Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Development application by a banned filmmaker!

My application to Screen Australia of last week has, predictably, been ignored! 

Script Development
Screen Australia
Level 4
150 William St
Woolloomooloo 2011 

22nd May 2013

Dear Script Development


Despite having been banned by Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board from making any applications at all to SA, I am making an application anyway to test the waters. If Script Development chooses to refuse to accept my application I trust that I will be given evidence-based reasons why I was banned in the first place.

Ruth Harley’s ban is based on the premise that I have, in my correspondence with SA, harassed, intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. This is nonsense. It is a lie. I have been asking, for more than a year now, for Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board to provide me with one paragraph, one sentence, one phrase or even a couple of words that bear witness to the crimes I have been accused and found guilty of. Neither Ruth Harley nor the Board believes that it is necessary to provide me or anyone else with evidence. Allegations are all that are required under Ruth Harley’s stewardship of Screen Australia.

I have continued to work as a filmmaker despite Ruth Harley and the Board’s ban. Being blacklisted by Screen Australia does not make this easy but then filmmaking for an independent filmmaker has never been easy so this ban, born of Ruth Harley’s desire for revenge on a vocal critic, is not the end of the world. I will still be making films when Ruth Harley is a dim (and rather unpleasant) memory for all in the film industry who have endured her reign this past five years.

I have written half a dozen drafts of various screenplays whilst officially a ‘banned filmmaker’ this past 12 months and will now produce one of these screenplays (SHIPS IN THE NIGHT) as a very low budget feature film. My first task is to cast the film whilst, at the same time, doing readings of the screenplay with professional actors to find out what is a working, what is not working and what may be improved as far as dialogue is concerned. I have a list of actors interested in being involved in these readings. With a cast in place and some test scenes I will seek to raise as much money as I can for the film – in the full knowledge that Screen Australia’s ban (whether it is in place officially or unofficially) will not help me in this endeavor.

To this end I am applying to Screen Australia for $5,400 to conduct these readings in the not too distant future.

best wishes

James Ricketson

Sunday, May 26, 2013

for Senator George Brandis, Minister for the Arts in waiting!

The Hon George Brandis MP
Shadow Minister for the Arts
Commonwealth Parliament Offices
Level 361 Eagle St
Brisbane QLD 4000       

22nd May 2013                                                                                 

Dear Senator Brandis

In a few months you will be Minister for the Arts and, no doubt, will be inundated with advice from all quarters on what needs to be done to improve the delivery of government funding to the Arts sector. My suggestion: Insist that senior bureaucrats be transparent and accountable for their actions and have zero tolerance for those that are not and who use spin or outright lies to justify their actions or cover for their incompetence.
In the case of Screen Australia what is required is a functioning complaints system that is run quite independently of SA itself – one that is totally impartial in its deliberations, basing its findings on facts, on evidence and not on hearsay or unsubstantiated allegations.
From the day I was banned by Screen Australia, on 10th May 2012, I have stated, repeatedly, that I deserve to be banned if I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence. However, I have also asked repeatedly that, in the interests of transparency and accountability, the evidence that I am guilty of such crimes to be made public. It is not appropriate (indeed it is quite unfair) to convict anyone without providing the accused with evidence of his crimes and with no opportunity to defend himself. I have maintained for a year (and still maintain) that I have never intimidated or placed at risk any member of Screen Australia’s staff in my correspondence or in any other manner. If I am lying in making this assertion, Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board can demonstrate this very easily be releasing to both myself and the industry one paragraph, one sentence or even just the conjunction of a few words that speak to the proposition that I am guilty as charged. If they can do so it is appropriate that I be held accountable for my actions; that I be banned and shunned by my fellow filmmakers.
In the grand scheme of things my being banned is of no great consequence to anyone other than myself. What it represents, however – a lack of accountability and transparency on the part of the Chief Executive and the Screen Australia Board – should, I believe, be of concern to you as Minister for the Arts.
If my ban is still in place when you become Minister I will make a formal request that you provide me with evidence of the crimes that led to my ban or that you insist Screen Australia lift the ban and acknowledge that it should never have been  imposed in the first place without SA providing evidence in support of it.
The enclosed letter to Screen Australia speaks for itself.
best wishes
James Ricketson

Friday, May 10, 2013


My ban turned one year old today. On this day, a year ago, Ruth Harley informed me that I had been banned from making any applications at all to Screen Australia as a result of my having harassed, intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia's staff. A year later, many letters later, many blog entries later, two arrests later and a weekend in jail, I have still not been provided with one scintilla  of evidence that I have ever intimidated or placed at risk anyone at Screen Australia. As for the 'harassment' accusation, I suppose I am guilty of this in much the same way as Kate McClymont is guilty of harassing Eddie Obeid by continuing to ask questions that raise serious doubts about his honesty. McClymont's 'harassment' of Obeid have borne fruits. Mine of Ruth Harley have not! Such is life.

