Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Breaching my bail conditions!
CEO, Screen Australia
150 William St.
Woolloomooloo 2011 18th Oct 2012
Do we want a film industry peopled by ‘nice’ men and women who never do or say anything that might cause distress to a Screen Australia employee? Or should we, in our desire to make films that entertain audiences, put bums on seats, accept that there will be producers, directors, screenwriters actors and others whose peculiarities, whose obsessive natures, whose temper tantrums, whose personality flaws, neuroses and a potpourri of eccentric (and possibly less than pleasant) character traits are integral to the talent they bring to their job of making films people want to see? Imagine if the criteria that have been applied to me and resulted in refusing to read my screenplays, view my ‘Chanti’s World’ DVD were to be applied to actors, for instance?
This is not a round about way of admitting to having intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff (the marked up correspondence you gave me contains no evidence in support of this proposition) but a way of pointing out that Screen Australia is there to service the industry and culture of Australia film and television, not the other way around. It is up to Screen Australia to adapt to and deal with filmmakers of all shapes, sizes and temperaments and not to insist that they all fit into a neat box that makes the lives of bureaucrats easier and devoid of anything that might distress them. If Liz Crosby is ‘distressed’ by my asking her to simply tell the truth as she knows it about my ‘Chanti’s World’ promo is this my problem or hers? Why doesn’t Liz, as I have been asking for close on two years, simply go on record with what she overheard or didn’t overhear? And if Fiona Cameron is distressed (or feels intimidated) by my calling her a liar, why not simply demonstrate (easy to do if she has the evidence) that it is me who is the liar?
But all this writing, this absurd ping pong to-and-fro game of letter writing should not be necessary in the first place. When disputes such as this arise your job, as Chief Executive, is to come up with a fair simple time-efficient pathway to resolution that respects the facts and is equitable to all involved. In this case (possibly in most cases) this would involve the relevant people engaged in the dispute sitting around a table for half an hour drinking coffee and arriving at a solution, perhaps a compromise, that all can live with. Hands are shaken, smiles are exchanged and the matter is resolved. This is basic Management 101 stuff. How much time and energy (not to mention money, in the Supreme Court) has been wasted as a result of Screen Australia having no functioning complaints process? Despite two years of correspondence between us the very first opportunity I had to speak with Fiona Cameron in person about this dispute arose three days ago, at 3.30 in the afternoon, reading correspondence you had handed me and posing no risk to anyone, when Fiona informed me that I had to leave by 4pm or Graham would call the police! Really, Ruth! Management 101!
The reality is that the ban on me, or so it seems to me, is an act of spite and vengeance initiated by a Chief Executive (and ratified by a complaint Board) who does not believe that members of the film community have the right to criticize herself, her management style or members of her staff in public. That you allow Fiona Cameron to adjudicate complaints made about herself speaks volumes of the problems inherent in your management style - one that cannot cope with or respond to feedback or criticism that suggests or even implies that you and your staff ever make mistakes or are anything less than perfect. Claire Jager and Ross Mathews made a mistake in not viewing my ‘Chanti’s World’ promo. Fair enough, shit happens! Rather than rectify the problem, which would have involved saying, “Sorry James,” Screen Australia decided to stick with its knock back – akin to knocking back a script development project without reading the script. And so began the long saga that has resulted in you or Fiona asking poor Graham to call the police to have me arrested in the foyer of Screen Australia at 4 pm. The word ‘intimidation’ springs to mind!
In the grand scheme of things Claire’s not viewing my ‘Chanti’s World’ promo was really just a minor common and garden cockup of the kind that life tends to be full of. Instead of dealing with it as such, however, Ross Mathews, Fiona Cameron and yourself (closely followed by Glen Boreham) decided that admitting to having cocked up would be a sign of weakness (or some such silly reason) and that it would be much better to shift the blame for the cockup to me. Hence Fiona’s reference to correspondence that we all know now does not back up her assertion that I believed that my ‘Chanti’s World’ application had been ‘green lit’. This is where this dispute moves deep into the realm explored in the novels of Franz Kafka. You all know now that Fiona was wrong, that my correspondence does not back up her assertions, and yet you continue to act as though Fiona spoke (wrote) the truth and I am intimidating your staff with my persistent attempts to get Liz Crosby, Ross Mathews, Claire Jager and Julia Overton to go on record with what they know about the viewing or non-viewing of my ‘Chanti’s Word’ promo. If they all say, “Of course your ‘promo’ was viewed, James!”, (and I have been inviting them to do so for close to two years now) it would be the word of four Screen Australia employees’ against the word of one filmmaker’s and any reasonable person would conclude that it was me who had been playing fast and loose with the truth about how this dispute began.
Given that you and Fiona have ruled out any form of dialogue with me, (Management 101, Ruth!) given that you have ruled out bringing in an independent conciliator/mediator to adjudicate this dispute on the basis of facts, I can only hope that the Screen Australia board, when it votes on 9th Nov to either lift or continue with the ban on me, allows me the opportunity to speak, in person, in my own defence.
Before the weeks ends I will, in breach of my bail conditions, be dropping off an application to level 4, 150 William St. If you or Fiona feel the need to call the police, so be it, though witnessing my being arrested for the second time in a week in the foyer of Screen Australia may be distressing to some members of your staff!