Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Members of the Screen Australia Board
Level 4, 150 William St
Woolloomooloo 2011                                                                                                

24th July 2013

Dear Board Members

It is now 14 months since you ratified Ruth Harley’s ban on me, during which time I have asked you, repeatedly, to provide me with evidence that I have intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. You have declined to do so.

The ban’s clear aim was to punish me, to make it as difficult as possible for me to pursue my career as a filmmaker. In this Ruth and yourselves, as members of the Board, have been successful on one level.  No right thinking person within the industry wants to collaborate with a filmmaker who has been banned by Screen Australia and most particularly not with one who, according to the Board, intimidates staff and places them at risk with his correspondence.   

On the creative front, however, you have failed in your objective. I have continued to write screenplays and, when I have a little money, to add to my now 18 year record on the life of Chanti, the star of CHANTI’S WORLD – a documentary project that has not received one cent of funding from any source this past 18 years.

I have, this past couple of months, completed drafts of four of the screenplays I have been working on this past year – three of which I have provided links to below. All four have been developed to the point where, were I not a banned filmmaker, I would be applying to Screen Australia for a letter of interest and for money to employ a script editor. I can do neither of these things and will not be able to do so until May 2014. What will change next May is that my sentence will be completed – two years in filmmaker’s purgatory for a crime I did not commit and for which no evidence has ever been provided to prove my guilt.

The clear aim of the ban is to silence a critic and, since I am not going to cease being a critic it may be that the ban will need to be extended – though Screen Australia’s new Chief Executive might (hopefully will) be someone who does not believe in banning filmmakers without providing them with evidence of their crimes and giving them an opportunity to defend themselves on the basis of evidence and facts.

Whether or not any of my four screenplays is any good is not for me to decide. Each of them has, however, been developed by me this past year in my role as producer – a role that Martha Coleman, Fiona Cameron and Elizabeth Grinston claimed, in 2009,  I could not play in script development beyond first draft as a result of my not being a ‘proven producer’. (Nor could I act as a mentor/producer to young filmmakers!) Having been producing films for more than 40 years this proposition was, of course, nonsense, as Martha, Fiona and Elizabeth knew to be the case.

Even if I had not been producing films since the early 70s, the notion that a screenwriter cannot develop a screenplay beyond first draft without a producer to hold his or her hand makes no sense. One only has to look at the poor quality of so many films produced from Australian screenplays with ‘proven producers’ at the helm to see that this is so. And, conversely, many fine films produced by first up producers. It should be the quality of the project that matters, not whether or not ticks can be placed in all the appropriate boxes.

The fact is that Screen Australia’s policy vis a vis ‘proven producers’ (along with many another policy) is applied selectively on the basis of subjective decisions made by senior members of Screen Australia management. And this is as it should be, as long as the playing field is level and these subjective decisions are made on the basis of the quality of the project and not for personal reasons - ie, not because the filmmaker applicant is either a friend or an enemy of members of senior management.

Clearly I fall into the ‘enemy’ camp and none of my screenplays  will be read by anyone at Screen Australia, regardless of their quality, for as long as I am a banned filmmaker. In a country that struggles to produce very many high quality screenplays this would be bad policy at the best of times. To apply it to a filmmaker on the basis of trumped up charges is petty, vindictive and just plain stupid.

Three screenplays that cannot be read by anyone at Screen Australia because the reading of them would place the reader at risk!




If any one of these four projects were to be provided with a letter of interest  and funds to employ a script editor I would then seek an appropriate co-producer to work with me on that project. And then, with a co-producer in place, seek the best possible director for it. That this sequence of events, regardless of the quality or potential of the projects, is impossible, is just plain stupid policy.

Please, either lift this pointless, vindictive and counter-productive ban or make public evidence in support of it.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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