Tuesday, February 4, 2014

letter to Graeme Mason 11th Nov 2013 re Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board's ban

Graeme Mason
Chief Executive
Screen Australia
Level 7, 45 Jones St
Ultimo 2007                                                                                                                                       

11th Nov 2013

Dear Graeme

In May 2012 Ruth Harley recommended to the Board that I be banned from making applications to Screen Australia or speaking with members of staff. The reason given was that I had intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. The Board altered SA’s Terms of Trade in order to make such a ban possible.

For 18 months I have been asking Ruth Harley and the Board to provide me with evidence that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff. My requests have been ignored.

I had hoped it would not be necessary to involve you in this dispute. It is unfair that both Ruth Harley and the Board have left me with no option, now that you are Chief Executive, but to ask you to either provide me with evidence of my crimes or lift the ban.

I have enclosed a copy of the screenplay for one of my feature film projects  (THURSDAY’S CHILD) to highlight how absurd and counter-productive the Screen Australia ban is. According to the terms of the ban, neither yourself nor any member of your staff would be able to read THURSDAY’S CHILD without being placed at risk. At risk of what, I have often asked this past 18 months. My question has gone unanswered.

Screen Australia is the major investor in THURSDAY’S CHILD (via the Australian Film Commission) and yet I am not allowed to even speak with a member of your staff about new developments with the project. Does this make any sense at all?

Whilst HONEY (another of my feature projects in which SA is the major investor) can be made, if necessary, without SA participation, and SHIPS IN THE NIGHT (set almost entirely inside a taxi) for close to zero budget, THURSDAY’S CHILD can be developed no further whilst the Screen Australia ban is in place as there are legal matters (contractual) that need to be resolved with Screen Australia and other investors. The ‘freeze’; on THURSDAY’S CHILD especially unfortunate right now as there is an international star whom I would like to formally offer the lead role of Bea Miles. I cannot do so if, at the same time, (leaving the legal and contractual matters aside) I would be obliged to tell her (as I must) that Australia’s peak funding body has banned me; that I am not even allowed to speak on the telephone with a member of the staff. She would, not unreasonably, ask me why. I would be at a loss to give her an answer that did not acknowledge that I have been banned for intimidating and placing at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. Even if, despite my being, apparently, a dangerous and unhinged individual, she was nonetheless keen to play the role, I imagine that neither she or her agent would be keen to attach her name to a project that could not secure any support from Screen Australia.

I would like you to read the screenplay or get someone within the organization to read it. If Screen Australia believes THURSDAY’S CHILD to be a project that is not worthy of support anyway (not even a conversation), maintaining the status quo is not problematic and the ban on me can run its course to May 2014 – on the 10th day of which, it seems, I will cease to be a danger to Screen Australia staff!

If THURSDAY’S CHILD is the kind of project that Screen Australia would like to support and see produced, the ban on me has the potential to kill it as a potential film to be made in the next 2 years. As you know, timing is very important and it may be that my access to this particular star will not be available to me in six months.

If you believe that you or any member of your staff is likely to be placed at risk by reading THURDAY’S CHILD I would love to know how. Given that the ball is now in your court, I would much appreciated it if you could identify one letter, one email, one paragraph, one sentence or even one phrase in any of my correspondence in which I have intimidated or placed at risk any member of Screen Australia’s staff.

If none of the suggestions I have made to resolve this matter appeal to you (one being: http://jamesricketson.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/simple-solution.html), there is one more I would like to make. It is that you and I and Fiona Cameron meet to discuss whatever evidence Screen Australia believes it has in support of the ban. If Fiona can point to anywhere in my correspondence where I suggested or even implied that I believed CHANTI’S WORLD had been greenlit and if either of you can point to even one phrase in my correspondence that places the intended recipient at risk or which is intimidating, I will accept my ban and say no more.

If, on the other hand, Fiona cannot identify where in my correspondence I expressed my belief that CHANTI’S WORLD had been greenlit and if neither of you can identify anything in my correspondence that is intimidating etc. the ban should be lifted. This could be done with a minimum of fuss and could be announced by SA along the lines of: “The dispute between James Ricketson and Screen Australia has been amicably resolved and the ban on him has been lifted.” We could agree that neither I nor  Screen Australia will comment further. That will be the end of the matter and I can get back to simply making films and stop fighting for the right to be able to make them unencumbered by the Screen Australia ban.

In the interests of constructive dialogue and debate I have enclosed here also some pages I have written regarding a radical re-thinking of the script development process. Regardless of the proliferation of broadcast platforms and low cost cameras and editing systems we still fall down badly in the script department. The reasons for this are many but one of the important ones is that the process by which Screen Australia assesses and delivers financial support to screenwriters is inefficient in its allocation of human and financial resources and actively works against the development of ‘dangerous’ screenplays that have the potential to elicit the ‘wow’ response in our audiences – be they in an Imax theatre or engaging in one of our stories on their mobile phone.

I wish you well in your new job and hope that you will usher in an era of transparency and accountability within Screen Australia and put an end to the nepotism that has been rampant for some years now.

best wishes

James Ricketson

PS Another of my suggested dispute solutions it to be found at:

And some thoughts of mine regarding screenwriting and Screen Australia at:


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