Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why is my complaint about Screen Australia of any relevance to anyone but myself?

I do not expect anyone to take a particular interest in the details of my battle with Screen Australia. It is of no consequence to anyone but myself. It is only relevant to my fellow filmmakers in that Screen Australia has no functioning complaints process. This means that any other filmmaker with a valid complaint to make about Screen Australia can be, at the whim of senior management, treated with the contempt that I have been treated with – lied to and threatened with legal action for having the temerity to stand up for their rights. And if any other filmmaker should feel inclined to make a complaint to Ruth Harley about his or her latest insultingly dismissive email or letter from Fiona Cameron, Ruth will pass it on to Fiona who will tell him/her that she has no intention of communicating further on the matter – whatever the matter might be. In short, zero accountability, zero transparency. And if this frustrated filmmaker should write to Glen Boreham and the Screen Australia Board, the result will be the same – silence or, if they are persistent a spin-laded letter from Glen in which it is quite apparent that he accepts, without question, a version of events provided to him by Ruth and Fiona. And the same will apply if s/he writes to Simon Crean – a spin-laden letter being the best s/he can hope for. And so on up to the Prime Minister’s office. This is the issue that I believe should be of concern to the industry at large. Excuse me for belabouring the point but all the evidence (from my own experience and that of others I have spoken with whose experiences mirror my own) suggests that Screen Australia is an autocracy whose tactics, when dealing with critics or anyone with the temerity to ask questions, are akin to those practiced by the mafia. Why do we, as an industry, put up with this state of affairs? Screen Australia’s role is to serve the industry and culture of Australian film, not vice versa!


  1. James, no one is listening, mate! Give up, it's a lost cause.You've lost thebattle.Time to move on.

  2. You may be right 'Anonymous'. Screen Australia intends neither to sue me nor or to apologize. It's tactic is to ignore. So be it. The ramifications should, I think, be of concern to all in the industry who expect transparency and accountability on the part of senior management at SA. If Screen Australia's ignoring me has the desired effect, publishing online will have been an exercize in futility. If, on the other hand, SA does eventually apologize and correct the files, my strategy here will have revealed that you can take on SA and win - if the facts support your complaint.

  3. Nice to see that there are still a few old codgers doing battle with the incompetents at Screen Australia. It's a battle you won't win Ricketson but entertaining nonetheless to see that someone has the balls to go after Harley, Boreham and the Board. How much money has SA invested in projects that provide financial benefit to board members? Pity this battle is not taking place in a forum where more film industry personnel could take cognizance and make comments. How much longer has Harley got before her contract expires? Please Mr Crean, don't renew it!

  4. Roo (Kanga) FarleyMay 7, 2012 at 10:48 PM

    Finally, you're wising up.
    We've got you well and truly snookered, matey.
    You complain to anyone further up the hierarchy, they send the letter to us for comment and a draft reply.
    We're the important peopl we feel pretty confident that we're just better than you and deserve more money and more power and control. Incumbency, we call it.
    You're just another whinger looking for another suck on the public teat. So they don't care about you, and that leaves us in charge of the teat. We're like a small town sheriffs. We don't watch Australian films but someone says there was one about cars in Paris that had something like that in it. I'm sure you've seen a Western with one. You can't touch us unless you find some Charles Bronson type loner to do the moral thing and then take a bullet for you in the final scene.
    Trouble is, pal, this is real life so if you do find a champion (and you need one since you're basically like a Mexican peasant and can't do it yourself) they'll probably just turn into another tyrant. We never played computer games either but we know people who know about popular culture and they'd say 'All your bases are belong to us.(more following)

  5. Roo (Kanga) FarleyMay 7, 2012 at 10:50 PM

    There's only one thing that we hope you won't do, and that's to discover a bit more about how government works.
    Recruit a few sympathetic friends so it doesn't look like everything is coming from you. You're too easily dismissed as a crank and a vexatious litigant.
    Get people with a better writing style so it's short and pithy, direct, but courteously formal and they can't tell that all the letters are coming from you.
    Start writing letters about a much wider range of things that will still have to come to us for answer. Keep them coming at about one a week (from a wide range of people, remember, not just from you).
    Write about broader issues, and other projects, not just your stuff.
    Ask for reports on performance, for example. Look through the performance indicators or the strategic plan. Have a regular meeting with a few mates and think up issues to attack in the letters. Ideally, you want two or maybe three issues in the letters - so it needs a bit of extra coordination. Also remember that letters that go from local MPs get more attention. So send letters to local MPs asking them to find stuff out for you. It doesn't matter if you've got stuff wrong - if you can just slightly misconstrue things that need reassurance, so much the better for you. We probably don't check the names and addresses of people who send letters, so you could be using the names of dead or fictitious people, or just using random names from the electoral roll. (You'd have to be just a bit careful with this one, but you've got a lot more time to think up stuff than we have to answer it. A brief that looks professional with a whole pile of questions can be a pain if it's picked up by anyone in the Senate at an estimates hearing. One question can take an age to get data for - like that one from Blind Freddy. How many projects involve directors? We've given piles of cash away to companies to help them become more commercial (almost Orwellian isnt it) What's happened to that? How many of them have done any better, commercially, with the money than they did without? How many development applications come from my electorate? What's the rate per head of population of applications from WA compared to the rest of the country? Why are South Australian applications treated more favourably? It appears that the rate of approval over the last 5 years has consistently favoured applicants from South Australia. What has Screen Australia done to promote energy efficiency in the industry? Why are there no Islamic Chinese in any scripts?
    Fortunately, we don't reckon much for your creativity. So we think you'll just keep blogging along here and won't manage to irritate our lives much at all, and you'll never figure out how to use FOI.


  6. Ask Bronwyn Bishop or Martin Ferguson to find out whether there was favouritism in the decision to fund Sleeping Beauty. Why does Screen Australia not follow the same rules as a tender? Why was Sleeping Beauty funded when it was assessed as worse than other films that were not? Why did Screen Australia renege on undertakings made by the FFC regarding the funding of other people's films in order to fund Sleeping Beauty. Whose idea was it to have Jane Campion support Sleeping Beauty? Has Screen Australia asked her to support any other films? Have any other directors been asked to support films? Is this open to other film makers, and if so what are the criteria?

  7. - there needs to be some form of redress and accountability??