Tuesday, November 13, 2012

letter to Claudia Karvan and Richard Keddie

Claudia Karvan and Richard Keddie
Screen Australia Board
level 4, 150 William St
Woolloomooloo 2011

14th Nov 2012

Dear Claudia and Richard

I wonder if you were aware, last Friday, as the Screen Australia Board met, that I was in the process of being arrested in the Screen Australia foyer and, a few hours later, handcuffed and jailed for the weekend on charges trespassing and breach of bail? Trespassing  in the Screen Australia foyer at 3pm! The charge was subsequently dismissed by the magistrate in Parramatta court, though my original trespassing charge, acquired on 15th Oct at 4pm will go to trial on 20th Dec.  

How much of Screen Australia’s precious budget will be spent in court defending Ruth Harley’s right to have me arrested and charged for the heinous crime of sitting quietly in the foyer at Screen Australia posing a threat to no-one, during business hours? How much of Screen Australia’s precious budget has already been spent in the Supreme Court of NSW defending Ruth Harley’s right not to provide me with copies of the allegedly intimidating correspondence that I had been asking for for five months and that she handed to me on 15th Oct. before calling the cops to have me arrested? There is an Alice in Wonderland quality to all this - with a dash of Monty Python and the Emperor’s New Clothes thrown in for good measure!

I wonder if either of you ever saw a copy of the letter that I wrote to the Board on 22nd October (http://jamesricketson.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/another-letter-for-screen-australia.html) or if, perhaps, such letters are not passed on to the board? Given the lack of response from the board I must entertain the possibility that the latter is the case.

More importantly, I wonder if either of you, as new board members and not involved in my being banned by Screen Australia back in May, have been presented with evidence that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff? As you must be aware by now, the allegation that I have done so is the reason why the Board ratified the ban placed on me by Ruth Harley six months ago. 

In the short term, this ban has put me in the unenviable position of having to knock back a pre-sale for a documentary I have been self-funding for 17 years - a pre-sale I had spent close to a year negotiating and one that would have made it possible for me to apply to Screen Australia for post-production funding.  I could not make the application last month because, presumably, the process of reading my submission materials and looking at a DVD would pose a risk of some kind to Screen Australia staff!

In the long term, Screen Australia’s ban effectively brings my career as an Australian filmmaker to an end for as long as the current regime is in power - the current regime being not just senior management within Screen Australia but a board that either ratifies, unquestioningly, decisions made by Ruth Harley or asks her to provide evidence or a strong argument for decisions as serious as the banning of a filmmaker. Is this what has happened here - the unquestioning acceptance that Ruth Harley has evidence of the crimes I have supposedly committed? Or is the board in possession of the evidence I have been asking for for six months now? 

In accordance with the legal system under which we operate in Australia (Westminster, Common Law) it is the obligation of the prosecution to provide evidence of guilt; not on the accused to prove his or her innocence. Even if Screen Australia reserves to itself the right to operating in accordance with a different set of legal rules, surely the accused (me, in this instance) has a right, at the very least, to be provided with evidence of his or her crimes!

I would argue, if I were ever given a chance to present a defence (as has been the right of the accused for several centuries now!), that there is not one paragraph, not one sentence, not one phrase or even one word in any of my correspondence that is intimidating or which places members of Screen Australia’s staff at risk. That the board has not lifted the ban placed on me at either of the last two board meetings (the last being Friday 9th Nov., the day of my second arrest) suggests that you have both been provided with evidence of my guilt. If so, could you please share this evidence with myself and the film community? Or does the Screen Australia board reserve for itself the right to conduct Star Chamber investigations in which the accused is neither given evidence of his or her crimes or an opportunity to answer the charges that have been laid?

In this case the charges are not dissimilar to those that have been laid against certain students at St John’s college and led to the involvement of the police. If I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence why have the police not been alerted and charges laid? Wouldn’t taking out an AVO be an appropriate course of action under such circumstances? Why is it that the only times the police are called is when I sit quietly in the foyer at Screen Australia waiting for senior management (or the board) to provide me with evidence of the crimes of intimidation and placing staff at risk? Is Screen Australia in the business of developing high quality films or of punishing those filmmakers who have the temerity to criticize the organization or, worse still, of asking questions such as: “Please provide me with evidence of my having intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff?”

best wishes

James Ricketson


  1. You are dishonest with your selective and repeated use of the quote "intimidated and placed at risk". Ruth Harley's letter taken in its proper context is entirely reasonable. She also uses the phrase "legal duty to protect staff from harrassment". The evidence of you doing so is overwhelming. Sending people 100s of letters calling them liars and incompetents is nasty at worst, babyish at best - it is also ridiculously ineffective at getting any meaningful outcome. They are right to ignore you. You are also being unfair to all the other more talented and reasonable filmmakers out there whose applications can't get proper attention because SA have to spend huge amounts of their time dealing with a deluded attention seeking buffon such as yourself instead of doing their job (which they actually do rather well in difficult circumstances). You are a figure of fun - or would be if you weren't so sad.

