Tuesday, April 29, 2014

# 8 letter to Graeme Mason, 24th April 2014

It may well be (and it is certainly looking that way) that the Screen Australia board’s ban on me may turn out to be a blessing in disguise from a professional point of view. But is the ban, and what it says about Screen Australia, a blessing in disguise for Australian film? I doubt it.

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

24th April 2014                                                                                               

Dear Graeme

On 11th Nov 2013 I suggested a face-saving way in which Screen Australia could extricate itself from the mess created by the Screen Australia board in banning me as it did two years ago.

“If… Fiona (Cameron) 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.”

Neither you nor the Screen Australia board have seen fit to take my up on this offer of a publicity-free resolution. Screen Australia has, instead, decided to stand by Fiona Cameron regardless of the fact that she demonstrably lied in her assertion that I had made certain statements in correspondence with her. In the board’s estimation, it seems, the sacrifice of one filmmaker’s reputation on the alter of Fiona Cameron’s Machiavellian ambitions is a price worth paying. That the Screen Australia board sanctioned Fiona’s action in having me arrested twice for doing nothing other than sit in the foyer of Screen Australia speaks volumes of the lengths to which Fiona Cameron and the board will go to silence critics and those with the temerity to ask questions or to insist that Screen Australia abide by the precepts of transparency and accountability.

As I enter the third year of the Screen Australia ban on me there is no longer any point in having it lifted.  The damage the ban was intended to inflict has been inflicted and cannot be undone. The horse has bolted. The board will never provide me with evidence of the crimes for which I was banned – raising disturbing questions about the personal and professional integrity of the members. If the board is prepared to ban a filmmaker on the basis of what its members (three of them fellow filmmakers!) know to be a lie, what other decisions does the board make that are equally discriminating or inappropriate? Discrimination can cut both ways. Just as critics such as myself can be punished, so too can friends and former business associates be rewarded. In the absence of a functioning complaints process within Screen Australia and with a proven track record of corporate thuggery (for what else is the banning of a filmmaker in the absence of evidence?) Australia’s peak film funding body is a ripe candidate to be exploited for corrupt purposes.

Through your silence, Graeme, it seems that you too would prefer to maintain the status quo, despite your knowing that I have never intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence. You could, if your chose, stand up for a filmmaker rather than for Fiona Cameron and a board that is determined to adhere to a ban that it knows to be based on a lie. Yes, you are beholden to the board but to what extent? Are you able to act independently of the board, as a matter or principle, or does the board see itself as the puppet-master and you as their obedient puppet?

You have had six months now to identify one paragraph, one sentence, one phrase or even one word in my correspondence that is intimidating or which places members of Screen Australia’s staff at risk. If you have found such evidence, release it to the film community and demonstrate to it that you, as Chief Executive, believe my being banned was an appropriate course of action for the board to pursue. If you can find no such evidence, make a public declaration of the fact and demonstrate that you make your judgments based on facts, on evidence and will not be a party to the petty vindictiveness displayed by the Screen Australia board; demonstrate to the film and TV community that you are committed to the precepts of transparency and accountability and will not be using threats (either overt or covert) to  silence filmmakers who may wish to criticize your stewardship of Screen Australia in pubic fora.

It is time to bring to an end the Ruth Harley approach to running Australia’s peak film funding body and to usher in a new era in which a commitment to transparency and accountability are not just clichés to be included in mission statements but accurately reflect the way in which the organization is run.

Please, Graeme, either provide me with evidence that I intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff (if you have such evidence) or stand up to the board and tell its members they should stop protecting Fiona Cameron and apologize to me for having inappropriately placed the ban on me two years ago. 

best wishes

James Ricketson

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