Tuesday, February 14, 2017
THE OPEN LETTER TO MY FELLOW FILMMAKERS THAT ‘IF MAGAZINE’ DECLINED TO PUBLISH.
Dear fellow filmmakers
Do you believe in free speech?
Do you believe that a filmmaker should be banned for exercising his right to speak freely; to write freely?
In May 2012 Screen Australia banned a filmmaker from making applications of any kind to SA; from meeting with or even speak on the telephone with members of SA staff.
The reason given for the ban? The filmmaker had, Screen Australia alleged, intimidated, harassed and placed at risk members of SA staff with his correspondence. No evidence was presented to the filmmaker in support of these allegations.
57 months later, Screen Australia’s ban on the filmmaker remains. His repeated requests that he be provided with evidence of intimidation and placing staff at risk are characterized as ‘harassment’ and seen by Screen Australia as a reason to extend the ban indefinitely. The word ‘intimidation’ has been replaced by ‘unreasonable’.
As you know, filmmakers must meet with members of Screen Australia’s staff to discuss Producer Offset applications. For the banned filmmaker such meetings are not possible. He cannot access to the Producer Offset; effectively ending his career as an Australian filmmaker since 2012.
If you were the banned filmmaker, how would you respond to the termination of your career on the basis of charges unsubstantiated by evidence? For being ‘unreasonable’?
The Commonwealth Ombudsman defends Screen Australia’s 3rd bi-annual ban on the filmmaker in 2016 as follows:
- You have referred to the actions of SA ‘childish, stupid and counter-productive’.
- You have referred to the actions of SA as Mc Carthyism, directly tying the refusal of communication to your criticism of that agency.
- You have made reference to SA representatives as having lied, or being liars.
Banning a filmmaker for referring to the action of Screen Australia staff of being childish, stupid and counter-productive! Because he refers to the ban as Mc Carthyism? (Has any filmmaker anywhere in the free world been banned from making films in his or her country since Joe Mc Carthy banned ‘communists’ in the US in the 1950s?)
As for the filmmaker accusing SA staff of lying. Perhaps the filmmaker is lying when he insists that he has never intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff? On the other hand, Screen Australia could be lying in alleging that he has?
A legitimate question. And one easy to resolve with ‘evidence’, given that the alleged intimidation and placing at risk is contained in correspondence. If paragraphs, sentences, phrases can be identified that are intimidating or which place SA staff at risk, the filmmaker is lying. If no such evidence is found, Screen Australia is lying.
If no-one bothers to ask Screen Australia to provide evidence, if the evidence presented is not subjected to any scrutiny, the truth can never be known. And this is the case here. Screen Australia refuses to provide evidence and there is no-one, not even the Ombudsman, asking for evidence more compelling that the filmmaker referring to the actions of SA staff as ‘childish, stupid and counter-productive’.
Should Screen Australia be in the business of banning filmmakers at all?
Yes, if a filmmaker intimidates and places at risk members of the staff of a film funding body he should be banned. Such behavior is unacceptable. However, before taking such a draconian step, Screen Australia (any funding body) must provide evidence that intimidation has occurred; that SA staff meeting with the banned filmmaker would be ‘at risk’. Screen Australia refuses to provide any evidence at all that the filmmaker poses a risk to staff. In this instance the filmmaker has been meeting with the staff of various funding bodies for 43 years without incident.
How would you feel if you were in this filmmaker’s shoes? More importantly perhaps, what do you think of the mind-set that sees the banning of filmmaker as a way of dealing with an ‘unreasonable’ person?
The filmmaker is me, of course.
In May 2012 I made a blog entry entitled:
“Why is my complaint about Screen Australia of any relevance to anyone but myself?”
Four days later, 10th May 2012, I was banned.
The filmmaker could be you, however, if you had the temerity to criticize Screen Australia or to insist that senior bureaucrats not place on file statements that are demonstrably untrue.
Would you accept the termination of your career by Screen Australia without putting up a fight? Or would you continue to advocate your innocence, even though such advocacy will viewed by Screen Australia as ‘harassment’ and be cited as a reason why the ban must be extended indefinitely?
Does the banning of one filmmaker raise any questions that we, as filmmakers, should discuss? Debate? Should Screen Australia bureaucrats be shielded from the critical feedback we filmmakers are subjected to when our films are reviewed and our talents/taste found to be wanting?