Brendan Harkin (right) with wife Megan Elliott.

Brendan Harkin, founder of X Media Lab, died on Monday in Lincoln, Nebraska. 

A pioneering figure in digital innovation and media, Harkin started X Media Lab back in June 2003 as part of Sydney Film Festival. Over the years, it expanded across Australia and around the world, held in 14 countries, including China, India, the US and UK.

The aim of the creative thinktank was to assist local companies to get their projects to market by connecting them with international leaders in digital media, who were then able to provide mentorship and feedback.

Partners in the lab included the Beijing Film Academy; Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry; NPO, the national broadcaster in The Netherlands; the American Film Institute; Digital Hollywood; 5D Global; the British Council, and the Federal Office of Culture in Switzerland.

Producer Robyn Kershaw tells IF the X Media Lab and Harkin’s vision had a “profound impact” on so many filmmakers, artists and decision makers, educating a generation in digital media and arts.

“Brendan was a generous champion of us all and a groundbreaking impresario of digital innovation and arts – a global titan working on every continent,” she says. 

“The Labs were a remarkable achievement at a time when, globally, we were all trying to comprehend digital media and its interface with traditional media.”

Producer Sue Maslin participated in two X Media Labs, which directly led to the finance and production of interactive documentary, Re-enchantment, directed by Sarah Gibson, and AR project Re-kindling Venus, from Lynette Wallworth.

On Harkin, she reflects: “He was a thought leader, a superlative networker and was at the vanguard of digital convergence in Australia.

“His passing is an incredible loss, both in Australia and around the world.”

Prior to starting X Media Lab, Harkin worked for Prime Computers, and advised on multimedia to both the Victorian Government and the Federal Government. He established the first Asia Pacific Multimedia Festival, and was Australia’s first general manager for public awareness at the National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE).

Over his career, he consulted to the United Nations Committee on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); the European Union’s EUROPRIX initiative; and served as an advisory board member to a large number of digital media, cultural, and technology events throughout Asia.

Harkin and his wife Megan Elliott, with whom he spearheaded X Media Lab, were chosen as two of five people to have their oral histories recorded for the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), as two people pivotal to the development of the interactive media arts industries.

The pair moved to the United States six years ago, where Elliott is the founding director of the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts.

In addition to wife Megan, he is survived by his daughter Astrid and sister Colleen Harkin.

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