Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Paying IF Magazine to publish an ‘open letter’ should be simple, right?

6th Feb

IF MAGAZINE: We are working on the February issue now but looking to close things off this week. Let me know what you are after and I can shoot through some rates.

JAMES: An open letter to Screen Australia.

IF MAGAZINE: I would need the decision this week with artwork due next week.  May I ask what the subject is for the open letter?

JAMES: My open letter contains some questions for Screen Australia that I have been trying to get answers to for a few years. In a sense it is 'political'. Is this a problem for IF Magazine?

IF MAGAZINE: I understand that and I am happy to do it but knowing it is an open letter I would just run it by my publisher. I could do a quarter page for $X or a half page for $Y.
Before I ask the publisher are you OK with either of these options?

JAMES: Am fine with half page, Joanne. My letter will be made up of a series of questions and will be controversial.

IF MAGAZINE: OK  James – let me just check with our Publisher – he is usually pretty good with these things.

JAMES: OK, Joanne. I can promise you that whilst there will be implicit criticism of Screen Australia there will be nothing in any way offensive. Just questions. I believe that Screen Australia should be open to the same kind of scrutiny that we filmmakers are when we present our films to the world. All filmmakers know of, have experienced, the sinking feeling of reading a bad review. It is part and parcel of what we do. The same should apply for film funding bodies. For the most part it does not. They are very thin skinned and do not take criticism kindly.

7th Feb

JAMES:  Here is my 'open letter' - addressed not to Screen Australia but to my 'fellow filmmakers. If you provide me with IF's bank details I will make a $X transfer electronically this afternoon.

Later in the day, having received no response.

JAMES:  Please do let me know if you are not able to publish an ad of this kind.

8th Feb

JAMES: Dear Mark (Kuban) Joanne and I agreed on a price for my ad, to appear in the Feb instalment of IF. She needed to run the content of the ad by you, however.  I have not heard back from Joanne and wonder if, perhaps, you do have a problem with the content? If so, perhaps you could let me know what it is and I can address it?

9th Feb

JAMES: Dear Mark, Am I right on presuming from your lack of response to my email of yesterday that you do not wish to publish my ‘open letter’ in IF Magazine? Or are you simply flat out just now meeting a deadline and will get back to me soon?

10th Feb

JAMES: Dear Mark

I guess the answer it ‘no’. You will not publish my ‘open letter’? Nor will you explain to me why? Is there anything in it that is offensive? Or is your problem with it that Screen Australia would not be happy to see such a paid-for ‘open letter’ in IF Magazine?

It is now 40 months since I first alerted you to the ban that had been placed on me. I expected, at the very least, that it might warrant a paragraph as ‘news’. No. The same has applied, since May 2012 to the Australian Director’s Guild. My banning is not deemed to be significant enough to warrant a paragraph in the ADG newsletter.

An experienced filmmaker, one of the founders of the Australian Director’s Guild, being banned for intimidating and placing at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff is news. If it is true.

A filmmaker banned and prevented from making films in Australia on the basis of the false allegation that he has  intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff is also news. If it is true.

All that was required of you 40 months ago to determine which of these two alternatives was true was to ask Screen Australia for evidence. If SA had been provided it, you could have published a story in which I was revealed, to my fellow filmmakers, not just to be an unpleasant human being (intimidating and placing at risk SA staff is unacceptable) but a liar to boot for having denied, often, that I had intimidated or placed anyone at risk. My credibility would have been shot and there would be no sympathy for me. And nor should there be.

And if Screen Australia could not provide you with evidence, you could have published a story in which I was exonerated and senior SA staff would, quite rightly, be held accountable.  My reputation would have been restored to me.

Your refusal to report on the facts (as revealed or not in my allegedly ‘intimidating’ correspondence) raises questions about your impartiality as a publisher. Your refusal to even carry a paid-for advertisement reinforces the perception that IF Magazine will not publish anything that might be seen as being critical of Screen Australia.

Or perhaps there is another explanation for your decision to neither publish my advertisement or to have the professional courtesy to respond to my emails this week?

