Sundance 2016 Women Directors: Meet Dawn Porter – ‘Trapped’

Sundance 2016 Women Directors: Meet Dawn Porter - 'Trapped'

Dawn Porter is an award-winning filmmaker whose 2013 documentary, "Gideon’s Army," won the Sundance Film Festival Editing Award, the Tribeca All Access Creative Promise Award and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and an Emmy. Porter’s other films include "Spies of Mississippi" and "Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper," a documentary film chronicling President Obama’s program to help young men and boys of color succeed. Prior to her work as a filmmaker, Porter was director of standards and practices at ABC News and vice president of standards and practices at A&E Television Networks. She graduated from Swarthmore College and Georgetown Law Center and practiced law at the firm of Baker & Hostetler for five years. (Press materials)

"Trapped" will premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 24.

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

DP: "Trapped" is a feature documentary about abortion laws that seem harmless but are actually an end run around the Constitution and an effort to close abortion clinics across America.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

DP: Like many people, I believed that Roe v. Wade would protect access to safe and legal abortion. I had no idea what havoc these laws are causing across the country.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

DP: Everything was a challenge. Convincing many people to appear on camera was hard — it is dangerous to be an abortion provider, and providers are very careful, as they should be. Following active litigation is hard — lawyers don’t always like pesky filmmakers! And then there were many moving parts to the story, so figuring out the narrative threat to a story that is unfolding around you is challenging.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

DP: That they cannot be complacent. I love the line from one of the clinic owners, who says something to the effect of, "No one ever thinks they are going to need an abortion." I want people to think about what they would do if the clinics around them were closed.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

DP: The same advice for any director — figure out what you want to say and keep asking yourself if you are saying it. Be decisive but also respectful of the people you are collaborating with, and pick people you enjoy working with. It’s always a long and involved process making a film.

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and your work?

DP: That I’m more lawyer than filmmaker.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

DP: A combination of grants, private investment and a great Kickstarter. We raised the bulk of the funds for this film through private donations.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

DP: Oh, I can’t pick one! Dee Rees’s "Pariah," Kasi Lemmons’s "Eve’s Bayou," Kathryn Bigelow’s "The Hurt Locker," Julie Dash’s "Daughters of the Dust," Shola Lynch’s "Free Angela and All Political Prisoners" and Ava DuVernay’s "Middle of Nowhere." Each of these films is beautifully and artistically composed and constructed and illuminates the human experience from a little-seen vantage point. I appreciate having those directors making those editorial decisions.

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