use technique and experience to achieve your goal…

What first attracted you to VFX and animation?
Films like Tron or The Last Starfighter clearly oriented me in this direction when I was a kid. They were just magic! It was a whole new world exploding in front of my eyes. Then I had an Amstrad CPC 464 (the one with tapes) and I began drawing sprites and building my own videogames on it. As I didn’t have the right tools on it, I had to code the drawing software by myself in Basic… That’s how I began as a coder, VFX artist and director.

How do you go about developing film ideas – are you pretty spontaneous or do you keep sketchbooks/scrapbooks?
I have a lot of sketchbooks and scrapbooks at home. It’s kind of a mess to be honest. But I think it’s crucial to note all the ideas. Ideas are like dreams, You have this idea you love one day, and the next day you’ve forgotten it and it may never come again. And there’s a (slight) chance it was a good idea!

So I note everything now on scrapbooks. Even bad ideas.

What have you been up to since joining Mothership?
Mothership is a great company and I’m very happy to be able to work with them. I have been pitching on a lot of projects, and won a few of them. So I’m gonna shoot a few commercials this summer and develop my new short film the rest of the time.

You studied at Supinfocom – a bit of a legendary hothouse of vfx/cg directors. what was the experience at Supinfocom like?

Supinfocom it’s quite a good school, and it’s located in Valenciennes, a place where you don’t have much other choice than to work… There are a few very experienced teachers in Supinfocom, and that helps a lot, but most of the energy comes from the students. Most of them a very passionated by their work.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

I hope I’ll have one or more feature films in my filmography. I don’t want to do commercials all my life (even if I like it).

Aside from Pixels, what piece of work are you proudest of and why?
My next film. Because it’s full of potential.

We hear that Adam Sandler’s production company has optioned a feature version of Pixels – any news on the development process?

We went to LA a few weeks ago to discuss the project with Adam. He seemed quite interested by it. Things now are happening between our agents and the production company, and we should have news very soon – I hope.

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