Interview: AUDRIE & DAISY Directors on Raising Awareness, A National Dialogue, & The Media

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Audrie & Daisy Directors Interview

When Audrie & Daisy was screened in film festivals and released on Netflix in 2016, the film had a clear goal. Audrie & Daisy sought to raise the public’s awareness of sexual assaults that continue to occur to teen girls across America.

After watching the film, I can easily say that the film is effective in its goal. The film also brings up the dark realm of cyber bullying.

FilmBook was able to speak with directors Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen about their documentary film, raising awareness, creating a national dialogue about sexual assault, and the media’s role in Daisy’s case (and in general).

From watching the film, it seemed that a lot of footage was brought in from different sources, like the documentary Making a Murderer. How long did it take you to compile and piece together the footage and develop the narrative in the film?

Jon: We started working on the film in the summer 2013 and we completed by Sundance of 16, so it was about a two and a half year process.

The Sheriff seemed biased toward the boys and not toward their testimony, Paige Parkhurst’s testimony, and the evidence, especially Daisy Coleman’s blood alcohol level the morning after. How do you think that bias affected the initial case?

Jon: Um, well, its really, its really a difficult call for us to make. I think what we tried to do…

Bonni: We weren’t there.

Jon: We weren’t there at the time. There is a lot we don’t know. But, we think that the facts, especially, once we got to know Daisy’s case. Once we got to know Daisy herself, we certainly believed her. We don’t see any reason not to believe her. She said that she went to that house that night fairly intoxicated and drank more. And then blacked out and doesn’t remember consenting to sex. You have boys that videotaped, admitted to videoing the sex that did occur between Matt Barnett and Daisy, which is in itself a crime. And then you have a crime, um, we have admissions from a juvenile perpetrator in Paige Parkhurst’s rape case. So um, it certainly seems like a lot of pieces of the puzzle were there. At the end of the day though, what a lot of sex assaults cases, it comes down to, like Jean Peters Baker says in the film, it comes down to kinda of a he said, she said situation. And um, unfortunately, even sometimes in the best circumstances, they’re very difficult cases.

So you are saying that it usually comes down to he said, she said? So it comes down to the evidence and the evidence in this case was not strong enough to, as you showed in the movie, to bring the rape charges against the accused?

Bonni: Right.

Jon: That’s what their position is. That was the prosecutor’s position. You know, on the other hand, if you step out of the, kind of  legalistic part of it and you just look at it more as a societal problem. Um, there have been studies that show that girls and women who, who say they’ve been raped, it turns out that 96% of the cases, that it is true, that they have been. It seems that there is very little reason for a girl or woman to make these kinds of accusations if they’re not true. So, um, it seems like to Bonnie and me, that um, in many ways maybe the criminal justice is not necessarily the answer to this problem. Certainly people that have been perpetrated against, they should definitely call the police. I’m not suggesting they do otherwise.  But our hope is that maybe we could figure out a way for society  to keep these things from happening in the first place. By educating our children about healthy relationships, about respect, about, um you know protecting your friends should they get it situations like these. Those types of things.

In the end, do you think the national attention was ultimately beneficial or did the bad effects of it out-weigh the positive effects?

Bonnie: The national attention didn’t bring her justice in the court. So, I think the question is what kind of positives did you mean? Did she feel empowered by it? There nothing…

Did positives come out of the national attention like the special prosecutor being assigned to the case?

Jon: Yeah I think that certainly once, once the state of, once the officials of Maryville county and the state of Missouri felt like there was extra scrutiny. They did re-prosecute the case with a special prosecutor. And they were able to get a misdemeanor charge against Matt Barnett.

Bonni: Which had nothing to do with the sexual assault. This only had to do with how they left her in the yard the morning after.

Jon: But I think that, in the broader sense, again I don’t know exactly where your headed, but in a broader sense, we believe that there’s attention, and there’s attention. Media attention can be a tool for good and it can be a tool for bullying as well. We hope that in the case of Audrie & Daisy, having national and international attention on, kind of, the harmful effects of sex assault and social media bullying, and passing around videos and pictures of these crimes, we hope that bringing attention to it, that we can create a conversation where we make the leap that leads to more education, leads to more awareness, and ultimately, at the end of the day, leads to keeping  these things form happening in the first place. We are hoping that kind of attention is a positive thing.

Bonni: I’m not going to comment on that. Its not possible for us to comment on that legally. Given that we weren’t privy to it or the full extent of the evidence.

When watching the film, the film could have easily been called Delaney & Daisy. Was that every a consideration? Was the choice of Audrie & Daisy to show what could happen if someone was alone versus someone who had others to lean on?

Jon: Um, the reason that we called the film Audrie & Daisy, we really felt like the Audrie Potts case was kinda representative of the worst possible scenario to come in a case of sex assault combined with social media bullying. And unfortunately, as you know, Audrie is not around to tell her story. And the story was kinda cut short because she ended her life. And so when we met Daisy and we heard about her case and we learned of the kind of hauntingly familiar details that reminded us of Audrie’s case, we started to see the two cases as, we started to see Daisy’s case as almost as finishing Audrie’s story and echoing Audrie’s story, and to us, it kinda, in our minds, as story-makers, kinda one story, so speak. And that’s how we felt strongly about calling the film Audrie & Daisy.

Did the people that viewed the videotape testify to Daisy Coleman’s state of consciousness on the tape during the incident?

Jon: Not that we know of.

Were Matt Barnett and Jordan Zech asked to participate and give their side of events in the documentary?

Bonni: Yes. We did. Yes.

What was their response?

Bonni: We got a response from their lawyers that they were not going to participate.

Did Daisy Coleman’s family consider bringing a civil suit against Matt and the other people involved?

Jon: We actually don’t know the answer to that.

In the film, it showed Delaney Henderson reaching out to Daisy Coleman so that Daisy knew that she wasn’t alone. Has Daisy reached out to girls in a similar fashion?

Yeah, Definitely. She has become an active member of the organization, the group that you see of girls meeting at the end of the film, called PAVE. P.A.V.E. and that is specifically an organization for girls that have been sexually assaulted who want to support other girls. And in fact, Daisy does a lot of work right now with other girls who are interested in trying to find some support.

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Rollo Tomasi

A Political Science and MBA grad who started FilmBook during an eCommerce B-School course in 2008. Cinema and TV addict. Former writer at Empire Movies, Blogcritics, and Alternative Film Guide. In addition to writing for FilmBook, he also edits the copy published on the website, manages its writing staff, manages the back-end operations, site finances, its social network accounts, and works with publicists, actors, and companies on press coverage and promotions. He has also created and Trending

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