Film research and cinema studies guide

Ways of researching film at the State Library Victoria

Australian film

Australia has a rich history of film culture. The first film shot in Australia was the 1896 Melbourne Cup and the world's first first full length silent feature The Story of the Kelly Gang was exhibited to huge crowds in  Melbourne in 1906.

For much of the silent era Australia made many films but by the 1950s and 60's feature film production was almost non-existent. In the 1970s film production in Australia increased and maintained regular output, mainly thanks to ongoing financial support from the Australian government.

This page is to assist those researching Australian and or New Zealand film.

Looking for films and people

Searching the film or person you are interested in directly may turn up good quality results eg: "Charles Chauvel" "Cate Blanchett" "Muriel's wedding".

If the film is a common term or name (eg: The castle), try using the name of the film director with the film title ("The castle" Rob Sitch).

When using the default search be aware that for many Australian films and the people involved in them there may not be any results (as the amount of books published on Australian cinema is quite small). By checking Australian film reference books you may uncover information about your research within listings about other books, newspapers, and magazines.

For a broader range of resources, instead of the default  "Everything but Articles" option, choose "Articles". This will search full text newspapers and magazines. You can then use the "Refine results by" option to narrow to more relevant results.



For a broad search use Motion picture* Australia*. Using "Australian film" may bring up many images, these being photographs (as film is often used in relation to camera stock).

You may want to limit results by using search filter function and removing the Pictures resource type from the search parameters under 'Refine results by'.

A selection of Australian film books and journals

Australian film websites

Researching Australian film by newspaper and magazine

By using the Trove digitised newspaper database you can locate many of the major papers, which are digitised until the mid 1950s (except the daily newspaper The Canberra times held until 1995). Much of the Trove film related material will be advertisements, as well as the occasional film review and production report.

Other important publications in Trove include: Filmnews (Sydney Filmmakers Co-Operative) (1975-1995: monthly), Everyone's (1920-1937: weekly, film industry publication - browsable by issue only).

For more details on searching Australian Newspapers check the State Library Victoria Newspaper Research Guide.

Special items (manuscripts, pictures, posters) at State Library Victoria


State Library Victoria holds many unique objects and files relating to film in Australia. Some of these items include:

  • Records of the Melbourne International Film Festival – 168 boxes
    • timeframe: 1953-1993
    • documents pertaining to the operations of the Melbourne International Film Festival.
  • Federation of Victorian Film Societies – 31 boxes
    • timeframe: 1949-1978
    • film body that assisted with film society screenings in Victoria.
  • Hoyts – collection of records and images from various Hotys cinemas (photographer - Lyle Fowler )
  • Val Morgan – cinema advertising
  • Tim Burstall - Australian film director, writer, producer and a key figure in the postwar film industry in Australia. 38 boxes
  • Corinne/Arthur Cantrill – Melbourne based experimental film makers and writers on film. Includes Cantrills Filmnotes magazine, posters, videos, and manuscripts.

New Zealand

  • New Zealand - general search (Motion picture* "New Zealand")
  • New Zealand film commission - the key funding and support body for New Zealand filmmakers.
  • NZ on screen - place to view (for free) New Zealand feature films and trailers, short film, tv shows, and documentaries.

A selection of books

New Australian film books

American-Australian cinema : transnational connections / Adrian Danks; Stephen Gaunson; Peter C. Kunze, editors.

Australian Film Theory and Criticism: Vol 3 - Documents

Australian film theory and criticism. Volume 3, Documents / edited by Constantine Verevis and Deane Williams

Margaret and David: 5 stars

Margaret & David : 5 stars / major essay by Sandy George...

Making a meal of it: writing about film

Making a meal of it : writing about film / Brian McFarlane ; introduction by Ian Britain.

Government funding of film

From the 1970s, the Australian Federal Government has provided substantial funding for Australian feature films, shorts, and experimental and art cinema and television.

For Australian documentary, government funding goes back to the 1940s. Without government funding the Australian film industry would be a shell of what it is today.

The major government funding and development body is Screen Australia (founded in 2008). This body handles film and documentary development, production funding.

They publish The screen guide, a database of production details about Australian film and documentary (from 1970 onwards). 

Screen Australia has plenty of information and data on Australian film/tv on their site including box office, budget statistics, ratings etc. For this information search the Fact finders section of the website.

The State Library Victoria has a number of items published by Screen Australia.

Before Screen Australia, film development was handled by the Australian film commission (1975-2008), production funding by the Film finance corporation of Australia (1988-2008) (aka Australian film finance corporation), and documentary development and production funding was through Film Australia (1973-2008) (previously the Australian national film board and the Australian Commonwealth film unit).

State film funding bodies

State level funding and administration bodies fulfill a very important function for all levels of filmmakers.

Victoria's development and funding body is called Film Victoria. The other state and territory film development bodies are:

A number of reports by these bodies are held at the State Library Victoria and other institutions.