  2. I am nor sure which Anonymous respondent this is but the tone sounds familiar!

    I have published Ruth Harley's letter in toto so that any reader, including yourself, can read it in context. The fact is, regardless of what you may think of my correspondence, I have not intimidated or placed anyone at risk. If I had my being banned would be completely appropriate, as I have made clear on many occasions.

    As for calling people liars, referring to them playing fast and loose with the truth etc., I only started doing so when statements were placed on file relating to correspondence I had supposedly written that were not true. I asked, repeatedly, to be provided with copies of this correspondence - Fiona Cameron's 'green lit' correspondence - and had to wait 18 or so months before being provided with it.

    My question for you, Mr or Ms Anonymous, is what you would do if statements about yourself were placed on file that were untrue and damaging to your reputation? Would you just grin and bear it? Or would you ask, politely at first and less politely as the months roll by, to be provided with copies of the correspondence being referred to?

    As for 'any meaningful outcome', this could have been achieved two years ago in an hour if there had been any will on the part of Screen AUstralia to resolve the matter on the basis of facts and not spin. What started as a common and garden lockup, that could have been resolved quickly, has grown way beyond what was necessary. At any point this past two years (and I have suggested this often) an independent conciliator/mediator could have been brought in for half a day to look at the relevant documents and make a determination that both I an Screen Australia could agree on in advance to abide by. If this person, with no vested interest in the outcome, were to find my correspondence intimidating and that it placed SA staff at risk, I would accept this. If this person did not, then Screen AUstralia would have to accept this and, one would hope, lift the ban on me.

    As for my being unfair to 'other more talented and reasonable filmmakers' etc. we agree on the time being wasted here; the time and energy that has been wasted this past two years. By implication you are suggesting (though please correct me if I am misinterpreting you) that I should have simply accepted having placed on file statements that were demonstrably untrue? I should accept being banned without putting up any kind of fight because my fighting, my insistence that I be provided with evidence of my crimes, is having an impact on Screen Australia's capacity to fund other filmmaker's projects!

    I would suggest that far more money has been spent in the Supreme Court and will be spent in the 20th Dec court hearing - money that would not need to be spent if Ruth Harley had not deemed it a wise and necessary decision to have me arrested, during business hours, doing nothing other than sitting in the foyer of Screen Australia.

    That you should feel the need to write anonymously and, no doubt respond to this anonymously, is part of the problem that we all in the industry are confronted by.


  3. You are being dishonest by ignoring the main and first point of my comment. Ruth Harley claimed in her letter that she had "a legal duty to protect staff from harassment". The evidence of such behaviour of your behalf is overwhelming and available for all to see. Your track record of this behaviour with other organisations is hardly helpful either. It is clear to everyone but yourself that you are not a heroic freedom fighter but a deluded trouble causing nutter.

    1. Dear Anonymous

      I do wish that you would adopt some form of nom de plume so that I can distinguish you from others who go by the name ‘Anonymous’ also, though I think, from the tone and petulant foot-stamping name-calling writing style that I know who you are. If I am correct, you work for Screen Australia and will be well aware of just how this dispute got its first legs - when Claire Jager, in mid-2009, in the process of processing my ‘Chanti’s World’ application, failed to view a ‘promo’ that was central to my application. A small and understandable cockup. Not the end of the world. How this small cockup grew, all on file, is of no interest to anyone, but grow it did and, at all thjose points along the way when Screen Australia management could have resolved the problem in a fifiteen minute chat over a cup of coffee, it failed to do so. Then, when the dispute escalated to the next stage (the details don’t matter too much here) Fiona Cameron decided, rather than deal with the facts, to attribute the cause of the problem to my having written certain correspondence -which I did not write. I need not go over what happened next as I have written about it often. Yes, I could have just accepted the fact that untrue statements had been placed on file and forgotten about it., However, I know from experience, that such statements (usually placed on file by bureaucrats to cover their asses) can and will be read by a new set of bureaucrats a few years later and will, understandably, form impressions in their minds. This is why I cannot allow to remain on file, to remain in Screen Australia’s corporate memory, the allegation that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff. One only needs to read the text messages to know that this is what some students at St.John’s college have done. They deserve whatever damage has been done to their reputations. And I would deserve the damage done to my reputation if even one phrase could be identified in my correspondence that is intimidating or which places members of Screen Australia staff at risk. Being banned is not the end of the world. I have been a filmmaker for close to 42 years. I have, I think, been very fortunate to have had the opportunities I have had to make films that have often been funded, directly or indirectly, by the Australian tax-payer. During those times (most of the time) when I could not access funding, I have worked in a variety of jobs - including taxi-driving, window-cleaning, teaching, picking fruit and so on. This is what filmmakers do when they need to. So, as another commentator says elsewhere, being knocked back is like water off a duck’s back. No big deal. It is a big deal, however, to be accused of a crime you have not committed, to be provided with no evidence that you have committed it and to be denied the opportunity to defend oneself against the charges. This is a denial of natural justice and evidence that Screen Australia sees nothing wrong in conducting such Star Chamber prosecutions. If you are the Screen Australia employee I think you are, calling me a nutter is just plain childish. If you are not a Screen Australia employee please, in any future posts, try and confine yourself to a fact-based discussion. Your name-calling says much more about you than me.


