Film research and cinema studies guide

Ways of researching film at the State Library Victoria

Researching at the State Library Victoria

Basic searching - searching by a film's title

When searching for a specific film it is a good idea to search for the title both with and without quotation marks, as the quotation marks limit the results returned.

Example: film search for Some like it hot

"Some like it hot"

Some like it hot


If a film title sounds generic (eg: "The piano") you may need to add a key actor or the film director to the search ('The piano' was directed by Jane Campion, so a good search for this film would be "The piano" "Jane Campion").

If you can't find much by searching the film's title you may have more success using other methods to find materials. This includes researching the film's director (or other key creative like a producer, or writer), reference books about where the film in question was made, or researching the film genre.

If the film is in a language other than English you may get a better coverage of results by trying to search for it in the original language title and in English.


Online resources (especially useful for recent films)

Article or ebook search options highlighted in red boxes with arrows to a text box. Text box states - These options will retrieve full text.

Our Library subscribes to many databases that include accessible full text publications about film. Victorian registered users can access this material outside the Library.

The quickest way to find full text articles is to click on the arrow next to the "Everything except articles' box. This brings up a list and the 2nd item of the list says 'Articles'. This will allow you to search just within article records. In the results screen, use the 'refine results by' option to narrow your results.

The 'Articles' search may bring more results, but be aware that it may require filters ('Refine results by') to locate the most relevant records.

Many films and film cast and crew will only have a few listings in catalogued books. This is especially the case for recent films as most books about a film tend to be published a few years after a film is released. An article search will likely locate some interesting materials about a recent film.


There is a good collection of ebooks available on film/cinema. To make your search ebook specific click the arrow next to the 'Everything except articles' box. 4th on the list of options is ebooks.

Choosing databases to search

The State Library Victoria does not subscribe to a text resource database relating strictly to cinema. The databases our Library subscribes to include a lot of full text film journal material (and there are many excellent articles about movies that are published in non-film specific journals that the databases below can access). Searching databases might return extra results than compared to searching in the standard searching field.

If you want to narrow your results to materials in a database here are some options:

Freely accessible websites

There are some excellent free websites offering criticism and production information on films.

Books about film

Some key books on film

Film art - David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson, Jeff Smith / The cinema book - ed. Pam Cook - both excellent introductory texts on film history around the world and film theory with concise overviews of tricky subjects.

The new biographical dictionary of film - David Thomson - voted the best film book of all time in Sight and Sound. Lists of key film people, written in a very opinionated, yet interesting and informative way.

Making movies - Sidney Lumet - excellent account of the process of Hollywood movie making by an Oscar winning director.

Some key writers on film

Paulene Kael - Andre Bazin - Laura Mulvey - James Agee - Roger Ebert - Murray Pomerance - Stephen Teo - Chris Berry

Researching film at other libraries and organisations

AFI research collection (AFIRC) - Library open to the public that specialises in cinema/tv related books, magazines, and very unique clippings files (folders containing press kits, film reviews, criticism). Worldwide coverage. Located at RMIT University (just across the road from State Library Victoria.) Staff are very helpful!

National film and sound archive (NFSA) - Australia's major repository of moving image material and related papers. Many items held here on Australian film are unique. Melbourne office can be visited by appointment.

Australian centre for the moving image (ACMI) - A moving image museum that hosts large exhibitions. They have a hefty collection of films in various formats (DVDs, VHS, film reels), with many that are hard to find elsewhere. ACMI is open to the public, but access to their film collections are by appointment only.

Many of Victoria's university libraries have excellent collections of films and books and DVDs. Public libraries tend to have strong collections of films and tv series available on DVD, plus some material viewable via streaming.