Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Another letter for Al Clarke - fellow filmmaker and member of the Screen Australia board

I had hoped that this letter to Al Clarke, sent a week ago, might elicit a response of some kind (“James, lets talk about this over a cup of coffee.”) but then I had hoped this would be the response to the other letters I have written to Al this past 16 months.

Al Clarke
Screen Australia Board
Screen Australia
Level 7, 45 Jones St
Ultimo 2007

10th August 2016

Dear Al

Four years down the track we have entered the realm of high farce:

“Screen Australia will continue to ban you, Mr Ricketson, for as long as you continue to intimidate and harass staff with your persistent asking for evidence that you intimidated and placed at risk Screen Australia staff prior to May 2012.”

A tale of Kafkaesque absurdity, with elements of Monty Python and Alice in Wonderland thrown in for good measure!

Do you go along with this nonsense, Al? Did you vote with your fellow Screen Australia board members to ban me in May 2016?  For the third time!

Or did vote not to ban me but were outvoted by your fellow board members?  I hope this is the case. Or I hope, at least, that you asked Graeme Mason and Fiona Cameron to provide you with evidence of my guilt? And I hope, if you were provided with some evidence, that you might have said to your fellow board members, “Shouldn’t we, as a matter of natural justice, professional courtesy, be sharing this evidence with James?”

If there is evidence in my correspondence of my having intimidated and placed at risk members of SA staff it will be on file. It’s being made public, if such evidence exists, would destroy my reputation – as it should if I am guilty as charged. Any filmmaker who intimidates members of staff of any film funding organization deserves to be banned. If he (or she) also places staff at risk his or her behavior should be brought to the attention of the police and an AVO taken out against them. This did not happen because the original charges were, as you know, nonsense. Now, four years down the track, my saying that the charges were nonsense, that both Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron played fast and loose with the truth, is the evidence upon which you base your biennial bans!

Really, Al! Is this your idea of natural justice?

I suspect not. I suspect that the ban on me is a huge embarrassment to you. And, hopefully, to others on the board also. Unfortunately, the board has been digging itself into a hole for four years now and can’t easily dig itself out without admitting that the original ban on me was a huge cock–up that should never have happened.

The SA board can stick resolutely to its guns in August 2016 because it knows that there is no-one who will ask for evidence that I am guilty as charged -  not the Minister for the Arts; not the Commonwealth Ombudsman (to date at least) and not the Australian Directors Guild.

And the board knows that the one body in possession of the evidence of my alleged offences  - the Australian Government Solicitor - is under no obligation to appraise me of this evidence owing to client confidentiality! This could be overcome if the ‘client’, technically Graeme Mason, were to agree that I have right to know the evidence in support of the proposition that I am guilty as charged. That Graeme will not release Ms Vardanega from her legal obligations raises the question: “Why not? What is there in Ruth Harley’s allegations about me that must remain under lock and key?”

My guess is that you are not fine with all this but must go along with it as an expression of solidarity with the board and as an expression of confidence in Graeme Mason and Fiona Cameron. To do otherwise might upset the Screen Australia apple cart.

Screen Australia will argue (in court if need be, no doubt) that the ban on me does not apply to the Producer’s Offset. You know that in the real world in which we filmmakers must work, dependent as we are on the good will of Screen Australia,  the ban on me is the kiss of death to any project with my name attached to it. It would be a very brave (or foolhardy!)  fellow screenwriter, director or producer who would enter into a collaborative relationship with me knowing that Screen Australia claims I am prone to intimidating and placing members of its staff at risk. And if I place members of SA staff at risk, might I not also place at risk filmmakers with whom I collaborate? Imagine the outcry if I made real the risk that Screen Australia claims I pose; if my alleged tendency to place people at risk were to be made manifest in action!

“Ricketson a risk to fellow filmmakers!” That’s the headline. The byline:

“Screen Australia funded this film project knowing that one of its participants,  Ricketson, by Screen Australia’s own admission, posed a danger to others.”

The Murdoch press would have a field day!

Surely Screen Australia owes a duty of care to my fellow filmmakers and would be remiss in not protecting them from any association with such a dangerous individual as myself!

You can see, Al, I am sure, the hole that Screen Australia has dug for itself. How Screen Australia digs itself out of the hole I have no idea. And nor does Screen Australia – other than to keep digging and hope that I will stop harassing and intimidating senior management with my persistent insistence that I have a right to be appraised of the evidence in support of the proposition that I am guilty as charged.

My only remaining option, in the absence of evidence of my guilt, is to obtain it through action in the Supreme Court.



Cc Senator Mitch Fifield, Minister for the Arts
Graeme Mason
Fiona Cameron
Louise Vardanega
Commonwealth Ombudsman

Australian Director’s Guild

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