Monday, December 12, 2016

The ADG's deafening silence

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

6th Dec 2016

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

I have received no acknowledgement of receipt of my letter of 21st Nov.  I wonder if any correspondence from me will be acknowledged? Will the ADG board ever discuss amongst yourselves the underlying principles that inform the ban on me? Or is the fate of one filmmaker of less importance than maintaining a good relationship with Screen Australia?

In the grand scheme of things, of course, the banning of one filmmaker is not of great consequence – other than to the filmmaker in question whose career is effectively terminated. What is of great consequence, however, is the fact that having got away with such a ban once, without a murmur of protest from the ADG, without the ADG even bothering to ask for evidence of my allegedly intimidating correspondence, Screen Australia can ban any ADG members whenever it chooses to and rely on the ADG to accept such a banning without question.

Are there any matters or principle held by the ADG board that would lead it to go into battle with Screen Australia? Or are you all fearful of the consequences for yourselves, personally, professionally, if the ADG board were to write or utter the words:

“Evidence please, Graeme Mason, Fiona Cameron,  Screen Australia board members, that James Ricketson ever intimidated, harassed or placed at risk members of SA staff in his correspondence?”

Chances are that Screen Australia will not be so foolish, again, as to officially ban a filmmaker as it has me. It is more likely that any such future ban will remain unofficial – as was the case with myself for a couple of years before the official ban was implemented in May 2012; as was the case for other filmmakers who had been critical of Screen Australia – other filmmakers who were successfully intimidated into silence.

You will all recall a time when there was lively debate online about Screen Australia’s policies; about recent films that had bombed at the box office but whose makers went on to get more and more money from Screen Australia to make yet another film that bombed at the box office. The discussions, debates, were lively and often very critical of Screen Australia. As they should be. Just as we filmmakers are subjected to withering public criticism of our films when they are released (as we should be) so too should film funding bodies be subjected to the same sorts of criticisms.

This was not going to be the case with Screen Australia as run by Ruth Harley,  Fiona Cameron and the Screen Australia board – including filmmakers Rachel Perkins and Claudia Karvan. They went out of their way to prevent any public criticism of Screen Australia policy or decisions they made to back films that were clearly not ready to go into production; criticism of the nakedly obvious nepotism in evidence. Threats of legal suits were made and eventually all public online debate came to an end.

Where does public debate about Screen Australia (and other film funding bodies) policies occur today? Does the ADG encourage it? No, you, members of the ADG board, actively discourage it, as I learnt when you refused to publish an opinion piece of mine which was critical of the ADG’s policy position vis a vis quotas for women. The ADG, having decided upon its policy vis a vis quotas did not want there to be any debate about it. Dissenting voices were silenced.

Even if opportunities for such debate were to arise again, what filmmaker is going to be foolish enough to challenge Screen Australia policy in public? The banning of me was not just intended to silence a critic but to deter any and all other filmmakers from becoming public critics of Screen Australia. This was one of the reasons why we formed ASDA in the first place – to make it unnecessary for individual filmmakers to place themselves in the firing line; to provide individual filmmakers with the collective power of an organization that would stand up for their rights –  creatively, legally and when it came to bargaining with others involved in the collaborative exercise that is filmmaking.

If Screen Australia policies and modus operandi go unchallenged, as they do these days, the illusion is created that all is well and that the entire film and TV community is happy with the status quo. The refusal on the part of the ADG to challenge SA feeds into this impression that all is well; that nothing needs to change.

Challenging those in positions of power, demanding of them that they adhere to the basic precepts of transparency and accountability; that they tell the truth, has been re-branded by Screen Australia as both ‘intimidation’ and ‘placing at risk’. Can you not see the dangers inherent in this form of bureaucratic bullying? I am sure you would if you happened to find yourself in my position.



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