IM Issue 10, 2014 Editorial

Screen Production and Research Collaboration (SPARC): A National Strategic Plan


Editor: Josko Petkovic

Developing A Collaborative National Postgraduate Research Education Program for 22 Australian Film Schools was an Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) funded project [ID11-2099] that commenced in October 2011 and was completed in October 20131.

The primary aim of the project was to explore the viability of a collaborative, staff-based, grant-based paradigm of research for screen producers. Under the umbrella title of Screen Production and Research Collaboration (SPARC) the project team initiated sector-wide consultations and activities as depicted below.

In October 2013 these activities culminated in the project report to the OLT that is now available online2.

The overarching aim of this special issue of IM is to document the salient elements of this report. Specifically the issue presents the section of the report entitled A National Strategic Plan presented here as five separate papers in Part 1 of this issue. Collectively these papers identify some of the factors that can impede the development of a vibrant research culture in the university screen production sector. These are presented to the readers with a number of recommendations based on the following considerations:

  • The Australian Research Council (ARC) is the primary funding body for university-based research activities in Australia. If the university screen production sector is to be funded properly, it needs to ensure that its relationship with the ARC rests on sound foundations and that the sector’s research is properly recognized and assessed.
  • The proliferation of images in the world today makes it easy to forget what the academic screen production sector stands for. Conceivably screen production could become anything that contains images, in which case there is a risk that the discipline itself will become diffused. If the sector is to prosper it will need well-defined parameters and a relevant focus for its research activities.
  • The sector needs to have good connections with the screen industry and its funding organizations. Screen production research programs should account for both: the industry-based programs as well as the innovative programs. It also needs to actively facilitate synergies between these two programs.
  • Developing a collaborative national postgraduate research education for screen producers potentially has many educational, cultural and commercial benefits. Forging a national collaborative research centre, with the aim of proactively seeking collaborative projects, will greatly benefit the sector.
  • In recent years the peak academic body Australian Screen Production Education and Research Association (ASPERA) has developed some admirable and worthy characteristics of inclusiveness and the sense of a scholarly community within the screen production sector. However, these attributes have come at the cost of ASPERA’s disengagement from institution leaders within the sector and the discontinuation of its functional subcommittees.

Also, for the screen production sector to be properly recognized as a research discipline, it needs to properly document its research output and have that output properly recognized by the university research regulators. The solution already exists within ASPERA, but needs to be implemented.

Part 2 of this IM issue consists of three papers that made a significant contribution to the SPARC project. The first of these is Pacific Voices: Screen Industries and Culture in the Pacific originally presented by Nick Oughton and Margaret McVeigh in July 2013 at the National SPARC Colloquium, VCA, Melbourne.

The second paper Critical Storytelling: Writing Outside Your Skin by Audrey Fernandes-Satar was originally presented at the Postgraduate Research in Screen Production and Creative Arts Conference-Festival, Stone Town, Zanzibar. This conference-festival was also hosted under the auspices of the SPARC project and as a collaboration of the National Academy of Screen and Sound and the Zanzibar International Film Festival.

The third significant contribution in Part 2 of this issue is the digital recording The New Medicis by Ian Lang along with an accompanying paper E-Learning Advances in Australia. Both were presented at the July 2013 SPARC Project Colloquium in Melbourne and are reprinted here from Professor Lang’s online site in the Report section of IM 103.

This IM10 issue also includes a Review section that introduces Greg Battye’s new book Photography, Narrative, Time: Imaging Our Forensic Imagination.

Notes and References

1. The project team consisted of:

  • Associate Professor Josko Petkovic – project leader
  • Dr Leo Berkley, RMIT University. Dr Berkley was replaced by Rachel Wilson for the first six months of the project while he was on leave from RMIT.
  • Professor Herman van Eyken, Griffith University
  • Professor Ian Lang, Victorian College of the Arts, The University of Melbourne. who subsequently left his position and was replaced with Ms Annabelle Murphy, also from the Victorian College of the Arts.
  • Associate Professor Gillian Leahy, Sydney University of Technology
  • Mr Nick Oughton, Griffith University
  • Dr Alison Wotherspoon, Flinders University
  • Ms Linda Butcher, Project manager: Educational Development Unit, Murdoch University
  • Professor Su Baker, Director of the VCA, The University of Melbourne
  • Project’s External assessor

2. Developing A Collaborative National Postgraduate Research Education Program for 22 Australian Film Schools

3. Digital recording and paper accessible: <>, accessed July 2013.

June 2014