    2. Reluctantly AnonymousNovember 14, 2012 at 8:43 PM


      A couple of days ago, in the Sydney Morning Herald, journalist Barney Zwartz wrote, “This journalist has covered a few dead trees with ink criticizing politicians for tardy and inadequate responses to clergy sex abuse of children.” Is Barney guilty of harassment? You bet he is. That’s his job - to harass those in positions of power who either abuse those positions or refuse to act in accordance with their responsibilities. Is Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox guilty of harassing all those who did not want to see accusations of sexual exploitation see the light of day? You bet, and good on him for it. Harassment can mean what you want it to mean but having read a good deal Ricketson’s correspondence it seems to me that he (1) Is merely asking the same questions over and over again and (2) asking to be given evidence of intimidation and ‘placing at risk’. If he is guilty of intimidation he deserves to be banned. Here is one definition:

      Intimidation (also called cowing) is intentional behavior that "would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" fear of injury or harm.

      It is not unreasonable for him to ask for evidence that members of Screen Australa staff feared that he might injure or harm them. As for ‘at rik’, this one has me mystified. Here’s one definition that might help clarify:

      RISK. A danger, a peril to which a thing is exposed. The possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger.

      Regardless of the literal meaning of ‘risk’ only a person or questionable moral values would place another person at risk and again the question arises: Has Ricketson made anyone at Screen Australia feel that they might suffer harm at his hands? That they were placed in danger of some kind as a result of reading his correspondence? If so, release the relevant correspondence! It is as simple as that. If the correspondence does not exist Ricketson is within his rights to keep insisting on it being released and his insistence is no more a form of harassment than Barney Zwartz’s or Peter Fox’s. If I wqere in Ricketson’s position I would do the same - though probably not to the point of getting arrested to make a point.

      I remain Reluctantly Anonymous because, with projects being considered by Screen Australia for funding I do not want to cruel my chances.

  4. Anyone who knows James would know that a straight out rejection is like water off a duck’s back to him and he wouldn't ever take it personally.
    Anyone who knows James knows that he is being scape-goated by bureaucratic careerists who will try to outlast the truth in order to feel like their existence on this planet does not require them to behave like human beings.
    A good few years ago I had a screenplay submission rejected, not for the first or the last time. The comments of the reviewers hit me hard. I was living with a crim at the time, as it turned out later, a full-on sociopath/psychopath. He wasn’t happy at seeing me upset and offered to go break a few legs (an offer I declined)
    If only these ridiculous self-important academics really understood what real intimidation is!. If their actions in pursuit of the truth ever put them in the watch-house, that would be a screenplay worthy of production.

  5. James and his anonymous friend above are both being dishonest by focussing on" intimidation and at risk" and ignoring "legal duty to protect staff from harassment".
    James is guilty of harassing SA staff. He knows that is true. Everyone knows that is true. To whine and moan when the people you are harassing no longer choose to deal with you suggests low intelligence or worse. You've made your bed James. Spare us all the self indulgent belly aching now you have to lie in it. Have you any idea what you are like to deal with?!

  6. Oh dear, yet another person who goes by the name 'Anonymous'!

    If you have any evidence that I am guilty of harassing SA staff please do share it with us. SInce you are writing anonymously, there can be no repercussions for you.

    Your final sentence suggests that you have had to deal with me as a Screen Australia staff member so, given that you are writing anonymously, please share your experiences with us.

  7. The kindest thing that could be said about Ruth Harley’s decision to have James arrested the first time is that it was a foolish decision. The kindest thing that can be said about her decision to have his arrested the second time (presuming it was hers and not the board’s) is that it was stupid. The two arrests, combined with banning James in the first place without presenting him with evidence or a right to defend himself, is suggestive of a lack of managerial skill that ought not to be found in a Chief Executive Officer. The contributor to this dialogue stream who suggests that James must be guilty because everyone knows he is writing dangerous nonsense - particularly if he or she is (as seems to be the case) a Screen Australia employee. James has repeatedly requested that the dispute be put into the hands of an impartial person and indicated that he is prepared to live with whatever the judgement of this person is. Why will Screen Australia not do the same? What does SA have to fear from the truth emerging, based on the facts? If the intimidating correspondence exists it will speak for itself. I have known James for 30 years and he is not a nutter. I am a little ashamed not to put my name to this contribution but I fear the various forms of retribution that Screen Australia can mete out if my comments cause people in high places displeasure or discomfort. God luck, James. You are going to need it.

  8. I wonder if it has occurred to Ruth Harley that calling to police to have a filmmaker arrested in Screen Australia's offices could be viewed as 'intimidation' and that his being jailed might place him 'at risk'? Just asking!

  9. So whats your next move Ricketson if Claudia and Richard ignore you like all the others?