THE australianscreen website is the culmination of a three-year undertaking by the Australian Film Commission (AFC) to provide a web-based resource which offers access to information on a wide range of Australian audio-visual production, including feature films, documentaries, short films, sponsored work, advertisements, television programs and home movies. There is a selection of dramas and documentaries by Indigenous filmmakers, as well as a number of productions with Indigenous content. The website allows users to explore Australia's screen heritage as well as its present, containing information on titles ranging from early works such as The Story of the Kelly Gang (Charles Tait, 1906) to recent films like Clubland (Cherie Nowlan, 2007) and Romulus, My Father (Richard Roxburgh, 2007).
There are already more than 500 different titles on australianscreen, each represented by film clips, curator's notes, and information on key creative personnel and where to access the complete production. Through its searchable database, australianscreen allows users to access material via a producer or director's name, film title, subject matter, location filmed, production date or key educational references. There's an engaging and informative timeline that provides easy access to key moments in Australia's audiovisual history, as well as juicy titbits of information. Aimed mainly but not exclusively at an educational audience, australianscreen provides a virtual space for teachers and students to share ideas and opinions, and to work together to learn about Australia's screen history from the country's key institutions on screen culture.
And this is only the beginning. The $2.3 million website is still in its three-year development stage, with many more titles still to be added. In its next stage, more specialist curators will join the team, more specific areas of production will be covered and more background material introduced--and as the site develops there will be further ways for people to explore and interact with it. From December, australianscreen will be hosted by AARNet (Australia's Academic and Research Network), and will be speedier and even more accessible. As Ron Saunders, ASO's executive producer, says, '[we think] this is the most comprehensive collection in the world of a moving image culture of a single nation'.
What makes a website memorable is its accessibility and navigability, the quality of its writing and its resources, the usefulness of its material, and the value of its links and connections, australianscreen already satisfies on most of these criteria, and it can only get better. As feature film curator Paul Byrnes explains:
We're building something that has needed a lot of trial and error, and curating skills are something that develop as you go. When I started I was writing notes of about 250 words on each film; now I'm writing 1000-1250 words. I'd like to go back and enrich some of those earlier notes. You have to be stimulating, so that people will want to use a film--for instance, we have the clip of the last scene in Breaker Morant [Bruce Beresford, 1979]. I'd like to be able to use the last few pages of its script, perhaps an interview with Bruce Beresford--to make that really rich. I'd like to get to that level of detail, but I haven't got that luxury yet. It can only get better.
One of the sites that was a model for australianscreen was the British Film Institute's screenonline, but australianscreen project manager Kate Stone believes that the Australian site has surpassed its counterpart.
[Our] site is superior both in quality and quantity, Many of the films needed for the UK website had copyright problems because they had US funding and Hollywood involvement, and eventually they had to make the site for educational use only. By contrast, Australian rights holders have been …