Tuesday, May 8, 2012
“We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Roo (Kanga) Farley and ‘Sick and Tired’ (respondents to my last blog entry) you are so full of questions – explicit and implicit. Good questions. Questions that you will not get answers to from Screen Australia. Herein lies the problem. Screen Australia does not do answers. Certainly not answers to specific questions such as those relating to SLEEPING BEAUTY and other turkeys that fail both at the box office and in terms of critical acclaim.
Screen Australia is good at spin and expects we industry workers, we story tellers, we filmmakers (by whatever name we choose to apply to what we do), to accept spin as a substitute for proper answers. In short, Screen Australia treats us all as fools. And in part it succeeds in making fools of us all given that we do not, as an industry, stand up and demand that Screen Australia be accountable and transparent. Yes, we have various industry bodies that should be doing this (ADG, AWG, SPAA) but it seems to me that Screen Australia has pretty much tamed all these organizations to the point where the kind of radical changes that need to be made within SA will not be made as a result of pressure from these organizations.
It used to be that Encore Magazine Online offered, at least, a forum in which questions such as Kanga’s and Sick and Tired’s could be asked and different views aired; in which Screen Australia spin could be clearly identified as such and be the subject of debate. Those days are gone at Encore. A combination of changed editorial policy and the fear of being sued by Screen Australia having destroyed Encore as a meeting place for filmmakers desirous of chance at Screen Australia. Whilst Screen Australia never did provide answers to the multitude of questions put to it @ Encore online about its policies, its tendency towards nepotism or explain why it had invested in yet another ‘turkey’, at least there was somewhere to go to share views with fellow filmmakers.
My own blog is not intended to provide a forum such as Encore online used to be but I hope that someone (preferably from a generation younger than my own) does set up such a site – one that makes possible again the sharing of radically different points of view; one whose proprietors are not so fearful of receiving a letter from Screen Australia’s legal department. Such a blog could also, once it reached a certain critical readership mass, take on a quasi-advocacy role – putting pressure on Screen Australia to answer questions and be accountable to the industry and culture its job is to serve.
Excuse me for belabouring the point, but it is the point of my blog at this juncture, Screen Australia has no functioning complaints process. Many of us have had experience of this and we know that we are not alone. Fiona Cameron should be adjudicating complaints on the basis of facts and not spin. She is not. And if any filmmaker should have the temerity to complain to CEO Ruth Harley about Fiona’s refusal to adjudicate disputes on the basis of facts and her tendency to play fast and loose with the truth, who gets to adjudicate complaints about Fiona? Fiona herself. This is ‘accountability Screen Australia style’. Why does the Screen Australia Board tolerate this state of affairs? Why does our Minister, Simon Crean, allow this to happen? Why do we, as an industry, allow it to happen?
We live in a different world now, in so many ways, to the world that gave rise to the ADG, the AWG and SPAA. These are important organizations but when do they ever work together to demand the kinds of changes that each and every filmmaker I know or have spoken to (or whose views used to be expressed @ Encore online) is desperate to see happen? The different industry bodies have, for obvious reasons, different agendas but I suspect all can agree that for as long as any of us have been making films (40 years in my case) the current management at Screen Australia is the worst the industry has ever had to endure in a peak film funding body! If I am right in this presumption (and I’d certainly love to hear some dissenting voices) why don’t we, as an industry rise up and say, to (mis)quote Howard Beale from NETWORK “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.”