Lynda La Plante: Screen Australia shows no respect to writers

07 October, 2011 by Brendan Swift

Legendary English crime writer Lynda La Plante has criticised Screen Australia’s feature film evaluators for not showing writers respect after they rejected her proposed film about the last woman hanged in Australia.

The writer of the Prime Suspect TV series told ABC Radio’s Tony Delroy that her script about Jean Lee – who was hanged in 1951 for murder – had received positive responses from actor Nicole Kidman and director Gillian Armstrong, who were both attached to the project.


The script was then brought to the Screen Australia’s feature film assessment team, which is led by Matthew Dabner and Victoria Treole.

“Then we come to the… new Screen Australia and I’m confronted by three people in a room," La Plante said in front of a live audience.

"And the guy at the end he goes ‘Well I can’t really see the point in doing this; you know she’s not a very nice person. And we all know she hanged’. And I go: what, what? It was just the embarrassment and the rudeness of the lack of respect [for] myself, for Nicole, for, particularly for Gillian Armstrong to say: if you have a problem with this script, we’ll iron it out.

“But for me I thought ok I can understand if … writers in Australia say ‘why should she get a break in there’ it’s only 25 per cent of the budget – that’s immaterial.

“I think any young writer that is forced to go before Screen Australia and be treated by these three idiots – [it] is an outrage – they showed no respect to a writer.”

A Screen Australia spokeswoman said the government agency is not able to publicly discuss feedback given to filmmakers during private meetings out of respect for the applicants and the process.

"Naturally, applicants are often disappointed when a project is declined funding," the spokeswoman said.

Last year, the outspoken La Plante made similar criticisms of the BBC and its drama commissioning process.

La Plante is an internationally recognised writer. She began her career as a RADA-trained actress in 1969 before writing her first television script: the six-part crime drama Widows in 1983.

She is best known for creating the character DCI Jane Tennison, played by Helen Mirren, in police drama Prime Suspect, which began in 1991 and has won six British Academy Awards. La Plante also runs her own television company and has written several other TV movies and series, as well as writing more than a dozen books.

The ABC Radio interview can be found online for a short time at under the “Listen Again” section (10pm to 11pm AEST). The discussion about the Jean Lee project starts just after the 30-minute mark.