Friday, July 15, 2016
The actual reason for the ban placed on me by Screen Australia?
I do understand that my being banned by Screen Australia is of little interest to anyone other than myself. However, I also think that there are some principles involved here that are important, including the right of filmmakers to be critical of the government funded film bodies such as Screen Australia without fear of retribution.
I suspect that the real reason why I have been banned (given that I have intimated and placed no one at risk at Screen Australia) is because I have been a critic of aspects of Screen Australia’s policies from the outset; because I have had the temerity to ask questions that neither senior management nor the SA board wishes to have asked; because I have refused to accept that senior film bureaucrats at SA can place on file whatever lies they choose free of any fear that their lies will be exposed for what they are.
It has been an interesting experience, if not always pleasant, to discover which of my filmmaking colleagues have provided me with moral support this past 4 years and which have shunned me - presumably on the basis that I must be guilty as charged! The Australian Director’s Guild, for example, has not only refused to publish in “Screen Director” anything I write that is in any way critical of Screen Australia; it has also declined to even mention, to fellow ADG filmmakers, that I have been banned. Where there is smoke there must be fire: “James must be guilty!” The alternative is: “Whether James is guilty or innocent, we cannot afford to alienate Screen Australia!”
Dear Australian Director’s Guild board members
Despite being one of the founders of the ADG (then ASDA), despite more than 40 years of experience in the Australian film and TV industry you have decided that my being banned by Screen Australia is not a story worthy of being reported to members of the ADG in your newsletter.
You seem to have no doubts at all that I am guilty, as alleged by Screen Australia, of having intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. You seem to believe that the destruction of my career as an Australian filmmaker is the appropriate punishment for behavior of the kind alleged by Screen Australia.
You have decided that no article of mine can be published in “Screen Director” that is in any way critical of Screen Australia, no article which raises questions about the propriety of members of the Screen Australia board awarding many millions of dollars to fellow board members’ film and television projects.
One of the reason presented to me as to why my article (see below) could not be published in Screen Director was that I was not a member. I responded that I would be quite happy to become a member of the ADG again if this would lead to the article being published. I did not receive a response from you. Let’s face it, you do not want me to be a member of the ADG. You have decided that I am persona non grata – not on the basis of any evidence you have that I am guilty as charged but because to question the veracity of Screen Australia’s accusations against me, to stand up in any way for a fellow director, would imperil a relationship with Screen Australia that the ADG is reliant on if it is to receive funding from Screen Australia.
Given that there is not one person, one body (including the ADG) prepared to ask Screen Australia to provide evidence of my guilt it seems that I have no option but to resort to legal action in order to have my reputation restored to me.
It is a great shame, after all these years, that the ADG does not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to bureaucratic bullying and intimidation of the kind that has been on display in Screen Australia’s treatment of me this past four years.
SCREEN AUSTRALIA’S GAME OF MUSICAL CHAIRS
On 7th March, 2015, an article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald entitled:
“Screen Australia Board Meetings Must Be a Game of Musical Chairs.
Written by Michael West, this article raises questions that are worthy of debate within the community of filmmakers who are, in one way or another, reliant on Screen Australia to develop and finance their film and TV projects.
No such debate has occurred.
The article begins with the following sentence:
“Companies associated with actor and film producer Claudia Karvan were paid $10.5 million by Screen Australia last year. Karvan is on the board of Screen Australia.”
It then goes on to list the large amounts of money that members of the Screen Australia board have voted to invest in the projects of fellow board members in the form of development and production funds.
“Companies associated with fellow director Joan Peters, a media and entertainment lawyer, received just under $14.8 million in production grants, consultancy fees, travel grants and assorted transactions with Screen Australia.”
The question of whether or not it is appropriate for members of the Screen Australia Board to continually vote large sums of money to themselves and their associates needs to be debated.
Why is there no debate?
Is it because this is an elephant in the room that filmmakers dare not speak of in public for fear of retribution?
Given the obvious dangers inherent in Screen Australia board members voting to fund each others projects, what mechanisms does Screen Australia have in place to mitigate against the possibility of corruption?
Are questions such as these of concern to members of Australian Director’s Guild members? If so, has there been any discussion, debate, about them?
Are filmmakers free to be critical in pubic of Screen Australia without fear of retribution?
A few more paragraphs from Michael West’s 7th March article:
“Companies associated with director and film producer Rosemary Blight picked up $2.2 million in production grants and travel to the Toronto Film Festival.
Payments of $1.5 million were made to companies associated with filmmaker Rachel Perkins and for a project in which a "close family" member of Perkins was involved.
Payments were also made to companies associated with the former chairman of Screen Australia, Glen Boreham, companies associated with deputy chair Deanne Weir and companies associated with another director, Richard Keddie.”
Is the Australian Director’s Guild free to ask, in public, the kinds of questions implicit in Michael West’s article, without fear that its funding from Screen Australia might be cut off?