The NFSA is reminded that the screen sector takes a keen interest in its workings. Source: sandsculptures
A letter written by Geoff Gardner to the NFSA board has gathered more than 135 signatories across the screen sector. At issue is the decision to keep the Business Review confidential. CEO Michael Loebenstein has promised to release the basic introduction, with its overarching principles, but not the detailed text.
At least two basic impulses inform this letter. The screen community is used to agencies which circulate reviews for comment and revision, and receive external submissions. And the activists among the stakeholders remember their role in its history. It began as the National Historical Film and Speaking Record Library inside the Commonwealth National Library in 1935, and became a separate body within the Department of Home Affairs and Environment, responsible to the Minister and supported by an external Advisory Committee in 1984.
The pressure on government to turn the NFSA into a separate statutory agency was pretty continuous. By 2003 it was a fragment of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. To the surprise of all concerned, the Howard government gave it to the Australian Film Commission, whose mission, leadership and Board was focused on screen production.
When the legislation behind Screen Australia lumped it in with the former AFC, the defunct Screen Australia and the superceded Film Finance Corporation, the agitation grew so noisy that freedom for the archive became an election promise for the ALP. In 2007, it finally became an autonomous statutary authority, with its own board, budget and autonomous culture.
The screen sector is peculiarly attached to the NFSA. It expresses the passion for cultural history which many of us feel. It is the custodian of the works and reputation of screen practitioners. It is a practical tool for creators in search of archive, most of whom are tenacious documentary makers. It is also very stable, so independent producers develop long relationships with the place and its enduring staff.
So it is not surprising that many people in the sector feel they are active stakeholders, who helped to create the NFSA and depend on its role. They want to be involved in its changes.
Geoff Gardner, a former government bureaucrat and policy wonk, Director of the Melbourne Film Festival from 1980-82, co-creator of Ronin Films, film tragic and contributor to the NFSA Oral History Programme penned and circulated a letter to Ms Gabrielle Trainor, Chair of the NFSA.
Dear Ms Trainor,
We the undersigned are writing to express our concern at the management and other changes currently being undertaken by the National Film and Sound Archive.
These changes have resulted from the implementation of a Business Review conducted by the Director and which have, it is claimed, been endorsed by the Board of the NFSA, the Department of the Arts and the Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis.
Regrettably the Business Review document has been kept secret from all but a handful of people and thus those with professional and other interests in the work of the NFSA have had no opportunity to examine, review and contest any of the findings of the Review. We do not believe that this is an appropriate way to deal with matters of such significance which involve major changes to the organisation’s activities, focus and management as well as continuing use of taxpayer funding.
Among those changes are a proposal to reduce staff by over 10% of those working for the NFSA which shortly will lead to the sacking of some of the NFSA’s most experienced managers, administrators and industry-trained professionals.
We therefore request the following:
- Immediate public release of the Loebenstein NFSA Business Review to enable its contents to be analysed, discussed and where necessary contested by those inside and outside the NFSA affected by its decisions; and
- Your agreement that the NFSA will at the earliest possible opportunity convene a properly publicised open forum or series of fora in the major capitals to enable a full public discussion of these matters wherein those proposing the changes, and in the case of the Board, supporting their implementation, publicly defend and explain them. Such discussion should take place before final decisions on terminations, sackings and personnel restructures come into effect.
Thank you for your consideration
Cc Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, Minister for the Arts (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Hon Mark Dreyfus, Opposition Spokesman for the Arts (email@example.com)
Senator Christine Milne, Leader of The Greens (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Signatories supporting this letter:
Martha Ansara, Founding Convenor FBIOHG, member The Archive Forum
Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Jacka, formerly at UTS, co-author of The Screening of Australia
Sue Milliken, AO, Samson Productions
Alice Ansara, committee member FBIOHG
Tina Kaufman, Writer on film, media and communication issues for various publications. Editor, Filmnews. Honorary Life Member of the Sydney Film Festival and of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia.
