Monday, September 10, 2012

Appeal to Documentary Section of Screen Australia

Email to Ross Mathews and the Documentary Section of Screen Australia

Screen Australia will waste a lot of money in court defending Ruth Harley’s right to ban a filmmaker without providing him with any evidence at all of the crimes he has been accused of – namely intimidating yourselves with my correspondence. As you all know, and have done since 9th May, I have not written even one phrase (let alone a sentence or paragraph) in which I have intimidated any of you or placed you at risk. What I have done is write, many times, asking all of you collectively and individually, to abide by Screen Australia guidelines, to be transparent and accountable for your actions. You have all quite simply refused to correspond with me at all, to answer any questions – leaving me with no choice but to keep writing, to keep asking questions and, in effect, to harass Screen Australia into basing its actions, its decisions in relation to ‘Chanti’s World’, in fact and not in spin.

You have all known, for up to three years now, that Claire and Ross did not view my ‘promo’ in mid 2009 and yet this first application stands as one of the maximum of four that any filmmaker is allowed to make with the one project. You have all known since Oct 2010 that Claire included in her second assessment the absurd proposition that obtaining funding from Christians whom I was investigating for ‘staling’ children was a realistic option. In Claire’s own words:

But while conducting war with the agency, the Brisbane church which runs it (the refuge) he appear to have alienated - justifiably, it may be the case - relevant NGOs operating in Cambodia, thus making it highly unlikely he could access direct funding from them.”

This was the application in which Claire managed to write a 50 or so word assessment in which she made not one observation at all about the project itself. Did she view my ‘promo’ this second time around? I have no idea! This second application is one that Claire declared was ‘disingenuous’ – because I had been filming ‘Chanti’s World’ for 14 years (self funded) and so did not need development – completely ignoring the reasons why I needed the money – regardless of how long I had been filming. It is also the assessment in which Julia Overton declared, quite some after I had made it, that my application was inappropriate – despite you, Ross, having made it perfectly clear in front of Julia and Liz Crosby, that my making it was, in fact, appropriate. This is also the application that led Fiona Cameron to declare that I had come away from a meeting with you, Ross, Julia and Liz (for part of the meeting) with the belief that ‘Chanti’s World’ had been ‘greenlit’. You have known since Nov 2010 that I did not believe Chanti’s World to have been greenlit. The only thing that had been ‘greenlit’ was my right to make an application – as would be clear to anyone who looked at the correspondence with a view to taking into account facts and not, as Fiona does, with a view to spinning the facts in such a way as to absolve Screen Australia personnel of any responsibility for a cockup. (It took me 20 months to get Screen Australia to release the ‘greenlit’ correspondence from me. It does not, as you have all known all along, bear out Fiona’s assertions.)

And yet this second contentions application is counted as one of the maximum of four that I am allowed to make. Then there is the one that I withdrew because I felt it was inappropriate to have an application being considered by Screen Australia whilst the Ombudsman was investigating (or so I had been led to believed!) a complaint of mine about Screen Australia. Despite my withdrawing the application on the grounds that there was a conflict of interest, this too was counted as one of my four bites at the development funding cherry.

The reality is that only one of my applications with ‘Chanti’s World’ has been dealt with in accordance with Screen Australia guidelines. But the fact that I have to write the preceding paragraphs is symptomatic of Screen Australia’s preference for what it considers to be correct procedure over the content of project proposals. Consider the following:

In over three years I have not been able to have even one conversation with the Documentary section of Screen Australia about ‘Chanti’s World’ – a project that I have been working on for 17 years now

In over three years I have no idea if any of you have actually seen my ‘promo’ for ‘Chanti’s World’.

When my most recent application was rejected on the grounds that I had had my 4 bites at the development funding cherry, did any of you actually look at the DVD I submitted? No. The content of the DVD and the quality of my proposal is irrelevant. The only fact of relevant to the Documentary Section is that I have had my four bites and that’s it.! The mindset that comes up with such criteria is anathema to the creative enterprise that is filmmaking and which Screen Australia is supposedly there to support and encourage. I have never, in 17 years, received one cent in funding from Screen Australia or any other body for ‘Chanti’s World’ but, instead of adopting the approach, “What can we do to help,” Screen Australia’s attitude is, “What can we do to be as obstructive as possible to James? Hey, he’s had his 4 bites, we can refuse to even look at his DVD on these grounds.” What a small-minded and petty attitude, as I am sure each of you would agree individually but which cannot and will not say out loud because you all have jobs and, no doubt, are beholden to Ruth Harley to have your contracts renewed.

At the risk of repeating myself I wonder if, since Ruth Harley banned me on ground that you all know to be false, if any of you has even thought to actually view the DVD that, no doubt, sits in my file at Screen Australia? Has it occurred to any of you to view at it and form a judgment of ‘Chanti’s World’ as a documentary project as opposed to a judgment as to whether or not the project has ticks in all the right boxes. The question is rhetorical. The answer clearly is ‘no’. You are all so deep into a conspiracy of silence that to look at the DVD would, if you were to see value in it, raise questions that none of you would want to answer. Or, to put it another way, any positive assessment of the ‘Chanti’s World’ DVD would necessitate some serious mea culpas and lots of egg on all your faces. That is what this dispute comes down to now – Screen Australia doing all it can now to avoid allowing anyone to read the correspondence that would lead to a public recognition that Ruth Harley’s banning of me (with the Board’s blessing) has nothing at all to do with my alleged ‘intimidating correspondence’ and everything to do with protecting Fiona Cameron, who in turn is protecting the entire Documentary Section against charges of incompetence that could and should be leveled against it for the way in which it has dealt with ‘Chanti’s World’. Ruth Harley is now using Screen Australia’s legal department to cover up her own shortcomings as a manager – hoping, no doubt, that she can use the Supreme Court of NSW to prevent the allegedly intimidating correspondence from ever seeing the light of day and thus enabling my fellow filmmakers to decide for themselves if I am the kind of person who attempts to intimidate members of Screen Australia staff or if Ruth Harley is a bureaucratic bully who will use whatever tactic is required to silence a critic.

The purpose of this email is to request, yet again, that one of you break ranks and admit that what I write here is true and that you have all been engaged for a long time now in a conspiracy of silence to cover up Claire’s original cockup in not viewing my ‘promo’.

I am copying this to the office of Simon Crean MP, Minister for the Arts in hope that he may ask some obvious questions – the most obvious of which is, “Did you, Ross and Claire, view Mr Ricketson’s ‘promo’ during the assessment process of his first, mid 2009, application?” I am copying it also to the office of the Ombudsman in the same spirit of hope.

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