Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Through the Screen Australia Looking Glass
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
Elizabeth Grinston, General Counsel at Screen Australia, is the master of the meaning of words in the hallowed halls of our premier film funding body. A few years ago she managed to define the word ‘producer’ in such a way that, after close to 40 years of producing films, I ceased to be one and so became ineligible to be a mentor-producer to young filmmakers!
Now, as Mistress of Spin in the Looking Glass world of Screen Australia-speak Elizabeth has declared that the verbs ‘to intimidate’ and ‘to distress’ are, to all intents and purposes, identical in meaning. It is now clear to me why it is, when I made an FOI request for copies of my ‘intimidating correspondence’, that Screen Australia sent me a copy of pretty well every letter and email I have sent to the organization this past three years. My correspondence has, since Screen Australia’s inception, been filled with questions. Questions like: “How it is, despite all the evidence to the contrary, has Screen Australia decided that I am not a ‘proven producer’?
There is nothing quite like a question such as this to a Screen Australia bureaucrat to really annoy them. If you ask the question a few times, because your correspondence has been ignored, your questions unanswered, the SA bureaucrat can then ignore correspondence on the grounds that you are harassing them by continuing to ask the questions they refuse to answer. If you persist, if you continue to insist that your legitimate questions be answered and if your persistence causes the recipient of your correspondence to feel ‘distressed’, she can then claim that she feels intimidated and get Ruth Harley, with the blessing of the Screen Australia Board, to have you banned. Such is Screen Australia’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
Starting tomorrow I will publish the interchange I had with a member of Screen Australia’s staff that ‘distressed’ her and which led to Elizabeth Grinston inadvertently letting me know that the verb ‘to distress’ actually means much the same as the verb ‘to intimidate’. Whilst I am ignorant of so much in law (‘The man who defends himself in court as a fool for a client’) there is one part of the upcoming court case in the Supreme Court in which I will have a great deal of confidence and which will be a good deal of fun – when Screen Australia’s Counsel argues that causing distress in the mind of a Screen Australia bureaucrat is the same as intimidating them. As for placing them at risk with my correspondence I’m still scratching my head at that one. Placing them at risk of being distressed, perhaps!? Screen Australia may well win in the Supreme Court with a technical knock out but not before I have landed a few good punches.