‘Pixels’ director Patrick Jean plays short films at Cosford Cinema

When Patrick Jean’s talent was showcased at the Cosford Cinema, the up-and-coming French director displayed a number of his short films. Among these were individual projects, commercials for major companies like Audi and music videos for various European artists.

His short “Pixels” was recently made into a feature length film. The short is a unique mash-up of live-action and animated film featuring the streets of New York juxtaposed by 80s video games. This visually stunning work was for the first time screened in 3D HD at the Cosford.

In the film, the pixelized 80’s video game characters invade various iconic New York landmarks in their quest for destruction. Donkey Kong mirrors his fellow King Kong by standing atop the empire state building, Tetris blocks fits in the gaps in sky scrapers and Pacman gobbles up subway stations. The film is meant to be comical, but it also speaks to the loss of meaning in digitalizing everything.

Filmed on a budget, Jean and a friend shot the film in just a week in New York and then spent the next few months animating the shots. The finished product scored millions of views in its first days online. Jean was flooded with calls from all over Europe and the U.S. for the rights to his film.

Jean was flown first class by movie studios to Hollywood, and ate dinner with Edgar Wright, director of Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, that first night.

“He was trying to get to me first…even right off the plane,” Jean said.

Eventually, Jean chose Sony in conjunction with Adam Sandler to make the feature film. As the project moved forward, however, the budget grew astronomically, and the studio called in Chris Columbus of the Goonies and the Gremlins to direct the movie.

Jean was disappointed that he didn’t get to direct the film, but he did get the chance to shadow director Chris Columbus. “I would offer advice,” says Jean, but it was rarely heeded. While he didn’t get to direct the film, Jean did gain exposure, which allowed him to work on commercials for companies such as Audi and Credit Confidential.

Movies allow the viewer to “step into the mind” and imagination of the director, Jean explained. “Pixels” as a feature film ended up doing poorly in the box office, and Jean remarked on how hard it is to be original in Hollywood. Studios are often seeking to make a sequel, reboot, or prequel, but they shy away from originality. Jean’s story, however, shows how it is possible for an original idea to reach a feature film.

Based on his experience in Hollywood, Patrick Jean’s advice to aspiring directors is to “Go out and make it,” he says. “It doesn’t matter your budget, just go out and film it.”