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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.)

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