Each winter, downtown’s historic movie theaters play host to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. This year, SBIFF’s highlighted themes include Cinesonic (films about iconic musicians), Cinema Nouveau (films from emerging French directors) and Screen Cuisine (films featuring the culinary process). Another SBIFF sidebar, Santa Barbara Filmmakers, features entries from local filmmakers. Each year, a number of UCSB student films are included in the festival — this year’s shorts “Elixer” and “Over & Out,” among others.

One notable short film came not from a student in the UCSB Film and Media Department, but a staff member. This year, the department’s Academic Advisor Joe Palladino — known simply as Joe to film majors — has his film featured at SBIFF.

Palladino wrote and recently produced a short family film, titled “The Secret Ingredient.” According to the film’s director Rashi Bahri Chitnis, “The Secret Ingredient” tells the story of “two generations coming together over food.”

The short was filmed last fall in just two days, with the help of many local Santa Barbara filmmakers and UCSB film students. As “The Secret Ingredient” was an independent production, Palladino and Chitnis relied heavily on local friends and eager film students to help with the production. Their success in being accepted by SBIFF shows what great talent the Santa Barbara community has and how vital film festivals are to independent filmmakers.

For many writers and directors, film festivals are the only way to get their work seen by a large group of people, and SBIFF definitely shows a devotion to local artists by featuring many Santa Barbara films in its lineup.

The 27th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival is happening now and runs through Feb. 5, and “The Secret Ingredient” screens today at 2 p.m. in the Lobero Theatre. If you have time, get downtown and support your fellow Gauchos’ hard work — or check out any of the hundreds of unique films and live events presented by local and international artists.