As I have written many times, if I am guilty of intimidating Screen Australia staff, if I am guilty of placing anyone within the organisation at risk, my being banned is entirely deserved. It would have been appropriate a year ago, I think, if the industry as a whole (or some body representing it) had asked Ruth Harley to please produce evidence of the crimes for which I had been banned and which I denied having committed. If Ruth had produced the evidence I would have looked both a fool and a liar and would, a year ago, suffered the damage to my reputation that I deserved. If Ruth had not produced the evidence (and she newer has,because never asked by anyone other than myself) it would be her reputation that took a king hit. Alas, not one person within the film industry, not one organisation, not one film publication, felt that this simple question of Ruth was worth asking. A dreadful form of cowardice. 

The reason why the question should have been asked has nothing to do with me,whether my fellow filmmakers like or respect men, but to do with principal. Senior Management of a tax-payer funded organisation such as Screen Australia should not be able to damage the career of a filmmaker as mine has been with impunity. Senior Management should not be able to either punish those whom they consider to be 'enemies' or to reward those who are 'friends'.

Hopefully Ruth's replacement will be someone with a commitment to the precepts of transparency and accountability; someone who will, amongst other things, either provide me with evidence of my having intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia;s staff or lift the ban and offer me an apology. Such a move would, of course, require the imprimatur of the Board - three fellow filmmakers of which have made it quite clear that they do not believe that I am entitled to be provided with evidence of my crimes. Shame on thou Rachel, Claudia and Richard! 

Monday, May 6, 2013

for Claudia Karvan, Rachel Perkins and Richard Keddie

Dear Claudia, Rachel and Richard

As I imagine has happened for all three of you, it is often the case that a story  finds you, as a filmmaker, and not the other way around.

The story of Zia and Brozzie found me one night a few weeks ago when the phone rang and a friend asked me if I could offer refuge to a mother and daughter ‘in trouble’. Without mentioning their names he described in brief the trouble they were in – on the run from the FBI, Interpol and the Australian Federal Police as a result of the mother having abducted her daughter in Los Angeles a decade ago. He could think of no-one else, my friend told, whom he could turn to this late at night who would be prepared to provide these fugitives with a safe haven. It took me all of five seconds to say yes. Needless to say my instinct as a filmmaker was, “There may be a great story here.”

There was a great story. For more than two weeks I had Zia (the mum) and Layla (her delightful 11 year old daughter) lived in my house. I did a lot of filming (it is an incredible story) but then the dad of Layla, Brozzie, turned up with a Today Tonight film crew. He had managed something that the FBI, Interpol and the Australian Federal Police had not been able to manage – to find his daughter. It took him 10 years but he found her. How Brozzie got to know that Zia and Layla were living in my house is a story in itself and not to be gone into here.

Having found Layla, Brozzi then did all he could to drop all charges against Zia – negotiating with authorities on three continents to guarantee that Zia did not wind up in jail and that she would be free to leave Australia. On top of this, he gave Zia sole custody of their daughter. Why would a father do this after spending 10 years and a million dollars to find his daughter? The answer is simply, though it probably won’t occur to you immediately. You will have to wait to see the film!

One brief account of what has happened this past 10 days can be found at:

I now have Zia’s story and Brozzi’s story partially recorded and it is an extraordinary one – all the more extraordinary given that Zia is a talented musician who has managed to practice her art in Australia whilst home schooling her daughter on the run in Australia this past 8 or so years.

I mention these details only to make the point that, as a banned filmmaker, I am not able to make any application to Screen Australia to take this extraordinary story to the next stage in its development. And why is this? Because the three of you, along with your non-filmmaking Board colleagues, have endorsed a ban placed on me by Ruth Harley that you know to be based on a lie – namely that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. Why you have endorsed Ruth’s lie this is a mystery to me. Perhaps it serves your individual careers best to go along with whatever the Screen Australia Executive decrees. Or perhaps you are, all three of you, so self-absorbed that you simply don’t care one way or the other that a fellow filmmaker is treated this way by a woman whose relationship to truth and facts is tenuous to say the least.  Or perhaps it is simply, despite your knowing Ruth to be a liar, that you would have too much egg on your faces if you were, a year down the track (a year in a few days) to admit that the Screen Australia Board had screwed up badly by endorsing Ruth’s ban on me in the absence of evidence of my having intimidated or placed anyone at risk. Your actions, or your lack of action (the end result is the same) cost me $130,000 in lost revenue for a documentary that I have now been working on (with my own financial resources) for 18 years – CHANTI’S WORLD. As with my doco about Zia and Brozzi, CHANTI’S WORLD  is stuck in a funding limbo caused by Ruth Harley’s lies.

