Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Letter to the Hon Troy Grant, Minister for the Arts

The Hon Troy Grant
Minister for the Arts
PO Box A226
South Sydney
NSW 1235

16th September 2014

Dear Minister

This morning I received a letter from Screen NSW informing me that I am ineligible within the programs' criteria for television drama applications, as per our published guidelines” to make an application for Early Stage script development. Consider the following:
- I have been writing screenplays, directing films (drama and documentary) for 43 years.
- I have made three feature films – the last of which (BLACKFELLAS) won me an AFI Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
- I completed an Honours degree in Drama at NSW university and proceeded to do a Master degree in Drama – only to be interrupted by a scholarship to go to the Australian Film and Television school. All but one of the films I made at the film school won awards.
- On the basis of the films I had written, produced and directed to date I received a scholarship to do post-graduate work at New York University.
- On my return to Australia I spent 10 years working as an assessor for the Australian Film Commission and was often given the job of being a mentor to young filmmakers. (I no longer qualify to be a mentor to young filmmakers as far as your new Screen NSW guidelines are concerned)
- I have written more than a dozen feature film scripts. And yet…
And yet, as a result of a policy change at Screen NSW I am no longer eligible to apply for script development funds. What this means, in reality, is that nothing I write will be read by anyone at Screen NSW. My ideas, my synopses, my treatments and my screenplays might be works of genius (or absolute rubbish) but no one at Screen NSW will ever know because I do not qualify to have my work read and assessed.
Who on earth dreamt up this policy? Of what purpose does it serve? The notion that a script by a screenwriter whose last produced film was 9 years ago is eligible to apply but not a screenwriter whose last film was produced 10 years ago is nonsense.
What does Screen NSW believe happens to a screenwriter’s skills at this magical 10 year point? Do his or her skills simply disappear? Or is the supposition that, after 10 years, a screenwriter’s skills diminish to the point where he or she needs to have their hands held by an ‘experienced’ filmmaker.
I have already written about the deleterious effect that this new policy will, in all likelihood, have on young filmmakers:
For myself it is no big deal. I have already generated international interest in the project Screen NSW refuses to read or assess - ANGKOR. I will re-write the three lead character (all Australians) such that they are non-Australian and, in the event that the interest generated to date leads to the series going into production, will use non-Australian studios and non-Australian crews.
Minister, this policy is just plain stupid and should be abandoned.
best wishes
James Ricketson

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