Westmont Magazine Pratt Plays a Leading Role in Filmmaking

The Santa Barbra International Film Festival (SBIFF) was a relatively small, local event when Sean Pratt began working for it two decades ago. SBIFF managing director and a Westmont adjunct professor, Pratt and Roger Durling, the festival’s executive director, their team and others have grown the event into one of the top 10 film festivals in the country.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival

“There’s a whole science behind planning festivals,” Pratt says. “We made schedule changes and started adding all the big tributes, and the quality of films grew as we started attracting more world and U.S. premieres. It’s been great to see the hard planning payoff into what the festival is today.”

Pratt, a product of Dos Pueblos High School, Brooks Institute and Antioch University, grew up with a mother who loved watching movies. Always passionate about movies, he shot films with his brothers using the family VHS camera at home. After college, he began managing movie theaters in Santa Barbara. When the SBIFF started, he made the easy transition to working for the event.

“Everything I’ve ever done has revolved around my number-one passion,” he says. “I got my master’s degree just so I could teach as a hobby — another passion project.”

Pratt began teaching Westmont’s Introduction to Digital Filmmaking in spring 2020. The following year, three Westmont students got accepted to the highly competitive Rosebud Program, which offers a dozen local college students sneak-preview screenings and question-and-answer sessions with top filmmakers throughout the year.

“Being a non-profit, the SBIFF has a ton of free educational programs for all ages,” Pratt says. “We never had applicants from Westmont. But once I started there, I got students interested, and we’ve seen a huge jump in applications — and a lot of them have gotten in.”

Westmont launched its film studies minor in 2018 in part to strengthen the college’s presence in the Santa Barbara community and its global initiatives.

“There’s a desire, creative resources and a lot of talented students at Westmont,” Pratt says. “I love teaching at Westmont with the small classes — having hands-on experiences and working relationships with all of them. I act like a producer as they’re putting together their short films, giving them suggestions on screen plays, props, costumes and actors. They're natural filmmakers. They see how to frame a shot. They understand color theory. They understand visual storytelling.”

“Faith comes up a lot in their screenplays, and many tend to bring a Christian message into their 3-5 minute short films,” he says. “It's important for the students to make films and tell stories from what they know and are passionate about. I push them to be creative and make their films visually expressive and experimental. I want to see something I haven’t seen before.”