Now that Ruth will no longer be gracing the industry with her presence (thank God!) and the search is on for a new Chief Executive, I imagine that on the short list (or at least an applicant) is yet another senior Screen Australia executive who has as little interest in facts and truth as Ruth – namely Fiona Cameron. Ruth Harley has been a disaster as Chief Executive but Fiona would be as bad if not worse. If Fiona believes that I have defamed her here, let her sue me. I would be delighted to appear in court with her.

My experience this last year with the Screen Australia Board has left me with no respect – either professionally or personally – for the three of you. How could you do this to a fellow filmmaker? As for the rest of the Board, I have no real expectations of them. They do not know or understand what it is like to be an independent filmmaker – just how hard it is to survive even when and if you have Screen Australia onside. To survive as an independent filmmaker with a ban such as the one you have placed on me is a huge burden. Shame on the three of you.

One day you will all be back in the industry struggling to survive along with the rest of us and will kick and squeal if you one day find yourselves on the receiving end of the punishment you have meted out to me – without even the professional courtesy to provide me with evidence of the crimes you claim I have committed.

best wishes

James Ricketson

A filmic adventure with a woman on the run from the FBI, Interpol and the Australian Federal Police

The phone rang. It was a friend wanting to know if I would be prepared to take care of a mother and child on the run from the FBI, Interpol and the Australian Federal Police. An emergency, I was told.

Two weeks later mother and daughter were found - by the dad, Brozzi, who had been looking for them for 10 years. He had a current affairs team with him - Today Tonight.

Fugitive mum Camilla Ellefsen Lunetta free to leave country

  • Fugitive mum and abducted daughter found
  • Father reunited with 11-year-old Reya
  • Mother and child free to leave the country
Brozzi Layla and Zia
Brozzi Lunetta, his daughter Reya and ex-wife Camilla Ellefsen Lunetta reunited in Sydney on April 26, 2013. Photo: James Ricketson.

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Camilla Ellefsen Lunetta
Camilla Ellefsen Lunetta in 2002. Photo: Supplied.

