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‘The Hunting Ground’ Subjects Talk New Book, Oscar Loss and the Netflix Factor

On Tuesday, Andrea Pino and Annie E. Clark, founders of End Rape on Campus and the primary subjects of the 2015 documentary “The Hunting Ground,” will release their first book, “We Believe You,” a compilation of stories from sexual assault survivors published by Holt Paperbacks.

Since “The Hunting Ground’s” 2015 Sundance premiere, more than 1,000 colleges around the country have requested screenings. The film’s original song, “Till It Happens to You,” co-written by Lady Gaga and Diane Warren, was nominated for an Oscar.

Pino, who appeared on stage with Lady Gaga during her performance at this year’s Academy Awards, spoke with Variety about the impact of the film on campuses around the country, why Netflix was critical to the documentary’s success and the disappointment of losing the Oscar.

How did this book come about?

We started working on the book in 2014, before Sundance, and one of the goals was to elevate the voices survivors that we don’t hear about. We go around the country talking to survivors and helping them pro-bono because we were once there too, when we couldn’t afford legal council, and we didn’t know how to approach media. Our commitment to accessibility really has been the driving force since day one.

The Hunting Ground has now been screened on college campuses around the country. Have you noticed any changes?
There’s much more awareness. We talk about “The Hunting Ground” being a 101, because it’s an intro into the subject of campus violence. But we are seeing universities say because they’ve screened “The Hunting Ground,” they’re a progressive institution, when in reality, there’s no institution in the United States looking at this issue holistically. Also, it is getting over-saturated, and because the media are getting bored of covering this, it is even more difficult for survivors to be listened to.

Do you wish more people saw the movie in theaters?

A lot of folks did see it in theaters, but it’s a documentary. Documentaries aren’t really meant for the everyday theater. I think it is unfortunate that it is difficult to get these movies in the big screen. Someone told us they drove 60 miles to watch this film. I am so thankful it is on Netflix because so many more people are watching it now. I was looking at the other documentaries that were up for the Oscars, and you can’t find them. I happened to see “Amy” on a plane, but I definitely couldn’t find it in the theater.

Have your lives changed since appearing in the documentary?

Absolutely. I don’t know where I would have been now had I not come forward. As exciting as it was to be on the Oscars stage and be a visible figure in this movement the day to day is still very difficult, listening to so many survivors stories and being disappointed in how little has changed on the institutional level has also been very difficult.

What was it like being the center of a documentary like this, and being at Sundance?

It’s funny because we talked to Brie [Larson] right before we went to Sundance, and she was telling us what the experience is like being an actor, and it is kind of this weird role because you are somewhere between being an actor and being kind of a normal everyday person attending Sundance. Now that the film is on Netflix, we are hearing about it from people all over the world. Sundance is an incredible experience just like the Oscars were, but there is something about hearing from everyday people who have seen the film.

Why didn’t “Till It Happens To You” win the Oscar?

Everyone can try to rationalize why someone or something didn’t win. I don’t know anything more than anyone else does. I am disappointed honestly. I am pretty sure that Sam Smith was shocked that he won for (“Writing’s on the Wall”). I happened to be in the Dolby Theatre, and we had just come out, and everyone was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I think it is unfortunate because the song really was the favorite up until the very end. We’ve heard from a lot of people they were very upset the song didn’t win but I do think its impact goes way beyond the Oscars. We have really pushed it, beyond just the ceremony, and so have Lady Gaga and Diane Warren. Lady Gaga is going to be with Joe Biden during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the bigger push to support survivors, and I think that’s exactly what it is about. I don’t really think it is about sexual assault but the greater impact beyond the Dolby Theatre.

Do you think the subject matter made Oscar voters nervous?

I can always try to rationalize why certain documentaries win, and why certain songs win. But I think this is a bigger problem with the Academy, the majority of which are white men. It does make people uncomfortable that you have a documentary where the main protagonists are two women, and survivors of sexual violence. But it also just shows a bigger problem that we have in the industry. We can’t see women in powerful roles. We can’t acknowledge the violence that is deep in all of our culture. We can talk about why it didn’t win the Oscar, but the bigger message of the song and the film has had such a larger impact than any award could have.

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