Tuesday, November 13, 2012
letter to Claudia Karvan and Richard Keddie
Claudia Karvan and Richard Keddie
Screen Australia Board
level 4, 150 William St
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?”