Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Playing ping pong with Maureen Barron

Communicating with Maureen Barron is akin to a long rally in a game of ping pong where the ball keeps getting hit across the net without either opponent scoring a point. The point of this exercise, from a bureaucratic point of view, is to wear the opponent down in hopes that he or she will eventually give up in frustration.

An alternative approach, and one much favoured by bureaucrats is to eventually respond with: “This matter has been adequately canvassed and we have not intention of communicating with you further.” Or words to that effect.

I have not got to that point with Maureen, but I suspect that it is not far off!

Dear James, thank you for your further letter.

As I said in my earlier letter, your views in relation to the Early Stage Development program guidelines, along with those of other practitioners, will be taken into account when the program and its guidelines are next reviewed.  

Please be assured that this is the case and that we understand the point you have made about the eligibility thresholds in the current guidelines and will carefully consider what you have said.

Kind regards,

The assurance, from a bureaucrat, that s/he will ‘carefully consider’ something does not inspire confidence!

My response:

Dear Maureen

Why can you not answer the questions I have asked you? 

A guideline that makes it impossible for a filmmaking team with 120 years of collective filmmaking experience to apply for Early Stage Development funds is clearly, obviously, nonsensical. You know it to be nonsensical - which is why,I am sure, you refuse to answer any questions regarding the logic that informs such a guildeline. How could you, with a straight face, defend such nonsense?

Who on earth formulated these guidelines? And why?

More importantly, why do you not, as Chief Executive, simply change them. Now. Next week - after, hopefully, consulting with the Australian Writer's Guild and the Australian Directors Guild, many of whose members have been rendered ineligible to apply for funds.

When will Screen NSW's guidelines next be reviewed? Next week? Next month? At some indeterminate time in the distant future?

As for my question regarding the eligibility of a non-Australian producer to be part of the tam to develop ANGKOR, please answer the question. Yes or no.

The same applies for my question regarding SHIPS IN THE NIGHT. Why can you not answer my questions? Are you accountable to the film community you are there to serve or do you reserve to yourself the right to formulate whatever policy you like with no regard for how it impacts on working filmmakers?

Maureen, in your communications with me it is clear that you do not set a very high priority on the precepts of of transparency and accountability. This in itself should be of concern to the film and TV community.

My letter of yesterday to Graeme Mason, is pertinent to the question of guidelines and the impact these have (good or bad) on the minds of filmic entertainments that are developed and produced in Australia. It is to be found at:

At present both Screen NSW and Screen Australia are working in accordance with development and production models that are not working. Clearly not working. Audiences stay away from Australian films in droves. Stop pointing the finger of blame everywhere other than at yourselves. You, Maureen, are the problem. You and Mark and Kate and all those who formulate policies that bear no relationship at all to the realities of filmmaking that we are all confronted by.

Ditch your exclusionary guidelines now. They serve no positive purpose but do have a significant negative impact - as my own experience now should be abundantly apparent to you. Consult in a meaningful way with warm-blooded filmmakers, seek out their ideas regarding polcy and stop creating it in a vacuum.


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