Sunday, October 28, 2012
letter for Glen Boreham, Chair, Screen Austalia Board
Screen Australia Board
level 4, 150 William St
Dear Glen 29th Oct 2012
When I appear in court next week, having been charged with trespassing in the Screen Australia foyer at 4pm, I will request that the magistrate throw the case out on the grounds that no offense has been committed. If the magistrate decides that I have a case to answer, so be it. More time, energy and financial resources will be wasted as I call Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron as witnesses, in the hope that it will emerge which of them asked Screen Australia’s Security Manager to call the police and why they felt it necessary to do so. That either or both Ruth and Fiona made such a decision speaks volumes of the way in which Screen Australia is managed. Sitting quietly reading marked up correspondence, provided to me by Ruth Harley, constitutes a crime against no-one. Or does Screen Australia believe that my presence in the foyer was placing SA staff at risk!
As I have made clear on many occasions, the failure of Claire Jager and Ross Mathews to view my ‘Chanti’s World’ promo was, in the grand scheme of things, a minor cockup. It is the way in which this cockup has been handled (along with the non-existence of a functioning complaints process within Screen Australia) that, as with calling the police to have me arrested, is symptomatic of problems in the way in which Screen Australia is managed. These should, I believe, be addressed by the board. The board can only do so if it is well informed; if it can rely on senior management to provide it with accurate and truthful information regarding matters on the agenda and to be voted on. In the case of my being banned it should be clear to the board by now that it was ill informed; that I have never intimidated or placed at risk any member of Screen Australia staff. Which other matters has the board voted on in which it has it been misinformed? Does the board have any way of knowing if it has been misinformed? Does the board care? My being banned on the basis of misinformation symptomatic of systemic problems more worthy of the board’s attention than the fate of one filmmaker.
I have survived the bulk of my film career without benefit of Screen Australia (AFC or other funding body) monies and I will survive the current Ruth Harley fatwa, endorsed by yourself and the board. Having spend 17 years self-funding ‘Chanti’s World’, another year or two self-funding will not kill me - though having to say ‘no’ to a pre-sale does rankle somewhat! Like as good wine, ‘Chanti’s World’ (described by one viewer of the 35 min. ‘promo’ that Screen Australia refuses to view, as an ‘Asian Seven Up’) can only get better with age. The time will come (sooner rather than later, I hope) when Screen Australia has, as CEO, someone whose primary concern is with the quality of projects and not with punishing those who have the temerity to criticize them in public by refusing to assess their projects on their merits.
It is the flip side of punishing critics that should be of concern to the board - namely rewarding of those who do not criticize SA but reflect back on the CEO the image she wishes to convey to the world - the Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome. The CEO of Screen Australia and members of senior management are well remunerated - much better so than the bulk of filmmakers. Part of their job is to be accountable and transparent in their dealings with the industry. Another is to be able to listen and respond to criticism and not use being ‘distressed’ as a reason to cease communicating with critics. A truly transparent and accountable Screen Australia would be holding public meetings on a fairly regular basis to discuss with the industry its concerns and to respond appropriately to feedback. This does not happen. On the rare occasions that Screen Australia calls such a meeting it is to make announcements, an exercize in self-aggrandizement, not to engage in dialogue.
Whilst I accept, with weary resignation, that the board of which you are Chair has effectively ended my film career for the time being, I cannot accept that you and your fellow board members have gone on record as confirming, as you did when you changed Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade on 9th May and endorsed Ruth’s ban, that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff.
There are many observations that could be made about my correspondence, many epithets that could be applied to it, but ‘intimidating’ and ‘placing at risk’ are not two of them - as any independent observer would know if he or she were to look at the correspondence in question. Conflating ‘feeling distressed’ with ‘ feeling intimidated’ and ‘feeling intimidated’ with ‘feeling at risk’ is the kind of word-mangling spin that senior management at Screen Australia should not be engaged in. And nor should the board countenance it. At risk of what? This is not a rhetorical question.
I would appreciate it if, for a change, you were to acknowledge receipt of this letter and let me know if, on Nov 9th, the Screen Australia board has any intention of doing one of two things: (1) Ratifying its original 10th May ban and supplying evidence-based reasons for doing so or (2) Lifting the 10th May ban and providing evidence-based reasons for doing so. Either outcome should, of course, be based on verifiable facts. If you have evidence that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff, make it public; go on record with the evidence. If you have evidence that I have, in any of my correspondence, in anything I have written on my blog, played fast and loose with, been parsimonious with, the truth, place it on record also. If I am guilty, my ban is deserved. If I am not, both the lifting of the ban and an apology are in order.
In this asymmetric battle with Screen Australia (I certainly cant afford to have 4 legal representative in court) I have little weaponry available to me other than my words and the use of guerrilla tactics such as turning up at Screen Australia and refusing to leave until Ruth Harley has provided me with marked up copies of correspondence. This tactic worked, Ruth handed me the correspondence personally, but such tactics should not be necessary and I trust that it will not be necessary for me to employ them again.
As I have already indicated, I would appreciate an opportunity to address the board directly on 9th Nov. in relation to my being banned. Yes, an unusual request but not nearly as unusual as the banning of a filmmaker on the basis of either no evidence at all or evidence that Screen Australia chooses to keep secret.