Monday, March 28, 2016

Evidence that James Ricketson intimidated and/or placed members of Screen Australia staff with his correspondence?

It is now close to 4 weeks since I sent this letter to Samantha Lang and members of the Australian Director’s Guild. No response so far.

Samantha Lang
Australian Director’s Guild

3rd. March 2016

Dear Samantha and members of the ADG board

Screen Australia’s ban on me was imposed almost four years ago. In that time the Australian Director’s Guild has not viewed the banning of a fellow director as being sufficiently newsworthy to mention in the ADG newsletter.

In 2012 Fiona Cameron twice called the police to have me arrested  whilst doing nothing other than sit in the foyer of Screen Australia during business hours and refusing to leave until I was provided with evidence that I had, as alleged by Ruth Harley, intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff. This second arrest led to my spending a weekend in jail and appearing in court on the charge of ‘trespassing’! Sitting in the foyer of Screen Australia at 4 pm in the afternoon or a work day!

The jailing of a director for ‘trespassing’ in the Screen Australia foyer  was not viewed by the ADG as being sufficiently newsworthy to rate mention in the ADG newsletter.

Why is this?

Is it because the ADG is reliant on Screen Australia funding and dare not bite the hand that feeds it?  Or is it because I am not a member of the ADG and so my being banned and jailed by Screen Australia, being prevented from making films in Australia, is of no concern to my fellow directors?

When we founded what is now the ADG (and I was, as you know, a founding member) it was in large part so that directors could support each other in such a way that each individual director did not have to battle with film bureaucrats alone. Directors would support fellow directors. Strength in numbers. Strength in unity. Speaking with one voice. The message ASDA sent to the film world was, “We are united as directors and we will support each other.”

What has happened to this objective?

Even if I were not a director, if I were a writer, or a producer, or any member of the filmmaking fraternity, the ADG we founded all those years ago would, at the very least,  as a matter of principle, have written to Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board with a simple question:

“Could you please provide the ADG with evidence that xxxx has intimidated and/or placed members of Screen Australia staff with his/her correspondence?”

If the ADG had any clout (and clout is what the ADG was formed to have!) Screen Australia would not have been able to brush this question aside. Ruth Harley and the board would have felt obliged to reply; to be accountable;  to provide evidence in support of the allegations made against a fellow filmmaker. In the event that no evidence was forthcoming, the ADG would have (this is the ADG of my dreams) put pressure on Screen Australia to lift the ban. Quickly. And this would have happened in the public eye because it would have been reported in the ADG newsletter.

In relation to my banning the ADG did nothing; said nothing. Four years down the track, in what is clearly a lifetime ban that has destroyed my career as an Australian filmmaker, the ADG continues to say nothing: “Not our problem!”

The notion that I placed Screen Australia staff at risk with my correspondence is both defamatory and nonsense (at risk of what!?), but is there any evidence, perhaps, that I wrote something that was intimidating? If so, why can Screen Australia not reveal what it was? Why can Screen Australia not provide even one example of my ‘intimidating correspondence’? The answer is simple. There is not one example. Ruth Harley was lying and the board rubber stamped the ban she imposed without bothering to ask for evidence.

The clue to what has happened here can be found in my one and only conversation about ‘intimidating correspondence’ with Fiona, in the Screen Australia foyer, shortly before she called the police to have me arrested. Fiona told me she told me that she 'felt' intimidated by my correspondence. Fiona seemed to be unable to make a distinction between 'feeling' intimidated and actually being intimidated. And she could provide not one example of where something I wrote made her ‘feel’ intimidated.

Perhaps you could, Samantha, even at this late stage, ask Fiona to provide one paragraph, one sentence, one phrase or even one word that I wrote to her or any other member of staff that made her feel intimidated? If the ADG can demonstrate that a lifetime ban on a film director is a matter of concern I will happily re-join the ADG. If you are not prepared to even ask this question (and Ray Argall certainly wasn’t) there is no point in my being  a member. There would be no point anyway since Screen Australia has made it impossible for me to make films in this country.

