Thursday, December 15, 2016

Is the ADG a union with either guts or clout? Has the ADG become irrelevant?

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

13th Dec 2016

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

I have received no response to my letters of 21st Nov.  and  6th Dec. I think it fairly safe to draw one of the following conclusions:

You don’t want me as a member or the Australian Director’s Guild?


If I were to become a member the ADG would not advocate my right to be appraised of the evidence that (a) led to my being banned in May 2012, (b) my being banned in May 2014 and (c) my being banned in May 2016?

It follows that the ADG would likewise not utter a peep of protest if I were to be banned again in May 2018. This is inevitable given that I have no intention of being intimidated into silence by Screen Australia.

Two things have emerged from this ongoing farce:

Screen Australia can act against the interests of Australian film directors and the ADG will remain silent.

Australian film and TV directors would prefer to remain silent about whatever misgivings they have about Screen Australia than to suffer the same fate as myself.

And I think that there is another conclusion that members of the ADG must surely be contemplating:

That the ADG, in its acceptance of funding from Screen Australia, has entered into a tacit agreement not to challenge this film funding body in any meaningful way; not to bite one of  the few hands that feeds it; not to defend ADG members against Screen Australia bullying.

The ADG’s lack of industrial clout is evidenced by your collective refusal to stand up to Screen Australia in relation to its partial funding of the six-part TV series to be made of “Picnic at Hanging Rock.”

After the horse has bolted the ADG is up in arms because half of the series will be directed by a Canadian!

Says Kingston Anderson,  CEO of the ADG:

“Australian directors are amazed and astonished at the choice of a foreign director to work on a classic, especially as it is not a co-production and is being fully financed in Australia.”

Is this the best that the ADG can come up with in Dec 2016? To be “amazed and astonished”.

As you all know I was one of its founders of the ADG (under a different name) more than 30 years ago. The ‘initiating incident’ for its formation in the 1980s was the regular importation of overseas directors to work on productions for which there were eminently qualified Australian directors to work’ productions financed primary with Australian tax dollars through 10BA.

We decided that being “amazed and astonished” was not enough. Action was called for. Directors needed to unite to defend our right to tell Australian stories for Australian and international audiences – unless there was a compelling reason why an overseas director was better suited to a particular project. And so the ADG was formed.

From a recent article in IF magazine:

“Anderson said that this was an ongoing issue, particularly on TVCs, claiming that as many as 20 foreign directors were granted 420 Visas each year without meeting the requirements.”

If this be the case, of what value is the Australian Director’s Guild in its representation of directors if all it can do is be “amazed and astonished”? 

Kingston Anderson again:

“It saddens the ADG to see Screen Australia, Foxtel and Fremantle Media supporting Canadian television directors at the expense of Australians.”

That’s it!? The ADG is ‘saddened’?  The ADG is a union! How about some industrial action?

From the recent IF Magazine article:

“The ADG also announced that it will launch a campaign for better recognition for Australian directors, focused on "rights, respect and remuneration". It argues that directors’ rights have slipped behind those of all other screen industry workers. “

Really! More than 30 years after the problem of overseas director imports was identified, the Australian Director’s guild is now going to launch a campaign!?  Directed at whom? And to what end?

Another question:

Why is Screen Australia, seemingly so concerned about the under-representation  of Australian women directors in film and TV, backing a project in which a Canadian director gets to tell a quintessentially Australian story for a predominantly Australian audience?

Do Graeme Mason and the powers-that-be within Screen Australia (including the SA board, which presumably approves of such imports) believe that there are no directors in Australia (male or female) qualified to work on “Picnic at Hanging Rock?”

Has the ADG asked this question? Has Screen Australia answered it? Are we, in the film and TV community, entitled to know what justification Screen Australia provides for its decision to back a Canadian director at the expense of an Australian one?

The bigger and more significant question that “Picnic” as a TV series raises is this:

“Is there such a dearth of original ideas for films and TV programmes in Australia that we must, as an industry, as a culture, resort to re-makes?”

If the Australian Director’s guild is not to become an irrelevant organisation you, as board members, and Kingston Anderson as CEO, need to develop some spine and be prepared to go into battle with any and everyone (including Screen Australia) who acts in a way that is not in the best interests of film and TV directors. If you do not I suspect ADG membership number will decline and bring about its slow decline and eventual death.

I trust that you will appreciate, in the absence of any support whatsoever from the ADG (or anyone else with the film and TV industry) that my blog is the only ‘weapon’ I have at my disposal to obtain a just resolution to this close-to-five year dispute – other than utilizing the services of the Supreme Court to obtain the evidence of my alleged offenses that should have been provided to me in May 2012.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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