Monday, April 28, 2014

# 6 letter from Graeme Mason, 11th Dec 2013 + response, 12th Dec


11th Dec 2013

Dear Mr Ricketson

Thank you for your recent letters to me. I understand from the board that it is scheduled to revisit its decision about correspondence and applications from you in the first half of 2014 and that it is most appropriate to revert to you post this.

Furthermore, as per the attached correspondence from Dr Harley to you dated 16th Nov 2012, even if the board does revise its decision, I have been advised that you are still ineligible to receive any further funding from Screen Australia, or have any applications processed, until your obligation to Screen Australia of $32,626.19 is cleared. This would include any assessments of the first acts of PLAYING GOD enclosed with your 19th Nov correspondence, as well as BILL CLINTON’S LOVE CHILD enclosed with your 26th Nov correspondence.

yours sincerely

Graeme Mason

Graeme Mason
Chief Executive, Screen Australia
Level 7, 45 Jones St
Ultimo 2007                                                                                                    12th Dec 2013

Dear Graeme

Thanks for your letter of 11th Dec.

Whilst it is appropriate to keep my debt to Screen Australia separate to my dispute with Screen Australia, it is worth mentioning that Ruth Harley and the Board’s ban has made it impossible for me to work as a filmmaker in Australia and hence has rendered me unable to repay my debt.  Catch 22.

The year before last I was offered a pre-sale by XXXXXXX (this is all well documented on file) for my documentary CHANTI’S WORLD. This is a documentary that I had been working on at the time for 17 years – fully funded by myself. The Screen Australia ban led to my not being able to take up XXXXXXX pre-sale offer and the cost to me in lost revenue was $110,000. This effectively bankrupted me. It was Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia board’s intention to do maximum damage to my career and both succeeded admirably – without either providing me with evidence of my crimes! Easy evidence to produce if it existed.

I have, just this past two weeks, been placed in a similar situation with my feature film THURSDAY’S CHILD – the major investor in which is (through the Australian Film Commission) Screen Australia. This is a feature that has, three times, come close to being financed. It has not made it over the line for a variety of reasons – one of which is the need to attach a major star in the lead role. I was in a position to offer the role to a star very much interested in it but this would have necessitated talking with Screen Australia – with the legal department in particular. The original contracts signed with Screen Australia (the AFC) were suitable at the time (30 years ago) but would need, along with all other development contracts with other parties, to be re-done in order to ensure chain-of-title was properly established. Given my inability to even speak with Screen Australia (an absurd and childish aspect of the ban!) I had to choose between telling this particular actress of my dilemma, and possibly open up a hornet’s nest of questions (“You placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff?”) or not to formally ask her to take on the role. I chose the latter. Her name is one that would, I think, get the film across the line this time around. To have not told her of the Screen Australia ban was not really an option.

Your comment about the Board’s decision to revisit my correspondence in the first half of 2014 raises, yet again, the question from me, asked countless times now: 

“Please identify one letter, one email, one paragraph or one phrase that bears witness to my having, intimidated, harassed or placed at risk any member of Screen Australia staff?” 

For the Board to ‘revisit’ the question of my correspondence it will, one would hope, have a copy of the offending correspondence to refer. Why can I not have copies of it? I have been asking for 18 months.

Your comment about the Board suggests that it is a decision to be made by the Board and not yourself. I hope so. It would certainly be helpful for me to know just whose decision it is to drop the ban. It is entirely inappropriate that you should have to deal with this nonsense, this mess. It is for the Board to either provide evidence of my having placed staff at risk, of having intimidated them or to lift the ban.

My primary source of income this past decade has been from taxi driving. It is an income that has barely made it possible for me to survive – especially since the bulk of the expendable part of it has been spent filming CHANTI’S WORLD. Without being able to work as a filmmaker I will never be in a position to pay back Screen Australia.

As I am in Cambodia I  regret that I am not able to take part in any of the consultations you are having with the industry. On 8th Dec I published some thoughts on my blog regarding Screen Australia’s relationship with Screenwriters:

And yesterday I published the following – a suggested alternative approach to script development:

Given the paucity of good screenplays in Australia – the central problem with Australian films – I believe that any Screen Australia policy that mandates that a screenplay cannot be read for any reason at all is very short-sighted.

Given the damage done to my reputation by Ruth Harley’s false allegations and to my ability to work as a filmmaker you will appreciate, 40 years invested in my filmmaking career, that I cannot let this drop.

I wish you all the best with your new job, Graeme. A challenging one in the world of story-telling we now find ourselves in. My own belief is that Screen Australia needs to be radically shaken up. Lots of dead wood needs to be gotten rid of. You need new faces, new ideas and, I believe, a constant flow of talented people moving into the organization for relatively short contracts and then back out into the industry again. Oh, and a functioning complaints system would be good also. If there had been one what began as a minor dispute over one member of Screen Australia’s staff mistakenly not viewing a promo DVD would not have blown up into the proportions it has.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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