Have you any idea, Mark, how distressing it is to have your career terminated after 45 years on the basis of lies? And then, when you seek to have these lies exposed for what they are, to be banned again – for harassment or, most recently, for being ‘unreasonable’?

If you have any interest at all in fulfilling what I believe to be your journalistic/publisher duties, ask the one question that will determine, once and for all, who is lying - myself or Screen Australia. Ask Chief Executive Graeme Mason to provide you with at least one example (preferably more) of statements made in my correspondence, or on my blog, that could be construed to be either intimidating or to place staff at risk? Or so ‘unreasonable’ as to warrant my being banned for the 3rd time in May 2016. If Screen Australia cannot or refuses to do so, report this without fear or favour. If Screen Australia can present you with evidence that I am guilty as charged, report this without fear or favour.

I am copying this to the Australian Director’s Guild in the hope that it (like you) may (even at this very late date) at least report that an experienced filmmaker has been banned on the basis of allegations that Screen Australia refuses to back up with evidence; that Screen Australia has even denied FOI requests made by myself to acquire such evidence on the grounds that it is not in the ‘public interest’.

I am copying this also to Graeme Mason in the hope that he also, at this late date, either provide you with evidence of my guilt or acknowledge that there is no evidence.

And I am copying this to Senator Mitch Fifield in the hope that he may, at this late date, realize that no filmmaker should be prevented from practicing his art, his craft, without his being provided with evidence in support of the proposition that he poses a danger of some kind to members of Screen Australia’s staff.

12th  Feb

JAMES: Dear Mark, Clearly, you have no intention of publishing my ‘open letter’ so I will do so on my blog.

It will not be seen or read by that many people but at least it will be there as evidence that future readers can take into account when and if they should happen to take an interest in the strange business, back in 2012, when Screen Australia banned a filmmaker and publications like IF Magazine maintained an undignified silence!

“In 2012, Screen Australia banned a filmmaker! Surely not! Why What did he do?”
The whole sorry tale will be laid out for them to read.

For me this is no longer about being banned, having my career as an Australian filmmaker destroyed by a vindictive film funding organization.  It is about freedom of speech. I am being punished by Screen Australia (in 2017, for God’s sake!) for exercising my right of free speech. And you, Mark, publisher of a major film and TV industry publication, are providing Screen Australia with your tacit support!

I have a question for you. On 7th Feb I sent you and Joanne my ‘open letter’. In it I made made reference to, provided the link to, a blog entry from May 2012. Within two hours this entry had been viewed 10 times. Did you and Joanne need to visit the link 10 times between you? Or did you forward my ‘open letter’ to others so that they too could read it? If so, was Screen Australia amongst those ‘others’? If so, did Screen Australia influence your decision not to publish my ‘open letter’ in any way? If the decision was entirely yours and yours alone could you please explain why you made such a decision?



14th Feb 2017

MARK KUBAN: Dear James, Many apologies for the delayed response. I’ve been on leave.

I disagree with your assertions that IF maintains any form of undignified silence and found your email to be mildly offensive.

You appear to have forgotten that IF has published many of your editorial comments and published your open letter on ‘Quotas in Australia’.

We spent considerable time assessing your open letter and I determined that it wasn’t in-line with IF’s editorial charter. Perhaps a more moderate approach will assist your quest.


Mark Kuban

JAMES: Mark, I have spent five years trying numerous approaches to get Screen Australia to provide evidence in support of the proposition that I intimidated or placed at risk any member of staff with my correspondence. To not avail.

As you will be aware the banning of a filmmaker in unprecedented in Australia. Indeed, anywhere in the 'free world' since the days of Joe Mc Carthy. You have known of this ban and the fact that it prevents me from making films in the country of my birth for at least 40 months. 

You are not alone in not wishing to devote even a paragraph to the story of this ban in IF. The same applies for the Australian Screen Director's News letter and Screen Director. 

I will keep fighting to clear my name and will, in the meantime, publish both the ad that you refuse to publish and the correspondence between myself and IF leading up to your decision. I would be curious to know which aspect of IF's editorial charter my ad is not in line with?


The ‘open letter’ that IF Magazine has declined to publish can be found below...

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