Dawn Porter (filmmaker)

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Dawn Porter
DAWN PORTER HEADSHOT HiRES 4256x2832pixels.jpg
Porter on January 3, 2014
EducationBronx High School of Science
Swarthmore College (1988)
Georgetown University Law Center
OccupationFilm director
EmployerTrilogy Films

Dawn Porter is an American documentary filmmaker and founder of production company Trilogy Films.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Porter is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, Swarthmore College (in 1988) and Georgetown University Law School. Trained as an attorney, she became a filmmaker and financed her first film with assistance from the Ford Foundation.[2]


Porter started her film career by working as executive producer for various films. In 2009, she executive-produced director Jon Bowermaster's Terra Antarctica, Re-Discovering the Seventh Continent, a 49-minute documentary exploring the Antarctica Peninsula and its evolution. In 2009, she also co-executive produced two other films: Serious Moonlight, and What Would Darwin Think? Man v. Nature in the Galapagos. In 2011, she co-executive produced The Green, a romantic drama feature film directed by Steven Williford.

Porter's directorial debut was the 2013 documentary film Gideon's Army,[3] about three black public defenders working in the South America. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013, where it won the festival's "Documentary Editing Award".[4] The film also won the Creative Promise Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.[5] Gideon’s Army premiered on HBO in July 2013,[6] and was later nominated for an Emmy Award,[7] and an Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary Feature. The film also won the Ridenhour Award for best documentary film in 2014.

Porter's second film project was Spies of Mississippi,[3] which debuted on PBS in 2014. It is 53-minute documentary shot in black and white colour about Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission (MSSC) efforts to preserve segregation during the 1950s and 1960s, including the use of an extensive spy network and violent cover-ups.[8] The film was written by Rick Bowers and directed by Porter.

Trapped, Porter's third film, premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2016. It shows the impact of anti-abortion laws on abortion providers in the South along with chronicling the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi.[9] Porter says she decided it was her duty to make this film, after witnessing there was only one abortion clinic in the entire state of Mississippi.[3] The title of the documentary was derived from the term TRAP Laws ("Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers"), which have led to the closure of hundreds of southern US clinics mainly in areas that service poor women and women of color.[10] Due to the film's potent subject matter on abortion, police were hired to stand guard outside screenings, and to check for weapons at the door.[3]

She also produced a biography of Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli for the Cooking Channel.[citation needed][11]


Year Film Director Producer
2013 Gideon's Army Yes Yes
2014 Spies of Mississippi Yes Yes
2016 Trapped Yes Yes
2020 John Lewis: Good Trouble Yes Yes
2020 The Way I See It Yes Yes


  1. ^ "Trilogy Films".
  2. ^ "Dawn Porter '88". Swarthmore College. 2011. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d Houston, Shannon M. (February 3, 2016). "10 Black Directors to Watch in 2016". Paste. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  4. ^ "Gideon's Army". Sundance. 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  5. ^ "Awards".
  6. ^ "Gideon's Army". HBO. 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  7. ^ "Nominees announced for the 35th annual news and documentary Emmy awards". Emmy Online. July 15, 2014. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  8. ^ Phillips, Craig (February 7, 2014), "Spies of Mississippi: Filmmaker Dawn Porter Tells Shocking Story", Independent Lens, PBS.
  9. ^ ""Trapped": New film follows providers who are fighting to keep abortion accessible in the South". Democracy Now!. January 25, 2016. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  10. ^ Van Syckle, Katie (January 25, 2016). "Abortion providers secretly arrive at Sundance to support the documentary Trapped". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  11. ^ "Chefography, Cooking Channel Alex Guarnaschelli". Retrieved 2019. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

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