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.”


  1. I’d like to know if there has ever been an occasion when Robert Connolly or Rachel Perkins has had a project knocked back by the Screen Australia Board of which they are members? I’d like to know which other Board members have benefited financially from decisions made by the Screen Australia Board? Anyone know the answers to these questions?

    1. I remain a newcomer to this blogging business and don’t really understand much about how my own site works, so don’t quite understand why it is that so many of the posts made by readers disappear within an hour of being put up. It is certainly not me who is deleting them! Perhaps there is some explanation for their disappearance that I am unaware of! Here is one (anonymously posted) that went up yesterday but which disappeared quick smart:

      "It’s not just that Encore fears being sued if it allows critical comments about Screen Australia to be published online. The editor of Encore (and the same applies to the heads of the various film associations and organizations) must not only deal with senior management at Screen Australia regularly to get information about non-contentious matters, they are also likely to encounter them regularly at social film functions of one kind or another – film awards nights etc. This is where what I call the SEP – the Social Encounter Problem – kicks in. The editor of Encore, along with the heads of the various film associations, want to be able to socialize, share a glass of wine with, senior bureaucrats whom they will be dependent on in the future for information or with whom they may need to talk to about other matters. Last thing they want is to rub shoulders with Ruth Harley or some other senior film bureaucrat they have recently taken to task or challenged in an article – whether it be published on paper or online. Screen Australia has effectively tamed the various film magazines (and associations) and they have allowed themselves to be tamed – which is why you so rarely read any real criticism of Screen Australia from any other than anonymous sources.”

      My only comment is that when the new look Encore came online I became persona non grata. My comments were censored and articles that I wrote (opinion pieces) were rejected. How and why this occurred I can only conjecture.

    2. I know of 4 instances were Connolly has been knocked back for funding. I am sure that would be because he is one of only very few who has been critical of Screen Australia, albeit cleverly avoiding the use of the words"funding bodies". It is on public record and with having written the white paper which if you haven't read, is a very insightful read about the need to change the business model for the industry here. Give it a whirl. Research what happened with "view from a bridge". It is quite the tale.

  2. Such a shame that Encore succumbed to bullying and legal threats from SA and gave up giving space to filmmakers to complain about film funding bodies and the semi-permanent class of bureacrats who run them.