It’s All in a Day’s Work for Animation Alumna Kristin Pratt, BA ‘10
Fans of the popular HBO drama “Game of Thrones” know the show doesn’t skimp on budget; the season 4 episode “The Watchers on the Wall” was the show’s most expensive to date. For close to an hour, viewers were captivated by a fierce battle fought among hundreds of thousands of soldiers, giants and wooly mammoths. One of the magicians behind that battle, Kristin Pratt, is a 2010 graduate of Webster University’s School of Communications.
“‘Game of Thrones’ really gave me an opportunity to spread my wings in a way I hadn't before,” Pratt said. “There was such a fast turnaround and it all had to be very high-quality work. Couple that with the layout team just being my lead and me, and you have a recipe for an intense few months. There were a lot of late nights where I was tackling shots and throwing ideas at the wall just to see what sticks. My lead and VFX supervisor were really great at not only facilitating me but also letting me take the reins on senior-level work. I have them to thank for really pushing me to the next level on that project.”
In the five years since Pratt received a degree in Animation from Webster, she has worked not only on that episode of “Game of Thrones” but also on such Hollywood blockbusters as “Maleficent,” “Godzilla,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Lone Ranger,” which received an Academy Award nomination for visual effects.
In 2009, Pratt received a scholarship funded by alumna Jerry Maguire Johnson and her husband, Lewis Johnson. Jerry, who passed away that same year, graduated from Webster in 1948 with degrees in math and French. She was president of her graduating class and was active in the Alumni Association, orchestrating many class reunions with Lew by her side. And even though he never attended Webster, Lew continues to be an ardent supporter of Webster students.
Lew said he and Jerry were actively considering establishing an endowed scholarship at the time of Jerry’s death. He got in touch with Webster’s Office of Gift planning the following morning, and shared his promise to Jerry to create the Jerry Maguire Johnson & Lewis Johnson endowed scholarship. Subsequently, Lew began funding annual business scholarships in his own name.
“Because Webster nurtured Jerry’s commitment to higher education, being able to provide a deserving student the opportunity to fulfill a degree continues her legacy of love for Webster University,” Lew says.
“I wish I had met the Johnsons,” Pratt says. “I was unable to attend the (scholarship) dinner, and I regret that to this day…I’d like to send (them) a massive thank you! The generous spirit of fellow alumni are what allows current students to pursue their dreams and ambitions. Having that leg up in these crucial years only puts Webster’s graduates further ahead of the pack.”
Pratt says the cost associated with getting a degree can be daunting for many. “Saving whatever money that I could meant having a larger nest egg for chasing a career after college,” she says. “Receiving the scholarship was not only a huge honor but also, unknowingly, a stepping stone toward my eventual relocation to Vancouver, Canada. That scholarship made a difference for me, and I hope that I can, in turn, make the difference for someone else.”
Just as the Johnsons “paid it forward” to Pratt through their scholarship, now Pratt is “paying it back” to current Webster students. She participates in Webster’s Alumni Mentor program, which provides an opportunity for students and alumni to connect in a positive one-on-one mentoring relationship. Through this six-month program, alumni mentors provide guidance and support to students by interacting with them, exchanging ideas and sharing their experiences and knowledge of career paths. Alumni mentors serve as role models and leaders as they help students reach their career goals.
Pratt’s first “mentee” was film student Brittany Larimore, who graduated in 2014 with magna cum laude honors. “She proved to be such a zealous and outgoing filmmaker. We clicked right away,” Pratt says. “My main focus with her was giving direction on what happens after graduation.”
While students often possess a broad skillset, they can be unsure of how to market their specific talents. “The knowledge and drive is there;” Pratt says, “however, taking the first step out of Webster sometimes isn’t so clear. That’s where I hope to bridge the gap.”
In the end, the students Pratt mentors help bridge the gap for her as well. “Connecting with them renews my love of film and inspires me to push my own work that much further,” she says. “Giving back to Webster has been just the focus and challenge I needed to keep developing my inner artist.”
Another way Pratt has given back to Webster was serving as keynote speaker last spring for Kinematifest 8, Webster University’s International Animation and Interactive Media festival. “I hope that I always have an invitation to come back and share my experiences with current students,” she says. “Moments such as getting to speak at Kinematifest are incredibly rewarding. Networking with the next wave of artists keeps me connected to my alma mater in such a unique and special way.”
At Kinematifest, Pratt spoke about her career, focusing on her computer graphic (CG) layout work for the 2014 blockbuster “Godzilla.”
“Layout is this great mix of technical and creative,” said Pratt. “Integrating what was filmed on set with our CG elements isn't always straightforward and there is a lot of troubleshooting that we do to make sure things fit together. Similarly with something that is full CG, you still have to find ways to ground that shot in reality.”
Pratt credits her education at Webster along with her post-graduate education at Vancouver Film School (VFS) with helping her on the successful start to her career.
“The September that I graduated from VFS I also found work as a runner at Moving Picture Company (MPC),” said Pratt. “That first job was the catalyst to my career in Vancouver and it was only supposed to be a two-week temporary employment. I was just covering for someone who was going on holiday, but I took the opportunity as a challenge to see what I could do and if I could make an impression along the way. Five months later I was not only still employed at MPC, but I was able to transition into their layout department.”
Pratt recently moved from MPC to working as a Layout Technical Director at Double Negative in Vancouver.
Reflecting on her time at Webster, Pratt said each class and mentor at Webster shaped her in different ways. “Josh DiCarlo’s classes were critical in the first stages of what would be my career. Kristen DiFate really developed my eye for good design, Larry Baden impacted my character more than anything else and Michael Long kept me passionate about animation.”
Her advice for current students at Webster?
“Probably the biggest thing students can do starts on their first day at Webster—just show up and be present,” she said. “Be present and aware in each class. Be fully involved in each assignment. Ask questions and challenge ideas. College is more than just good grades; there is so much opportunity flowing through the halls. Grab it. Make those four years count. I promise you, if you have that mentality from day one, you will only benefit.”