Monday, July 1, 2013

Producing SHIPS IN THE NIGHT as a banned filmmaker

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

1st July 2013

Dear Board Members

The lack of transparency and accountability on the part of the Board has reached a level of absurdity I would not have though possible in May last year when  it seemed to me that the Board, unaware of the history of my dispute  with Screen Australia (4th anniversary this month!) when it imposed its ban on me, would look at the facts and, with some embarrassment and a heartfelt apology, lift it immediately. How naïve I was. Facts, verifiable facts (evidence that I have intimidated anyone with my correspondence), have played no role at all in the Board’s decision-making.  Extraordinary!

My development application with SHIPS IN THE NIGHT of 22nd May has been ignored.  Not surprising, really. To have accepted it (and my subsequent application with BILL CLINTON’S LOVE CHILD) would be tacit acknowledgement that I should never have been banned in the first place.

Given that the Board has decreed that Screen Australia cannot, until May 2014 at least, assist me in any way in the development or production of any film whose screenplay I have written or which I intend to produce or direct,  I have resolved to produce (and direct) SHIPS IN THE NIGHT for whatever budget I can scramble together. This will be difficult but not impossible as the project was conceived as a very low budget feature  (set almost entirely inside a taxi) at a time when Screen Australia’s ban on me was unofficial – when Martha Coleman, Fiona Cameron and Elizabeth Grinston all decreed that since I was not a ‘proven producer’ (after 40 years of producing films!) I was not experientially equipped to develop a screenplay beyond first draft without a ‘proven producer’ to hold my hand and not sufficiently experienced to act as a mentor to young filmmakers!

How many other filmmakers have been subjected to such unofficial bans? And, if they wished to register their protest at being so marginalized, to whom could they complain? To Fiona Cameron? To the Screen Australia Board? To Caroline Fulton? If the ban on them became official as a result of the allegation that they had written intimidating correspondence or placed Screen Australia staff at risk, who would deal with their complaint on the basis of facts as opposed to spin? Whom would they ask for evidence of the crimes they have been accused and found guilty of? With a bit of luck our new Minister of the Arts (to be announced later in the day, it seems) will be genuinely committed to the precepts of transparency and accountability.

Screen Australia’s refusal to even acknowledge receipt of my SHIPS IN THE NIGHT application has not prevented me from commencing casting for the film; from conducting read-throughs of the screenplay with professional actors. My initial casting and read-throughs having resulted in a new draft of the screenplay (attached)  - one which you will not be able to read because, in some mysterious way that has never been explained to me, the very reading of it would place you at risk! Extraordinary!

best wishes

James Ricketson

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