Sunday, August 30, 2015

A letter to Nicholas Moore, Chair, Screen Australia Board, dated 12th June 2015

Nicholas Moore
Screen Australia Board                                                                                  

12th June 2015

Dear Nicholas

As the new Chair of the Screen Australia Board you may not be aware, or only dimly aware, that in May 2012 I was banned by the Board from making applications of any kind to Screen Australia. I am not even allowed to speak with members of Screen Australia staff on the telephone.

My crime? Well might you ask! And I hope you do. It was alleged by then Chief Executive Ruth Harley, in May 2012, that I had, in my correspondence, intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff.

Despite three years of asking, I have never been provided by the Screen Australia Board with evidence of even one instance in which I either intimidated or placed a member of SA’s staff at risk. On one occasion, in 2012, prior to her calling the police to have me arrested for ‘trespassing’ in the Screen Australia foyer at 3 pm on a work day, Fiona Cameron told me that she ‘felt’ intimidated!

Felt! Evidence that I had intimidated Fiona was not necessary. All that was required was that she ‘felt’ intimidated!

In fact, if anyone had ever bothered to look at the correspondence on  file, Fiona ‘felt’ intimidated because I was asking her questions she refused to answer in relation to allegations she had placed on file which were demonstrably untrue. 

No one has ever looked at the facts surrounding the beginnings of this dispute and the reason is clear. If they did, if any kind of impartial investigation were to occur, the Screen Australia Board would have no choice but to apologize for having implemented a ban based on the vindictiveness of Ruth Harley and Fiona Cameron’s sensitivity to being challenged vis a vis her honesty and her commitment to transparency and accountability.

In the interests of transparency, accountability and natural justice, Nicholas, could you please ask Fiona Cameron (or whoever the relevant person may be) to sprovide me with one instance in which I am guilty as charged? Just one!

The primary consequences of this ban for me have been as follows:


In June 2012 I was offered a pre-sale deal from National Geographic for a documentary I had been working on (self-funded) for 17 years – CHANTI’S WORLD. This pre-sale would have enabled me to acquire a budget to complete the film. However, in order for me to be able to qualify for the Producer Offset I would have needed to be able to speak with members of Screen Australia staff – which Ruth Harley had decided (ratified by the Board of which you are now Chair) I was not allowed to do.

I found myself in the very embarrassing position of having to explain to National Geographic that I was a ‘banned filmmaker’ and hence unable to take of Nat Geo’s offer. And I found myself having to continue, with limited financial resources, to self-fund the documentary to this day.

For the past 3 years I have had variations on this Nat Geo dialogue with broadcasters around the world and they are, quite understandably, not keen to deal with a ‘banned filmmaker’ who, they can easily find out through a google search, has allegedly intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia staff.


Screen Australia invested in the development of the first draft of a screenplay of mine for a feature film entitled HONEY. The ban on me means that no-one at Screen Australia can read any of the subsequent drafts I have written as this would, the logic of the ban goes, place the reader at risk! At risk of what has never been explained to me. Perhaps you can do so, Nicholas!?

Given that Screen Australia’s ban is essentially a lifetime ban, Graeme Mason has agreed to write off the investment made by SA to date in HONEY. This is good news for me as the project is now unencumbered by debt and I can develop HONEY as a film to be made anywhere in the world.  Other than in Australia, that is!

But is this such good news for Australian film?

I think that the 8th draft of HONEY, completed recently, is a pretty good screenplay but then I am, of course, biased.

What does Screen Australia make of HONEY? Please do ask. You will find that no-one within Screen Australia has read it, because I am banned. HONEY might be brilliant. It might be lackluster. It might be amateurish. It is not for me to say. However, given the dearth of good screenplays in Australia, does it make policy sense to refuse to read a screenplay by an experienced screenwriter on the grounds that doing so would place the reader at some kind of risk?

I am now re-writing HONEY as a ‘Hollywood’ film, set in the United States. The same applies for another screenplay of mine entitled THURSDAY’S CHILD – a feature film based on the life of Australia’s most famous eccentric, Bea Miles.

Does this make any sense?

To the best of my knowledge the ban placed on me is the only instance in which such a ban has occurred in a democracy this past half century; since Joseph McCarthy, with a lack of regard for evidence, sought to demonize ‘communists’.

Screen Australia has, very effectively, demonized me as a filmmaker who intimidates and places at risk film bureaucrats. In so doing, Screen Australia has defamed me and essentially destroyed my career as an Australian filmmaker.

I trust, Nicholas, that you will either provide me with evidence of my crimes (which the SA Board has refused to do this past 3 years) or secure from the board an apology for having placed the ban in the first place.

As will be apparent from what must now be a very fat file, I will not give up until natural justice has been done.

best wishes

James Ricketson

I  received no response to this letter. Receipt of it has not been acknowledged by Nicholas Moore. This is the case with all my correspondence this past year. 

The Screen Australia board has, for 40 months now, refused to provide me with one instance in which I have, in my correspondence, intimidated, harassed or placed at risk a member of Screen Australia staff.