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

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