Thursday, October 17, 2013


The Biggest Lie

James Ricketson has intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff.

Shock! Horror! What has James done? Stalked staff members? Left abusive messages on their phones? Sent threatening emails? Bailed them up at social functions and been rude and aggressive towards them?

Let’s not worry about details such as these. James is a thoroughly unpleasant person with an obsession about transparency and accountability. Best way to deal with him is to ban him.

And so it is that without even the formality of a meeting of the Screen Australia Board, James gets banned.

Ruth Harley offers a Get out of Jail Free Card with the suggestion that the ban could be lifted if James behaves himself.

James does not behave himself. He keeps asking the same questions he has been asking for many months – questions to which he had to wait 20 months to get answers. See:

James makes the mistake of asking for evidence that he has intimidated and/or placed at risk a member of Screen Australia staff with his correspondence.

No one will provide James with any evidence – not Ruth Harley, not Fiona Cameron, not the Screen Australia Board. The Ombudsman show so little interest that his office does not bother to even ask Screen Australia for evidence of the crime. And the Minister for the Arts couldn’t care less. James’ complaint is handed to one of his spin doctors to brush aside. When James makes a complaint about Fiona Cameron guess who gets to investigate the complaint? You guessed it – Fiona Cameron!

In an attempt to figure out which of my correspondence was intimidating and placed staff at risk I read through ALL of my correspondence with Screen Australia and could find only one email that might come close to rendering my guilty of the crime that let to my banning. In the interests of transparency I published it:

So, dear Reader, how can you be sure that I am not lying? Perhaps I am guilty as charged? Perhaps there is correspondence from me that I have overlooked? Yes, but ask yourself this one question: “Given that it is with my correspondence that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of staff the easiest and most obvious way for Screen Australia to justify its ban would have been to release at least one phrase from my correspondence that bore witness to my crime. This would have had the dual effect of justifying the ban and of making me look a fool and a liar for pleading my innocence when my guilt was readily apparent in the parts of the correspondence that have been released to me and to the industry at large. My credibility would be zilch (justifiably) and the appropriateness of Ruth Harley’s and the Screen Australia Board’s would apparent to all. End of story. An ignominious end to my career.

So why didn’t this happen? Was it because, having given Ruth Harley’s ban a rubber stamp without even discussing the matter at a Board meeting, (let alone give the accused a chance to respond to the accusations) the Board would have looked very silly indeed if it overturned the ban when it realized that there was no evidence in support of it.

But why did Ruth feel the need to undertake such a draconian course of action? Here we come to the Second Biggest Lie. This is Fiona Cameron’s contention that I had placed certain comments on file. Lest I be accused of misrepresenting Fiona, here are her exact words:

"Unfortunately it appears from your correspondence that you came away from that meeting with an understanding that your applications for further funding for Chanti’s World had been effectively green lit."

This statement was quite simply untrue. I knew it to be untrue. Fiona knew it to be untrue. Ruth knew it to be untrue. Ross Mathews knew it to be untrue. Julia Overton knew it to be untrue and Liz Crosby knew it to be untrue.

But why had Fiona bothered to place on file such a demonstrably untrue statement? Simple. Because it shifted the blame for a Screen Australia cockup from members of the SA staff to myself. In one neat piece of spin, it was not Claire Jager, Ross Mathews and Julia Overton who had cocked up by not viewing the promo that was the centre piece of my application. It was not Ross Mathews and Julia Overton who had cocked up by saying that my second application could be made, only to have Julia Overton then decide six weeks later that it was not appropriate. No, it was me who went into a meeting with Ross and Julia and came away from it believing that my project had been greenlit. For me to have done this, knowing full well that this is not the way decisions are made, was Fiona’s backhanded way of accusing me of behavior which could most kindly be described as inappropriate but more accurately described as corrupt. This kind of assertion, on file, can be very damaging to a filmmaker’s career and reputation.

So, why did Fiona feel the need to tell this lie? My suspicion is that she wanted to protect Ross, Julia and Claire Jager – all three of whom had made what, in the grand scheme of things, been some rather minor cockups. These were cockups that could so easily have been rectified by any or all of them saying, “Sorry, James, we’ve made a mistake. Somehow or other there has been a misunderstanding at this end. Apply again and we’ll make sure that the cockup doesn’t occur again.”

But no, this did not happen. There was no admission that it was Screen Australia had cocked up. I applied again anyway and was told by Fiona Cameron that I could not. My application materials were returned to me. Fiona told me that I could never ever again apply with this project.

I have written about all of this in detail and it will not surprise me if few will bother to read what I write here. But maybe I am wrong. Some time this week the 30,000th page visit will occur. There are people following this dispute. (Get a life, I say!) The details of my dispute are, I suspect, not of huge interest. However, the blog entry that has received the most hits is one entitled:

This has received , to date, 327 page hits.

It would seem that what is most interesting to readers is what this dispute says about Screen Australia under the stewardship of Ruth Harley. Hopefully the new Chief Executive will insist on a much higher standard of transparency and accountability from his staff and, in the case of Fiona Cameron, take away from her the right to investigate complains made about herself.

Interestingly (and puzzling to me) is that the blog entry that has received the most hits (829) is my 15th Oct 2012 entry – a letter to Rachel Perkins to be found at:

Hopefully Fiona has learnt a lesson in all this – namely that she needs to be careful what she places on file because, whilst many filmmakers will not dream of biting one of the few hands likely to feed the, some will challenge her assertions and not give up asking her to provide evidence of them – even if they are banned in the process.

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