Getting to know Western’s new Emmy-award-winning filmmaker, Sean Patrick
For the past decade, Sean Curtis Patrick, Western’s new director of visual media in the division of University Relations and Marketing, has created work for numerous advertising and PR agencies, world-renowned record labels, multinational conglomerates and universities. Western Today sat down with Patrick to talk about his passion for film, what brought him to Western, and what projects he can’t wait to work on.
Western Today: What brought you to Western Washington University?
Sean Patrick: I have been aware of the area and have visited and explored it several times. I liked it. I’m originally from Michigan, so it’s a big peninsula surrounded by the great lakes, and being from Michigan, I appreciated water. I grew up sailing and boating, so I always had an appreciation for water and wanted to be close to it. I also love mountains and mountain climbing, so it kind of made sense to look out here. I found Western, and it reminded me of Northern Michigan University, as it’s an undergrad-focused, education-first institution, so I was like “this is my kind of place.” Western offers a lot of exciting opportunities for undergraduates to participate in, so that also brought me to Western. I wish I would have known about Western when I was young because I would have gone here as a student.
WT: What are your favorite parts of the job?
SP: I enjoy talking with staff and students and learning who they are. There are lots of fascinating, cool people doing awesome things everywhere.
WT: What were you doing before Western?
SP: I managed a team at the University of Michigan in a department called academic innovation, and I was the manager of a team of about a dozen media designers. We produced all the educational content for the university’s online degree programs. The opportunities that I had at the University of Michigan were profound, and I was able to film documentaries, with one leading to the success of winning an Emmy award. That steered me to this current position at Western.
WT: Can you talk about your Emmy-award-winning documentary?
SP: The project was to document research on climate change in Greenland. We took a dozen undergrads from the University of Michigan to Greenland, to do climate science experiments. I recorded everything I could and conducted interviews with students and faculty on the ground there. I had to figure out how to tell that story when I got back. It was also neat because I am an artist and musician outside of work. So, the craft of storytelling, and the visual and audio art that goes into creating a documentary are important to me. I convinced a dozen international, award-winning musicians who were friends of mine to donate music and sounds for the film, which then soundtracked the whole documentary. The experience of winning the award is strange; I found out I won at a taqueria. I watched the live web stream on my phone while drinking champagne. We were nominated for two but won one. I hope to bring some of that energy to Western. My colleague Luke and I plan on submitting work that we have to the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
WT: You mentioned WWU visual journalist Luke Hollister. Tell us about him.
SP: We had a nice chat, and I was like, "Wow, I like this guy!" He could do a lot of exciting things. After looking at his portfolio and previous work, I learned that he’s a go-getter and is creative. There is one unifying quality that all photojournalists have, and that is that they are all approachable people. Luke is one of those good photojournalists, so I think that he is going to have an exciting future here at Western.
WT: How does your work in the private sector compare creatively to what you have been able to do in higher ed?
SP: The work in the private sector, while being interesting, is never creatively fulfilling. Being at an academic institution usually allows for a bit more creative latitude.
WT: Tell us about some of the projects you can’t wait to get started on.
SP: John Thompson, the interim director for the Office of University Communications, and I are going to take a group of students from Western's Honors College to Ecuador this summer for a study abroad program. It will be interesting to go to the birthplace of the discovery of evolution. It will be cool to see part of South America and capture all the wonderment that will be in the students’ eyes experiencing this beautiful new place in the world. The focus of this trip is to learn about the cultural and geologic aspects of Ecuador. More generally speaking, Luke and I are excited about fieldwork and the field courses happening over the summer.
WT: Lastly, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
SP: I do a lot. Since I was six, my passion has been photography. It’s the focus and motivation in my life. Photography is what has gotten me into climbing and hiking.
Have a great story that could be told visually by Sean? Reach out to him at email@example.com
Western's Director of Visual Media Production Sean Patrick.