Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Does the Australian Director's Guild want, as a member, a filmmaker who has been banned by Screen Australia?

Member of the Australian Directors Guild board
PO Box 211
NSW 2039

21st Nov 2016

Dear Samantha Lang, Ray Argall, Nadia Tass, Michela Ledwidge, Jennifer Peedom, Stephen Wallace, Jonathan Brough and Jeffrey Walker

Four and a half years ago, in May 2012, when Ruth Harley imposed her ban on me, the ADG could have asked her and the Screen Australia board, whose members (including Rachel Perkins and Claudia Karvan)  ratified the ban, a simple question:

"Could you please provide the ADG with evidence that James intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of SA staff?"

Such a request, in either an email or letter, would have taken a few minutes to compose.

Ruth Harley could have either provided such evidence (if it existed) or found whatever face-saving way she needed to lift the ban immediately if no such evidence existed. If the evidence existed and was made publically available (as it should be) the ban on me would have been perfectly justified. Intimidating staff at Screen Australia, placing them at risk, is deserving of a ban.

Alternatively, if the ADG felt that it could not ask such a question of Ruth Harley because I was not a member, why did the ADG not, at the very least, mention the ban in the ADG newsletter? Surely Screen Australia’s ban on one of the founding members of the ADG must have been news!

As long as three years after the ban was implemented I kept meeting filmmaker members of the ADG who had no idea of the ban placed on me.

Why did the ADG decide to keep its members in the dark in 2012? And 2014, 2014, 2015, 2016?

When the ADG magazine “Screen Director” twice refused to publish articles by me that were critical of Screen Australia and the ADG’s own policy relating to quotas for women directors it was suggested to me that my opinion pieces could not be published because I was not a member of the ADG!

I responded with (I am paraphrasing):

“If I join the ADG will you publish my opinion pieces?”

I received no response. The ADG made clear with its silence that it did not want me to be a member of the organization. Or, to out it another way, that you did not want me to be a member if I was going to be critical of either Screen Australia or ADG policy.

Try and see this from my perspective:

What point would there be in my joining an organization that refuses to even mention, in its newsletter, that a fellow director has been banned by Screen Australia from either making development applications or even speaking on the telephone with members of SA staff?

Why would I want to join an organization that refuses to publish, in Screen Director, an article critical of Screen Australia? Or an article critical of the ADG's decision the support quotas for women directors? Why would I wish to join an organization that sees maintaining a good relationship with one of its major funders (Screen Australia) as being more important than supporting a filmmaker in his or her battle with this same funder? The ADG was formed, in part, to fight battles of the kind that I have had to fight alone this past four and a half years.

As matters stand Screen Australia’s ban (54 months  to date) must, of necessity, be a lifetime ban since one of the conditions of the ban being lifted is that I cease in my continued requests (characterized as harassment) for evidence that I ever once, prior to May 2012, harassed, intimidated or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence.

Through the ADG’s silence you have, as board members, given Screen Australia your tacit approval of not just the ban placed on me but the very concept of banning filmmakers who criticize the organization. You have legitimized both the ban and the notion that such bans are necessary. And because the ADG never asked for any evidence of my guilt, Screen Australia could ban another filmmaker without evidence and feel secure that the ADG would not utter a peep in protest. Is it any wonder that other filmmakers I know, who are as critical as I am about Screen Australia, prefer to keep their mouths shut; their opinions to themselves!?

You are all filmmakers and so know full well that a ban such as Screen Australia's is the kiss of death to a fellow filmmaker. You have maintained your silence for four and a half years. Will the ADG maintain its silence into 2017 or might the ADG, at this very late stage, have the courage to ask Graeme Mason and the SA board to provide it with evidence of the offended that have led to the destruction of my career as an Australian filmmaker.

I have set in motion the wheels necessary to force Screen Australia, in the Supreme Court, to produce the evidence upon which it justified the ban on me and continues to justify it to this day. This has already proved to be a very time-consuming and expensive exercise.

Again, I ask the question:

“If I were to become a member, would the ADG, at the very least, ask Screen Australia for evidence in support of the ongoing 2 year bans placed on me?”

If Screen Australia were to produce such evidence a great deal of time, effort and money could be saved by a lot of people. And if such evidence exists and is made public the damage to my reputation would be well deserved and my continued insistence that I am not guilty as charged would be seen as gross hypocrisy.

best wishes

James Ricketon

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