Wednesday, September 3, 2014
BANNED FOR LIFE BY SCREEN AUSTRALIA BOARD!
“Some have a not unreasonable fear of being metaphorically keel hauled should they speak out in opposition to Screen Australia policy.” Sharon Connolly.
The keel hauling Sharon refers to is not merely metaphorical. I have been banned by Screen Australia for four years (May 2012 – May 2016) for being publicly critical of Screen Australia. I have asked questions that the Screen Australia board considers to be impertinent and made less than complimentary observations that cast doubt on the competence and integrity of Screen Australia personnel.
My worst crime, perhaps, is asking how appropriate it is for members of the Screen Australia Board to award large sums of development and production monies to themselves and/or production companies they have a close professional relationship with.
Given that I have no intention of ceasing with my criticisms, my asking of questions and making of less-than-complimentary observations of Screen Australia, my ban must, of necessity be a lifetime ban.
C’est la vie!
I am now in the United States, rewriting screenplays that were once Australian stories such that they are now rooted in other cultures. Whether I will be successful or not in getting my films produced outside Australia remains to be seen but even if I am not, it is a pleasure to be in a working environment in which it is the quality of my screenplays that counts and not whether I am a friend of or have offended members of the Screen Australia board with my questions and observations.
My problems with Screen Australia began close to three years ago when I asked Martha Coleman in a public forum if she accepted any responsibility at all for the poor quality screenplays developed on her watch. Martha’s answer was ‘no.’
A few days ago, when I re-visited the videotaped interchange between myself and Martha (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nECoIAVZwV8) I discovered that it has been edited out of existence!
Screen Australia had no power to edit what was on my blog, however:
“Although Martha is captain of the Good Ship ‘Script Development’ in the Screen Australia fleet, it is not her responsibility as Head of Development, if the screenplays she develops are no good! This abrogation of responsibility is symptomatic of the major structural problem that lies at the heart of Screen Australia: No-one is responsible for any of its many failings.
Martha has had ample opportunity to demonstrate that she knows the difference between a good and a bad (or underdeveloped) screenplay. She clearly doesn’t. It is time to give someone else a go.”
My full blog entry is to be found at:
The more questions I asked, the more observations such as these I made, the more my relationship with Screen Australia deteriorated until I was finally banned entirely by Ruth Harley – with the blessing of the Screen Australia board! The board refused to provide me with any evidence in support of the proposition that I had ‘intimidated’ or ‘placed at risk’ members of Screen Australia staff. Fellow filmmakers Rachel Perkins, Rosemary Blight, Claudia Karvan and Richard Keddie all demonstrated their lack of commitment to transparency and accountability – refusing to meet with me, talk with me or acknowledge receipt of letters I sent them.
Martha Coleman segued straight from Screen Australia to Rosemary Blight’s Goalpost Pictures but to ask how much development money Martha approved for Goalpost before she joined the company, earned me a further two year ban. In the words of Glen Boreham, Chair of the Screen Australia board:
“That your deliberate, repeated and inappropriate personal attacks on Screen Australia staff through letters and internet publications appear intended to humiliate and damage the reputation of Screen Australia staff in a way that is unacceptable to Screen Australia.”
I wonder how much of the $ 1 million set aside for Screen Australia’s new “Enterprise People” scheme will go to Rosemary Blight’s Goalpost Pictures? Will anyone within the ‘industry’ who is dependent on Screen Australia (or who may be at some point in the future) even dare to ask this question? Biting the hand that feeds you (or that you hope will feed you one day) is not a great career move!
The Screen Australia ban on me has induced me to start a new career as a non-Australian filmmaker. This not altogether a bad thing. A new challenge. And the ban has not been without its lighter moments – such as being arrested, twice, within the foyer of SA whilst doing nothing other than sitting quietly, reading a book. The poor police were bemused – both by Fiona Cameron’s call to the police to have me removed from the building and by my refusal to leave until I had been provided with evidence of my crimes.
On the occasion of my second arrest I spent a weekend in jail – during which I met two interesting men and gained some firsthand insight into what it is like to be locked up with no source of entertainment other than commercial TV. Other than being an interesting life experience who knows when it may become useful to me as a screenwriter!
I feel for all the young filmmakers who must now try to find a way of making the films they feel passionate about –knowing full well that in order to do so they probably have to align themselves with the likes of Goalpost and to accept that the bulk of Australian tax-dollars for Australian film will wind up propping up productions such as THE GREAT GATSBY, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN and other such films that make zero contribution (other than short-term employment for technicians and actors) to the development of a vibrant Australian film culture.
I wonder if anyone who is reading this has seen THE PIRATE MOVIE – made in 1982? Yes, it provided some short-term employment for technicians and actors but so what! The film cost $6 million, took only $1 million at the Australian box office and only $9 million world wide. So, it failed to justify its existence in economic terms. And culturally?
In the same year, the following films may or may not have made profit but they now form part of our film heritage:
“The Man from Snowy River” – George T Miller
“Lonely Hearts” – Paul Cox
“Monkey Grip” – Ken Cameron
“Far East” – John Duigan
Are we going to give 10s of millions of dollars to Baz for his next 3 D extravaganza (or PIRATES # 6) or will we spend these Australian tax-payer dollars on films that will form part of our cultural heritage? Alas, the answer seems all too clear.