Ben Cho, film-maker & cinephile
Tom Dickson, Retired international TV program specialist
John Turner, Treasurer, Australian Council of Film Societies
Frank Heimans, Cinetel Productions, filmmaker and member of the FBIOHG
Michael Angus, Producer/Director, Jerrycan Films
Tom Ryan, Film critic, former member of advisory board to the NFL re the NFSA
Debi Enker, TV critic, Fairfax, the ABC
Dominic Case, Consultant, former Board member and Development Manager, NFSA
Julie Rigg, Broadcaster and Film Critic
Barrie Pattison, Film-maker, Archivist and Writer
Rod Bishop, Film Producer, former CEO of the Australian Film, Radio & Television School, Critic and Consultant
Juanita Kwok, Post-Graduate Student
Ian Taylor, Film Reviewer, moviereview.com.au
Anne Demy-Geroe, Film Scholar, Festival Director and Interim NFSA Councillor
Gary Andrews, Cinephile
Alex Kelly, Film-maker
Rosalind Gillespie, Silver Films
Dr Trevor Graham, Yarra Bank Films
Jane Castle, Film-maker
Fabio Cavadini, Director/Producer, Frontyard Films
Amanda King, Founding member of OzDox, member of ADG, Director/Producer Frontyard Films
David Bordwell, Film Historian and Critic, co-author with Kristin Thompson of FILM ART: AN INTRODUCTION and FILM HISTORY: AN INTRODUCTION and author of many books
Megan McMurchy, Independent Producer, Suitcase Films
Adrienne McKibbins, Executive Officer/Awards Manager, Film Critics Circle of Australia (FCCA
Helen Yeates, Adjunct Professor, Film, Screen and Animation, Creative Industries Faculty, QUT, Brisbane
Dr Barrett Hodsdon, Initiator of NL Film Study Collection 1974/75
Frances Bonner, Honorary Associate Professor, English, Media Studies and Art History, University of Queensland
Carole Kostanich, Film-maker, Rose Street Films
Peter Hourigan, Teacher, Critic and Historian
Sylvia Lawson, Film Critic, Writer on cultural history, fiction, essays and critical journalism.
Professor Chris Berry, Department of Film Studies, King’s College, London
Anthony Buckley, AM, Producer of Caddie, Bliss, Oyster Farmer and the mini-series The Harp in the South, Poor Man’s Orange, The Heroes, Bryce Courtenay’s The Potato Factory and Jessica. Film Editor and re-discoverer of Wake in Fright.
Associate Professor Jane Mills, School of the Arts & Media, UNSW
Judith Crombie, First Film Australia archivist, First Film Librarian at the SAFC responsible for depositing feature film and documentary materials at the NFSA, Director of Marketing and Development at Film Queensland (now Screen Queensland). Deputy chair of the Queensland chapter for the Centenary of Australian Cinema, former CEO of Ausfilm, former CEO of South Australian Film Corporation
Donald Crombie, Film Director whose work is held at NFSA. Former President Australian Directors’ Guild and current Board member
Sharon Connolly, Film-maker, Former CEO, Film Australia
Daniela Torsh, Retired journalist and filmmaker
Pat Fiske, Documentary Filmmaker, Bower Bird Films / Paradigm Pictures
Russell Edwards, Film critic & film-maker
Dr Adrian Danks, Co-editor, Senses of Cinema, co-curator of the Melbourne Cinematheque, Director of Higher Degree Research, School of Media and Communication, RMIT University
Dr Wendy Keys, Griffith University
H.J.Prideaux, Secretary, Wollongong WEA Film Society
Trish FitzSimons, Griffith University
Jane Oehr, Film-maker
Ray Thomas, Screen Editor, Member Australian Society of Editors
Louise Sheedy, Program Coordinator & President, Melbourne Cinematheque
Wayne Coles-Janess , Producer/ Director
Tom Zubrycki, Producer/director
Curtis Levy, Film-maker and NFSA user for over thirty years
Nicolette Boaz, Composer for documentary
Michael Campi, Cinephile, Festival Consultant
Werner Meyer, Producer/director, Mort Bay Films
John Duigan, Film Director, double AFI Award Winner
Anna Grieve, Film Producer
Associate Professor Adrian Martin, Film Critic, Film and Television Studies
Co-Director Research Unit in Film Culture and Theory, Monash University
Ron Johanson, OAM ACS, National President, Australian Cinematographers Society
Amanda Brown, Screen Composer
Greg Reading, Former Film Australia documentary maker
Margot Nash, Film-maker, As If Productions
Murray Forrest, Former managing director Atlab, National Executive member, The Society of Australian Film Pioneers.
