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The annual Irish Screen Studies Seminar (ISSS) took place at Ulster University Belfast on 7 – 8 May, where a diverse group of scholars and experts in screen studies came together to share the latest developments in screen skills research and film analysis from established academics, postgraduate researchers, and creative practitioners. Alongside traditional screen scholarship, the seminar explored the latest trends and future directions of the industry.

Highlights included a keynote address on Tuesday evening by Professor John Hill of Royal Holloway University.  John reflected on the work of the late Professor Martin McLoone, and the role of educators in shaping film culture.  There were also sessions on horror cinema dynamics and the transformational potential of immersive filmmaking in the industry, led by noted academics such as Mairead Casey from University College Cork and Ulster’s own Dr Jolene Mairs-Dyer.

Catrin Rhys, Head of Communication and Media at Ulster University, said:

“The school is delighted to have been able to host the ISSS conference, particularly in this year when we want to mark the loss of our former colleague, Prof Martin McLoone, whose influence across the school is profound and wide reaching. We are very proud of our intellectual heritage in media/screen studies and of the impact of our current team of colleagues across the discipline, as reflected in the great REF results under the leadership of Dr Robert Porter in the last REF exercise and the new developments in our screen based curricula, including our new Masters in Film and TV Production under the course directorship of Dr Jennie Carlsten.”

Delegates also heard about the emerging virtual production technologies, previewing the capabilities of Studio Ulster, a £72 million virtual production studio at Belfast Harbour being developed by Ulster University. The studio is set to revolutionise the film industry in Northern Ireland, and will include a Research & Development stage, the CoSTAR Screen Lab, which will allow researchers the chance to delve into the potential of virtual production.

During the seminar, there was a tribute to the late Professor McLoone, who had been a pillar in the Irish film academic community and a beloved member of Ulster University. His family attended the event, and his contributions were warmly remembered during the closing drinks reception, where attendees reflected on his enduring impact on film studies and education.

Conn Holohan of the Irish Screen Studies Board said:

“I can’t think of a better setting to celebrate all that Martin meant to the community of film and media scholars in Ireland than this seminar – the purpose of which is to support and celebrate the next generation of researchers, as Martin did throughout his career. Any of us involved in Irish screen studies owe a debt to Martin, who, along with the other scholars of his generation, established the study of media as a serious endeavour on the island of Ireland.”

Dr. Stephen Baker led a roundtable discussion with Hugh Odling-Smee from Film Hub NI, Dr Phil Ramsey of Ulster University, Linda Curtin of Immersive Ireland, and Dr Ciara Chambers from University College Cork, deliberating on the "Future of Film on a Shared Island" and setting forth ideas that foster collaborative and innovative film practices in Ireland.

The ISSS concluded on a high note with attendees leaving both inspired by the sessions and touched by the homage to McLoone. The discussions and tributes of the day fostered a spirit of community and forward-thinking that Martin McLoone championed throughout his career.