Film-maker James Ricketson takes legal action against Screen Australia

Australian film-maker James Ricketson is taking court proceedings against Screen Australia in the Supreme Court of NSW.

Ricketson claims that Screen Australia has not provided a good enough reason from banning him from talking to the funding body – which it did in May.

Ricketson wants Screen Australia to produce documents that show how he has, as SA’s CEO Ruth Harley has stated in a letter to Ricketson, “harassed, intimidated or placed staff at risk”.

Ricketson, who is suing for $1 in compensation, believes he has done nothing wrong.

Three claims made by Ricketson in legal documents allege:

1. On or about 12 November 2010, Fiona Cameron, COO of Screen Australia showed other staff at Screen Australia a letter which suggests that the plaintiff came away from a meeting with senior executives at Screen Australia believing that he had been successful in engaging in an action that was in contravention of Screen Australia guidelines, procedures and protocols and hence corrupt. In her letter to to the plaintiff Ms Cameron writes, “Unfortunately, it appears from your correspondence that you came away from that meeting from an understanding that your application for further development funding for Chanti’s World had been effectively green lit. That is not the case and nor could it be.” It is the assertion of the plaintiff that the correspondence to which Ms Cameron refers does not exist and that the false allegation in it, widely circulated within Screen Australia, have been damaging to his reputation.

2. Some time prior to 10 May 2012 Ms Ruth Harley, Chief Executive of Screen Australia, presented documents to the Screen Australia Board which contained untrue statements damaging to the plaintiff’s reputation as a film producer. These documents led the Board of Screen Australia to ban the plaintiff from having any further dealings with Screen Australia and in Ms Harley, in a letter to the plaintiff dated 10 May 2010, writing: “We believe that your conduct towards Screen Australia is unreasonable and that your correspondence places our staff at risk. We are under a legal obligation to protect our staff from harassment and intimidation.”

3. In the case of both Ms Cameron’s and Ms Harley’s assertions, the plaintiff has requested that he be provided with copies of the correspondence referred to in their respective letter of 12 November 2010 and 10 May 2012. His requests have been ignored. The plaintiff denies the existence of the correspondence referred to.

Screen Australia declined to comment.

Ricketson is about to travel to Cambodia to film the latest installment of Chanti’s World, a documentary he has been making for 17 years about a girl growing up in Phnom Penh.

In the past, he has been campaigning against Screen Australia for what he claims was unfairly declining to fund this project. Screen Australia rejects this claim.

(Update: Ricketson states that he has never complained that he was unfairly denied funding – he has complained about the process. See the comment thread below.)


  1. Stu
    19 Jul 12
    12:40 pm

  2. Suing Screen Australia for $1? Still, that’s a dollar more than most of us have gotten out of them…hehe

  3. Alison_F
    19 Jul 12
    12:44 pm

  4. Is he seeking $1 (one dollar) or $1m (one million dollars) in compensation???
    If he is just seeking $1, well that’s hilarious!

  5. Richard Moss
    19 Jul 12
    2:04 pm

  6. @Alison_F

    Why so? At what point between $1 and $1m does it begin to lose its hilarity ?

    Not everything is about large sums of money.
    Principles and one’s personal standing are usually worth more than any amount of mere money.

    In any case, don’t you think that suing for a million dollars in a similar situation, could invite the suggestion that the claimant was simply attempting to get the production funding by whatever means possible?

  7. Needadollar
    19 Jul 12
    2:48 pm

  8. Dollar, dollar is all I need!

  9. Guy
    19 Jul 12
    3:37 pm

  10. Don’t forget to factor in interests and inflation to that $1 :-)

  11. Bloggs
    19 Jul 12
    4:17 pm

  12. Suing for $1 is a process used to resolve a dispute without money being the issue. Effectively he is using the legal process to draw a decision as to whether his story or Film Australia’s is correct. If the court gives directions to proceed (permits the legal action) then he can subpoena the documents.

  13. Alison_F
    19 Jul 12
    4:17 pm

  14. @Richard Moss… While I see your point, don’t you think there could also be an argument against clogging up the courts all in the name of personal standing? I guess it would still be hilarious at $10, $100 is still quite funny… $1000 begins to lose it’s comical qualities as does $10,000 and up – just to answer your question…

  15. Dave
    20 Jul 12
    12:37 pm

  16. Its hard to tell from this article but he is entitled to these documents. SA have no rights to make claims or Ban anyone, they are funded by the Tax payer no differently than the councils, or Ausindustry etc. We all know Sa fund what they like for their mates, no wonder Aussie movies are so cr*p! How many Aussie movies have made commercial benefit or have returned to Tax payer or the investors money. It’s a poorly run operation. He has a right, but I am not saying he is right.

  17. James Ricketson
    13 Aug 12
    6:50 am

  18. Dear Tim

    For the second time Encore has published a statement relating to my
    complaint against Screen Australia that is not correct. On 11th May
    Encore reported:

    “James Ricketson has been conducting a lengthy campaign complaining
    that the organisation has unfairly declined to fund his documentary
    project Chanti’s World.”

    I wrote to Encore immediately to correct this error:

    “To set the record straight, ENCORE, I have NEVER complained about my
    documentary project not receiving funding.”

    You declined to publish my comment.

    On 19th July Encore reported: “In the past, he has been campaigning
    against Screen Australia for what he claims was unfairly declining to
    fund this project. Screen Australia rejects this claim.”

    Again I wrote to you:

    “A quick correction is in order. I have never once complained that
    Screen Australia has declined to support my documentary project
    CHANTI’S WORLD. Not once!”

    Encore has been publishing comments all day but not mine.

    I have never, in 40 years of filmmaking ever once complained about not
    receiving funding. If you do not believe me, ask Screen Australia if
    it has any statement on record from me that could be construed as my
    complaining about not receiving funding for CHANTI’S WORLD. What I did
    write, in my comment of 11th May that you declined to publish, was…:

    “I did, however, complain that in the process of assessing a
    development application 2 years ago, Screen Australia (by its own
    admission) failed to view the ‘promo’ that contained, in 8 minutes, 15
    years in the life of the central character in the documentary. Instead
    of apologizing for this oversight Screen Australia decided to place on
    file statements that were demonstrably untrue. When I asked Screen
    Australia to produce the correspondence it claimed I had written it
    refused to do so. And so began a 17 months battle with Screen
    Australia to get it to act in accordance with the precepts of
    transparency and accountability appropriate to the organization. This,
    in turn, has led to my being banned from making any applications at
    all to Screen Australia for funding of any kind.”

    Why, Tim, does Encore twice frame my dispute with Screen Australia in
    a way that is incorrect and twice refuse to publish a correction?


  19. pops
    14 Aug 12
    4:59 pm

  20. What happens next? Has Screen Australia filed a defense?

  21. James Ricketson
    15 Aug 12
    2:25 pm

  22. Pops, the matter is listed to be heard in the Supreme Court of NSW on 5th Sept.

    More, as always, to be found on my blog for you are interested:


  23. Trevor
    15 Aug 12
    3:31 pm

  24. And how much is this little exercize in the Supreme Court going to cost us?