Madeleine Hetherton – Director/Producer – Media Stockade
Michael Koller, Executive Programmer, Melbourne Cinémathèque
Deb Verhoeven, Archive Forum
Bruce Hodsdon, Film Critic, Historian, Programmer
David Bradbury, Documentary Film-maker, Five Time AFI Award Winner, Twice nominated for an Academy Award
Barbara A Chobocky, Producer/Director
Peter Thompson, Producer/Director, Critic & Presenter, Former Board Member of the NFSA
Storry Walton AM, writer, director, producer, formerly Director Australian Film and Television School, Chair Academic Board NIDA, Executive Director International Cultural Corporation of Australia
Magritte Gillies, Cinephile
Bruce Hulbert, Cinephile
Richard Brennan, Film Producer, Former General Manager of the Australian Film Institute
David Stratton, Film critic, author, Presenter ABC-TV At the Movies
Margaret Pomeranz, Film Critic, Presenter ABC-TV At the Movies
Krizia Cook, Communications Student, University of Notre Dame
Elaina Neville, Publicity Officer, Orange Film Society
John Olson, Audio engineer and Oral Historian
Simon Taaffe, Cinephile
Prof. David MacDougall, Film Maker, Research School of Humanities & the Arts, the Australian National University
Beverly Duncan, Orange Film Society
Ken Wallin, Cinephile
Ray Argall, Film-maker, Cinematographer, President, Australian Directors Guild
Geoff Burton ACS, Director/Cinematographer, Kurrajong Films
Tim Waygood, Retired, Former General Manager, Colorfilm Laboratories, Supervised Restorations for NSFA, The War Memorial, Cinesound, Movietone, The Last Film Search. Company designed and installed the B&W lab at NSFA.
Dr Janet Merewether, Director, Producer, Media Academic
Jane Hinton, Cinephile
Nigel Giles, Oral historian
Bob Connolly, Documentary Film-maker, Academy Award Nominee, 5 times winner AFI (AACTA) Award for Best Feature Documentary
Ruari Elkington, PhD Candidate, Media, Entertainment and Creative Arts, Queensland University of Technology (QUT)
Gil Scrine, Antidote Films
Dr Anne Whitehead, Writer/Director, Winner of AWGIE, Australian Writers’ Guild Award for Best Documentary Script
Tim Read, Film Producer and former Director Film Development, Australian Film Commission
Paul Coulter, Festival Programmer, Cinema Entrepreneur
Mee Wun Lee, A concerned member of the tax-paying public
Eddie Cockrell, Film Critic, Writer, Artistic Director, The Big Picture Film Festival
Jane Keneally, Film Producer, Associate, The Big Picture Film Festival
Michael O’Rourke, Cinephile
Ross Tzannes, AM, Former President, Sydney Film Festival
Leth Maitland, Secretary, WEA Sydney Film Society, Vice-president, Australian Council of Film Societies
David Donaldson, Founding Director, Sydney Film Festival
David Parker, Producer/Writer/Director/Cinematographer, Cascade Films
Armin Miladi, Co-Director, Iranian Film Festival in Australia
Herman van Eyken, Head, Griffith Film School
Max Berghouse, Cinephile
Peter Tammer, Film-maker
Meg Stewart, Filmmaker and author
Patricia Rubie, CEO, Top Technicians Management
Dr Richard James Allen and Dr Karen Pearlman, Filmmakers, Educators at Sydney Film School and Macquarie University, Artistic Directors of The Physical TV Company
Lee Whitmore, Animator
Jack Thompson, Actor
Rod Quantock, Actor
Mary Keneally, Actor
Billy Pinnell, Radio programmer/presenter, writer, NFSA Interviewer
Paul Harris, Oral Historian, Director, St. Kilda Film Festival
Don Harley, Formerly of Film Australia
June Thody, Actress
Sophia Turkiewicz, Film Director
Gabrielle Haumesser, Eastside Radio
Jake Wilson, Film Reviewer, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.