An initiative of the Indigenous Branch of the Australian Film Commission (AFC), From Sand to Celluloid comprises six films that have been packaged and distributed by Australian Film Institute Distribution (AFID) and Film Australia. The initial conception for the series came from the Indigenous Drama Initiative, set in 1994 with the express intention of advancing the development and production of films created by Indigenous Australians and increasing their participation in all areas of the film and television industry. The first project initiated was the development and production of six ten-minute dramas for television. Expressions of interest were called for from Indigenous Australians nationally. The ten applicants chosen (from forty seven) attended a visual storytelling workshop held in Melbourne in 1995. The Initiative utilised the assistance of all the state film assistance agencies and a pre-sale from SBS with an agreement to broadcast on SBS in July 1996, as well as the full participation of Film Australia through its funding of one of the productions. Five projects were further selected to go into production, along with Sally Riley's film Fly Peewee Fly (produced by Film Australia), and were delivered to the AFC on 30 March, 1996. Indigenous Australians were employed in both cast and crew positions.
In order to encourage a wider recognition and appreciation of the work of Indigenous Australians, the AFC supported the national distribution and exhibition of the films through the Australian Film Institute Distribution (AFID). AFID distributed the films as a package under the title of From Sand to Celluloid and the films screened at twenty-four locations, from as far afield as Cooper Pedy in South Australia to Broome in Western Australia, and were attended by a total of approximately 7,200 people.
As a unified collection, the films offer more than a two-dimensional victim-oppressor approach. They challenge viewers at all levels: as fellow citizens, as parents, as observers, and as fellow members of Indigenous communities. From Sand to Celluloid challenges viewers with many uncomfortable aspects of Australia's too-recent history. These include the active discrimination practised against Indigenous people in public places such as swimming pools and cinemas in country towns around Australia and the 'stolen generation': children taken away without their parents' consent and placed into homes or in white foster homes, with devastating effect on them and their families. The series is an essential resource for Indigenous studies, Australian history film studies, English legal studies, human relationship courses, and social studies.