Former UI filmmaker hopes to strike it big

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Courtesy photo

By April Dahlquist

When he left his family in India, Pravin Vatt told his parents he would be back from America in two years.

That was in 2001. Seven years later, Vatt is still living in the States.

Vatt went to the University of South Carolina on a student scholarship for engineering. However, his passion was filmmaking.

Vatt had to be creative when it came to following his dreams. He took film classes for two summers at the University of Illinois in order to get an education in his craft. He also worked on independent projects during the summers.

“I graduated with a bachelor’s in engineering, but I was interested in filmmaking,” Vatt said. “Engineering was where I had the funding. I was going to concentrate on what I wanted to do; I just needed to get the college trip to get in.”

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    Now, Vatt has completed more than 20 short films that have appeared in many film festivals and won various awards, including second place at the Kansas City film festival. Vatt also works as a full-time software engineer for Jackson National Life Insurance Company in order to meet his expenses.

    “It’s how I fund my films; it’s how I go to festivals and travel,” Vatt said. “Whatever I make, it goes into movie making.”

    Vatt works for eight hours a day as an engineer and then goes home to write scripts and talk with other filmmakers. When he is actually filming a project, he takes time off from the company.

    Vatt learned most of his skills from producing movies hands-on, and not necessarily in a classroom.

    A number of students at the University feel that this is what their programs lack. Samantha Smith, senior in FAA, has sought out internships and clubs so she could get more experience with working a camera.

    “I just think we simply need more classes geared towards camera technical features just to see what’s new and what’s out there in the technical film production realm,” Smith said. “I’m very grateful for the education I’ve gotten here in film analyzing and elements in design, but if there was a thing to add to this program, it would be more camera exposure.”

    Sophomore in LAS Giulia Mazza agreed saying the cinema studies classes are geared more toward analysis and critique rather than how to actually film.

    Vatt recommends students find a project and start working and interacting with other filmmakers.

    “I think most of art, like music or dance or movies, you learn it by doing it,” Vatt said. “If you do it the wrong way the first time, you’ll correct it again and again until you finally get it right.”

    Within the next month Vatt will be releasing his latest film, “Different Shades of Human Life,” which compiles six different short stories, each dealing with a different emotion or “color of life.” The movie is an anthology film, like the movies “Crash” or “Love Actually,” where each segment is separate but has an underlying theme that connects the pieces together.

    “The stories are short, but not small,” Vatt said.

    Vatt said he hopes to show this movie in at least 20 independent movie theaters and have it in several festivals as well.

    He acknowledges that he is still an underdog, but he said he hopes that one day he can be a full-time director and produce a full-length film with a studio backing.

    “I think it’s very promising and comforting to feel that there is somebody pursing same goals as me, but also achieving them, from this school,” Smith said. “That’s great and it fills me up with confidence in being here and going where I want to go.”