Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Yet another letter to fellow filmmaker Claudia Karvan

I sent the following letter to Claudia Karvan 2 weeks ago. I have received no reply.

Claudia Karvan
Screen Australia Board
Screen Australia
Level 7, 45 Jones St 
Ultimo 2007   
24th March 2015

Dear Claudia

I have received no response from you or any other member of the board to my letter of 10th March. This is par for the course!

I wonder if you can imagine what it would be like to be in the position I am in!? To be banned from making any applications at all to Screen Australia? To be banned from even speaking on the telephone with a member of Screen Australia’s staff on the basis of allegations you know to be false? To be in the position where no member of the board (many fellow filmmakers) is prepared to communicate with you in any way at all or to provide you with evidence of your crimes?

Recently a longtime friend and film colleague wrote to me in relation to a screenplay of mine I had sent him to read.

“James, I can’t read ‘Honey’. I might like it. What then? I hope you understand. Nothing personal.”

This is but one of many similar responses I have received from potential collaborators within the film industry this past 3 years.

Why on earth would this friend or any other filmmaker wish to enter into a professional relationship with a colleague who has been banned by Screen Australia and whose Australian projects are, by definition, all dead in the water? Why would anyone want to work with a filmmaker who has ‘intimidated’,  ‘placed at risk’, members of Screen Australia’s staff?

The board of which you are a member has never articulated what ‘risk’ I posed to Screen Australia staff and, presumably, what risk I still pose today! Neither yourself nor any other member of the board has articulated in what way I ‘intimidated’ members of SA staff with my correspondence -  leaving potential film collaborators to use their imaginations to guess.

For three years I have asked for evidence of  both these allegations. I have been given none. And I have been given none, as you know, because I have neither intimidated nor placed at risk anyone at Screen Australia. It suited the purposes of both Ruth Harley and the board to have a critic silenced in 2012  – not merely as punishment  for asking difficult questions and insisting on accountability but to let the film and TV community know, in no uncertain terms, just what happens to anyone who questions the integrity of senior members of Screen Australia’s staff and of its board.

On 14th Jan 2013, I wrote the following to yourself, Rachel Perkins and Richard Keddie – all three of you deeply implicated in the continued banning of me:

My letter of 21st December, as with my earlier letters, has yielded no response.

As the three of you know, as the Screen Australia Board knows, as the Minister for the Arts Simon Crean knows, Ruth Harley’s assertion that I have, with my correspondence, intimidated and placed at risk members of SA staff, is a lie.

For reasons best known to yourselves you are prepared to go along with this lie and the ban on me that it has led to, regardless of its consequences for myself both personally and professionally. All three of you, along with the Board, have ignored my many requests to be provided with evidence of the crimes that have led to my being banned. That I have been arrested twice for doing nothing other than sitting quietly in the Screen Australia foyer, waiting only to be provided with such evidence, seems not to bother you at all. 

You did not have the professional courtesy, Claudia, to respond in any way to this or any other letter I have sent to you – of which there have been several this past two years. To do so would necessitate evidence and, given that there is none, the only option left to you is silence – a silence that enables you to neither confirm nor deny that I intimidated or placed anyone as SA at risk. The alternative would be an honest statement along the lines of:

We have no evidence. We blindly followed Ruth Harley’s lead. We made a mistake. A bad mistake. It is a mistake that has caused you enormous professional and personal damage and we, the board,  offer our heartfelt apologies.

You are not going to do this. The board is not going to do this. To do so would not only necessitate some humility on your part and on the part of your fellow board members’ parts, but would open up a Pandora’s Box of questions about the integrity of the Screen Australia board.

Whilst you, a serving  board member, have been the beneficiary of more than $11 million of Screen Australia’s production budget this past year to pursue your film and TV career, I am not able to have even a telephone conversation with a member of Screen Australia’s staff! Such a conversation would, you and your fellow board members seem to believe, place the person on the other end of the phone at risk!

That members of the SA board regularly vote large sums of development and production money to fellow board members is an elephant in the room that members of the film and TV community dare speak of only in hushed tones. To articulate their concerns in public would be to invite the kind of bureaucratic retribution that I am the unfortunate beneficiary of – to be officially (or unofficially) banned by a board that will brook no criticism and will not tolerate anyone who has the temerity to ask questions that the board does not wish to answer.

Choosing his words carefully, journalist Michael West has, in his 6th March Sydney Morning Herald article, asked questions of the kind I have been asking for years in a fairly pubic manner. That the film and TV community has, for the most part, remained silent in response to Michael West’s article, speaks volumes about the fear many filmmakers have of Screen Australia retribution if they articulate their concerns.

Whilst you refuse, whilst the Screen Australia board refuses to provide me with evidence of my crimes, I trust that new board members such as Al Clark do ask, in board meetings, precisely what this evidence comprises of. As a matter of both professional courtesy and natural justice you should provide me with this same evidence.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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