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A WOMAN who spent a decade on the run in Australia after abducting her daughter is now free to leave the country and plans to return to Norway.
Camilla Ellefsen Lunetta had been hiding Down Under since abducting her daughter Reya from the United States in 2002 amid a bitter custody dispute.
Reya's father Brozzi Lunetta returned to Australia this month after revealed that his ex-wife and daughter were living in Sydney's eastern suburbs.
The fugitive mum's run then came to an end last week when the American father found the pair being sheltered at a home in Palm Beach, north of Sydney.
Ms Ellefsen Lunetta appeared in the Family Court this morning and is now free to leave Australia.
The proceedings in The Hague Convention matter were finalised after Mr Lunetta agreed to discharge the return order for his daughter. understands Reya and her mother have now been removed from the Airport Watch List and plan to return to Norway tomorrow using emergency passports which were issued to them on Friday.
This comes after Mr Lunetta, who returned to Norway at the weekend, helped his ex-wife and daughter evade authorities last week while they worked out how best to proceed.
Meanwhile, details of Ms Ellefsen Lunetta's life on the run are emerging.
Two weeks ago documentary filmmaker James Ricketson had offered Ms Ellefsen Lunetta and Reya - now known as Zia and Layla - a place to stay as a favour to a friend who said the pair was "in a crisis".
"I didn't know what their names were or anything about the drama they were involved in," he said.
"The following day I met the mother and child and ... was told enough of the story to be able to say 'come and stay at my house for a few days while we work out what needs to happen next'.
"In the meantime I got on the internet and found out a whole lot of stuff that I didn't know before about Brozzi's side of the story."
Brozzi with daughter Reya
Brozzi Lunetta with daughter Reya before she was abducted. Picture: supplied.
Ricketson then hatched a plan to bring about a resolution.
"It became apparent very early on that Zia was spending a lot of time on the telephone to Norway talking to lawyers, the Attorney-General's department and all sorts of people with a view to going back to Norway to try to sort out the problems that she had created as a result of her abduction of Layla," he said.
"Then through a fake email address I made contact with Brozzi because I was hoping - as I knew that he wanted them to go back to Norway and I knew that she wanted to go back to Norway - that maybe there was some possibility I could act as a sort of broker.
"Next thing I know there's a TV crew at the front door so then the whole plan was cemented."
Camilla and Reya 2013
Camilla Ellefsen Lunetta and Reya on April 24, 2013. Picture: Today Tonight.
Ricketson said Ms Ellefsen Lunetta would have “loved this drama to have been over much earlier than it was".
"What happened was, regardless of who was right and who was wrong a decade ago, unfortunately once Zia made the decision to take off with Reya there was no way back," he said.
"She became a gypsy on the run. The battle-lines were drawn and she couldn't afford to go back because she had all of these charges hanging over her.
"If at some point eight years ago, once she realised she'd made a mistake, it had been possible for her to get on the telephone and say 'look, I've made a mistake can we please sort this out?' she would have. The only option she had was to remain on the run.
"I think she's absolutely delighted, in a way, that all this has happened and that now she can go back to Norway and pursue her musical career because she's a very talented musician."
Camilla Ellefsen Lunetta
Camilla Ellefsen Lunetta in 2002. Photo: Supplied
Both Ms Ellefsen Lunetta and Mr Lunetta allegedly opened up to Ricketson.
"I've heard both sides of the story. Camilla said that Brozzi was never violent or abusive towards her ever. Brozzi is very open about this and says that 10 years ago he had a problem with alcohol and that he has a problem with his temper. Camilla also has a very short fuse," he said.
"Brozzi said that Camilla was suffering from postpartum depression at the time that all of his happened; she insists that she wasn't and I don't pretend to know the truth. Whatever led her to make the decision, once she made the decision there was no going back on it and she's been trapped."
Ricketson said Ms Ellefsen Lunetta was a "terrific" mother to Layla, who had no idea they had been on the run from authorities for most of her life.
"On the night that all of this happened I had them in my car for two hours and Zia was explaining to Layla why this was all happening, why there was a film crew there and who this person (Brozzi) was," he said.
"She had managed to maintain this illusory world to Layla for all of this time.
"Layla had no idea that she was on the run and anything other than an ordinary girl who had to be home schooled."
Brozzi Lunetta
Brozzi's search for his daughter Reya brought him to the Sunshine Coast in 2010. Picture: Megan Slade
Despite this, Layla quickly adjusted to her changed situation.
"(Thursday night) Layla said ‘this has got to be the weirdest day of my whole life'," he said.
"It certainly freaked her out but by the next day she had adjusted to the new state of affairs and new reality.
"She's a girl who is very interested in establishing a relationship with her biological father. She's also delighted at the idea that she's got a younger brother now (Mr Lunetta has a 10-week-old child with his new wife).
"She's one of the best adjusted 11-year-old girls I've ever met."
Mr Lunetta said his ex-wife had told his daughter about him.
"When we were in the car driving from the house (at Palm Beach) into Sydney, Camilla tapped me on the shoulder and said 'I just want you to know that she knows about you'," he said.
"She said 'it's not true (that I told her you died in a car crash). That’s just one of those lies that got out there and I couldn’t contact you to correct that lie'."
Camilla Ellefsen Lunetta and Reya
Camilla Ellefsen Lunetta and Reya in 2002. Photo: Supplied
The 40-year-old said his daughter had asked to now be known as Hira Lunetta. Hira, which means diamond in Hindi, was one of the alias names her mother gave her while they were on the run.
"My daughter is truly a special human being and Camilla deserves a lot of credit for doing such a great job of raising her under such difficult circumstances," he said.
"Any anger or resentment I might have towards Camilla serves no purpose. It's always been about our daughter and more love.
"This is truly all going to work out."
Ricketson said it was an “extraordinary" story.
"Who would have thought (last week) that this story could have had a happy ending? It's a story almost designed to have blood in the streets, blood in the gutters, AFP, FBI, Interpol, court cases, angst and so on," he said.
"That Brozzi, after his 10-year search, has given up all of his rights as a father makes him, in my mind, a hero. And he's a lovely man. I think that Camilla in her own way too is a lovely person who made a bad decision and she's had to live with the consequences of that ever since and now she wants to get back to living a normal life.
"It's a miracle that circumstances have played out the way they have and that it's possible for all three of them to get back to normal. It's almost a fairy-tale ending." understands Ms Ellefsen Lunetta is in talks with a television network which is attempting to secure exclusive access to her story.
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