If the banning of a filmmaker is not an issue that the ADG believes warrants attention, what problems will the ADG address when those in positions of power (Fiona Cameron in this instance) abuse it to suppress dissent, destroy the careers of critics or punish anyone who has the temerity to question the propriety of Screen Australia board members voting money for their own projects with monotonous regularity? Does the ADG have no commitment at all to free speech? Will the ADG ever jeopardize its Screen Australia funding by adopting a critical stance in relation to SA policy? Does the ADG have any principles that are not self-serving? A line in the sand that it will not cross?  Or, in this case, to critically question Screen Australia’s vindictive desire to destroy the career of an Australian filmmaker without even being obliged to provide evidence of the crimes he is supposed to have committed to warrant the ban placed on him?

Will you, Samantha, and the board, respond in any way to this letter?

I will, of course, continue to fight for my right to be provided with evidence of my crimes. And the ADG will, it seems, sit on its hands, bury its head in the sand,  say nothing; do nothing. “You’re on your own, James. Don’t count on even moral support from us!”

How sad that an organization founded (amongst other things) to stand up to bureaucratic bullying of the kind that has occurred here, the abuse of power, should  turn a blind eye to the plight of a fellow filmmaker falsely accused and given no right to defend himself.

I would appreciate it, Samantha, if you could put the following question to Screen Australia:

“Could you please provide the ADG with evidence that James Ricketson has intimidated and/or placed members of Screen Australia staff with his/her correspondence? And/or with any paragraph, sentence, phrase or even one word that could have led a member of Screen Australia’s staff to feel intimidated?”

I have attached a copy of my second letter to Richard Harris who, as a former President of the ADG, I was hoping might advocate on my behalf within Screen Australia. My first letter to Richard can be found at:

I look forward to yours and the ADG board’s response.



Monday, March 21, 2016

Yet another attempt to get the Commonwealth Ombudsman to ask the obvious question in relation to Screen Australia's ban.

Mr Colin Neave AM
Commonwealth Ombudsman
GPO Box 442
ACT 2601                                                                                           

1st March 2016

Dear Mr Neave

Following on from my letter to you of 7th Dec. 2015, to which I have received no reply. My letter to Richard Harris at Screen Australia dated 1st March 2016 (attached) speaks for itself.

I need only add a little to what I have written.

If Alyssa Harris had, back in 2011, done her job properly, asked just one question, she would have learnt that Fiona Cameron had lied and the ongoing dispute that led to my ban would never have arisen.

If your office had, in May 2102, asked Ruth Harley and the Screen Australia Board to provide at least one instance in which I had intimidated and/or placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence, it would have become apparent that Ruth Harley had lied and the ban would have been lifted within weeks of it being imposed.

Why has your office, for four years now, failed to ask the most obvious question:

“Where is the evidence that Mr Ricketson is guilty as charged?”

Why, in March 2016, does the office of the Ombudsman continue to refuse to ask this question? Especially when, as is abundantly clear, an Australian filmmakers career (mine) has been destroyed as a result of such a ban? Surely natural justice, if not common sense, demands that you ask this question? And if not, why not?

As I have made clear on countless occasions now, if Screen Australia can produce just one instance with which I am guilty as charged, I will accept my punishment – though I believe it to be absurd to ban a filmmaker  for any reason other than under the most exceptional of circumstances. Do such circumstances prevail here?

If you were to ask this one question Mr Neave,  and find that I am not guilty as charged, I will be vindicated. I no longer have any interest in having the ban on me lifted. Nor do I have any interest in an apology of any kind. I am interested only in having it publicly known, within the industry of which I have been a part for more than 40 years, that I neither intimidated nor placed at risk any member of Screen Australia’s staff with my correspondence.

I trust, Mr Neave, that you can bring yourself to ask this one question.

Yours sincerely

James Ricketson

cc  Senator Mitch Fifield

Three weeks after sending this letter I have yet to receive, from the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office, acknowledgment that it has been received.