It was when Jan Pavlacky was nineteen-years-old that he figured out his path in life. At that time, he did not know what exactly it would involve, but he knew he had to make films. He started off in the costume department, but when he got his first taste of directing, he knew without any doubt where his true passion was, and now he is an internationally recognized director.
Pavlacky has had an extremely successful career. He directed his film award-winning film BKA 49-77, worked alongside Hollywood’s biggest stars including Bruce Willis on the set of Hart’s War, Matt Damon on the set of Bourne Identity, and Luc Besson on the set of Joan of Arc with Milla Jovovich, and made commercials for worldwide brands such as Nike. He has worked with some of the world’s best production companies, including atSwim, which has an amazing international collective of producers, directors, and creatives from around the world.
“It’s a huge honor to be a part of atSwim,” said Pavlacky. “Working with creative people from different parts of the world broadened my own perspectives and I’ve learned to create work with more universal appeal.”
One of Pavlacky’s most notable projects with atSwim was a moving PSA commercial for the esteemed Debra company. The commercial was made to raise awareness for the company, which takes care of people with EB disease, an inherited connective tissue disease. The basic symptom of the disease is blistering all over the body surface, and also affects the mucous membranes, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract or excretory organs.
The commercial involved creating an annual calendar with 12 famous people from the Pavlacky’s native country of the Czech Republic, including artists, fashion designers, actors, singers, and scientists. During the commercial, projections were screened on the celebrities as they recited a poem by one of the EB patients. The footage of the celebrities was then projected on various materials and architectural elements, which created an abstract and inspiring vision that left a lasting impression on everyone involved.
“I loved that fact that I could use my knowledge or talent to create something of an moral value and contribute to the good of society. EB is incurable, and in many cases deadly, with very few medical resources and no known cure. Therefore, any attention and towards DEBRA, the organization taking care of EB patients, is important,” said Pavlacky.
While bringing attention to Debra, Pavlacky came up with the visual concept of creating light projections, which symbolized a second skin for the patients and evoked the situations and mixed feelings they go through as they battle the disease. This meant the shoot was very complicated, and called for an immense amount of preparation and technical aptitude. Before filming began, Pavlacky already had every shot planned to ensure the shoot was seamless for the entire crew and the famous celebrities. Pavlacky’s commitment and consistent planning ahead is appreciated by many of his counterparts in the industry.
“Jan has all the marks of a legendary director, and his genius is present in all of the projects he has been a part of. When atSwim was called upon to prepare a PSA commercial, I knew Jan was the right man for the job. The project was a resounding success, raising great awareness for the Debra company thanks to Jan’s groundbreaking direction, which offered a clever visual dynamic to accompany the important message. Additionally, the commercial achieved very high media buzz which was so needed by Debra, as well as helped us to further demonstrate atSwim’s distinguished nature as a leading production company. I can’t thank Jan enough for his great work,” said producer and founder of atSwim, Tomáš Krejčí. “Jan has proven himself time and time again to be a director of extraordinary ability made clear by his list of exceptional credits. He is truly among the top tier of directors working, and continues to impress me with each project he takes on.”
Pavlacky describes the experience of working on the commercial as wonderful, but it came with its technical challenges. There were lots of projections that were re-recorded in-camera. This process was done several times, thus creating a multilayered image all in-camera without post. He also had to synchronize all the images with sound, requiring a large amount of time in the editing room. However, one of the biggest roadblocks came from getting the celebrities on set, as they were extremely busy. Despite all of this, the commercial ended up being a huge success.
“The collaboration was very interesting. The celebrities from the PSA came from different backgrounds, some of them were experienced being in front of the camera some were totally unused to. I liked the balance between the professional and the authentic,” concluded Pavlacky.
You can view Pavlacky’s work on the powerful PSA here.