Students Staff

02 November 2010

Top film director’s online archive brought to life

Dr Sanja Bahun and Heidi Wilkins working on the SP-ARK site

Scribbled notes, sketches, costume designs and script drafts – every detail of the film making process has been captured in the archive collected by celebrated UK director Sally Potter.

Now a partnership between Potter’s production and distribution company Adventure Pictures, the University of Essex and the University of Surrey is using cutting-edge web technology to bring to life the online Sally Potter Archive (SP-ARK).

The six-month project is part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board and will showcase the use of interactive online techniques for teaching and learning.

The KTP has developed a revolutionary image browsing interface to give students, academics and film lovers the chance to analyse Potter’s work in a new way and use social networking to exchange ideas.

The newly revamped site will be unveiled at the University of Essex on Thursday 18 November at a special creative industries event attended by representatives from Adventure Pictures, the University of Essex and the University of Surrey.

PhD student Heidi Wilkins is working on the project at Essex under the supervision of Dr Sanja Bahun from the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex.

‘We want to create a website which students can really engage and interact with.’ says Heidi.

Currently she is putting online all the archive material for Orlando, Potter’s Oscar nominated adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel.

‘In the archive you can actually see the notes in her copy of Orlando when she first started thinking about making it into a film,’ Heidi says.

With the help of Kan Ren, a postgraduate computer science student at the University of Surrey, and Dr Janko Calic, his supervisor, Heidi and Sanja’s challenge is to develop new ways of browsing the archive and to intelligently tag the material. This will let users make their own pathways through the archive, for example, by looking at the use of colour in different scenes.

Dr Bahun first spoke to Potter about working with the University when the director visited the campus in May last year and Essex students will be among the first to test the site in the autumn term.

Heidi said: ‘Our role within the project is to offer an insight into how film is studied and taught at university.

‘The project connects with how students now work – they are interacting, researching and taking part in discussions online. It is a new way of learning which will be increasingly embraced.’

SP-ARK is Essex's first KTP in the humanities, and one of the only projects of this kind currently underway under the national KTP scheme. The KTP scheme is a Government backed programme aimed at helping businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity by linking in with the knowledge, technology and skills at Universities.

For further information about KTPs at the University of Essex, contact the Research and Enterprise Office at

Creative Industries Event - Hosted by the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies and Adventure Pictures. The event is free and open to all.

Date and Time: 4.30pm, Thursday 18 November 2010

Location: Room 5A.118, University of Essex, Colchester Campus

Notes to Editors:

For more information and high-resolution images please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 873529.

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