In June 2019, POV asked Roll Red Roll filmmaker Nancy Schwartzman what's happened since the cameras stopped rolling.
Two women featured in Roll Red Roll played major roles in investigating and publishing the story in the media. Where are Alexandria Goddard and Rachel Dissell now, and what have they been doing?
Alexandria is doing well living in Columbus, OH. She continues to blog alongside her work as a consultant and is presenting on the subjects explored in the film at conferences, for law enforcement departments and students. Rachel continues to do incredible investigative reporting for The Plain Dealer covering corruption, violence against women and children, juvenile justice, and most recently the Cleveland lead poisoning crisis. They are both such fierce advocates for survivors. It’s been incredible working with them after the film’s release to further the conversation around violence prevention through screenings and panels.
What is it like as a filmmaker dealing with such a sensitive subject matter and a case that was so heavily covered in the media? How did you become involved with telling this story?
I’ve been an activist in the anti-violence movement for many years using film, interactive media and technology. While this is a difficult subject it’s a passion of mine, to harness stories to shine a light and then ultimately transform the status quo.
As a survivor myself, I’d explored at length coming to terms with my own assault in my first film The Line (2010) and toured the country discussing my technology work with Circle of 6. When the Steubenville story broke, contacts on the internet started sending me information urging me to do something. There are so many stories about rape—both well known and hidden—so why this one? For this film, ultimately it was the public nature of the crime, the social media documentation and the rare ability to tell a story about rape that focused on the perpetrators, bystanders and witnesses. From the beginning, I wanted to make a film about rape and sexual violence that did not center around or burden the victim. By shifting the lens in this way, I wanted to shift the conversation about rape culture and community accountability.
We've seen how social media and technology deeply affected those involved in the Steubenville case. What are your own views on social media and its impact on gender-based violence today?
I believe social media is essentially neutral when not in the surveillance/data mining or anti-democracy contexts. It’s how we use it that reflects back on our culture. Does social media shame, bully and dehumanize? Or is it to rally, connect, support or investigate? All aspects were used in the case and explored in Roll Red Roll . I was trying to understand the language and voice of rape culture – and it crystallized in the social media. How do we brag, pretend, flex or even hide online? How are our we emboldened to say things online that we’d never say IRL?
I’m obsessed with studying and comparing online personas with offline behavior. We live in a culture where the online discourse is coarse, crude and violent, where there is no line below which trolls will not cross. So how we talk about women, people of color, or the LBGTQ community online matters. Dehumanizing language matters. Violence online is inextricable from real-world violence.
What have the discussions among Steubenville community members been like since the release of Roll Red Roll?
The responses coming out of Steubenville have been incredible. We’ve received letters from people in the film and beyond- survivors, families, athletes, even the Mayor- saying the film is starting much-needed conversations in their community. One former Steubenville High School football player responded, “Not gonna lie it hurt cause it’s my hometown…that being said I hope this film raises awareness. Rape culture/sexual assault has no excuse no matter what popularity an organization has.” We are concerned about those who are invested in denying the severity of rape and this crime in particular, but the overall response has been overwhelmingly positive. I get so excited when I hear from parents who tell me they watched the film with their kids and are having tough but necessary conversations about rape culture.
What are you working on now?
I am continuing my work using the Roll Red Roll impact campaign to engage men and boys around the country to become allies and change-makers in the movement to end rape culture and sexual violence. As for upcoming projects, I’m developing several projects in a variety of formats that grapple with the issues that continue to fascinate me, such as sexuality, youth culture and feminism and its collisions and intersections with technology.