On Friday (January 23), a documentary about the epidemic of sexual assaults on campuses, and the failure to prosecute these crimes, took the Sundance Film Festival by storm. But for those who weren't lucky enough to attend the premiere screening of "The Hunting Ground," it was a tweet by Lady Gaga -- who is a rape survivor herself -- that "broke the Internet."
"Recorded a song w/ amazing @Diane_Warren for very important doc #TheHuntingGround that premieres at Sundance today! Congrats 2 all involved!," Gaga wrote. "The film documents the lives of young people affected by rape. Our song is called "Till It Happens To You."
MTV News has officially set up shop at the festival, so we took the opportunity to chat with "The Hunting Ground" director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering to get the scoop on how this emotional collaboration came to pass.
"The desire or aspiration was to have someone of major importance contribute a song to the film, because we thought that that would help the cause and help publicity," Ziering explained. "We have this amazing executive producer named Paul Blavin, and I told him that this was what we wanted, but we didn’t really have the bandwidth to pursue it. So he said, ‘I’m on it.’ He met with a fabulous music supervisor named Bonnie Greenberg, and she immediately brought the project to Diane Warren. Diane Warren was incredibly moved by what we were doing, and she said, ‘I cannot not write a song for you. And not only can I not not write a song for this movie, I’m going to gift it to you.'"
After that, Warren brought the song to Lady Gaga, who added her own spin to the collaboration. Then, Warren and Gaga presented "Till It Happens To You" to Dick and Ziering and Greenberg, and the gang worked as a team to figure out where the song would work in the documentary. They ended up using one version in the movie and another for the end credits, which Ziering says works to the film's advantage.
"[When it plays], you’re watching one of our lead subjects, who is an assault survivor, and she’s just reflecting on the impact of the trauma, and walking around campus," she said. "The song just beautifully and hauntingly and poignantly underlines her pain, in a way that words alone couldn’t do."
"Lady Gaga recently came out as an assault survivor, so to write a song... to have a song with her signing it, singing ‘you don’t know what it’s like until it happens to you,’ you know the voice of that person has experienced very similar things to what our subjects have experienced," Dick added. "I think that adds a deeper level to the music."
Also, having Gaga on board has definitely helped spread publicity for the groundbreaking documentary, which will be released in theaters by RADiUS on March 20.
"I think it’s huge, right?" Ziering concluded. "[Lady Gaga] brings a whole other demographic. Anyone who has that kind of platform to reach all sorts of people that maybe would not necessarily be inclined to be interested in your issue... it’s incredible. She has such a huge group of loyal followers that really span different generations. It’s just an amazing gift."
"The Hunting Ground" is currently playing at the Sundance Film Festival.