Dawn Porter exclusive

Dawn Porter

Criminal Justice System Reformer, Attorney, and Gideon's Army Filmmaker

Why Dawn Porter?

Porter is an attorney, civil justice crusader and an award-winning documentary filmmaker.

She explains the deficiencies of the U.S. criminal justice system and what it takes to maintain the passion and commitment to be a public defender.

"Gideon's Army," which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, won the 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Documentary films, an award for best editing, and was nominated for an Emmy.

Fee Range: (BELOW $10,000)

About Dawn Porter

Twelve million people are arrested in the United States each year and millions of those cases will proceed through the criminal justice system. Most will be represented by public defenders; lawyers who represent low income people accused of crimes. Often these lawyers receive little or no training, resources or support. What does that mean for our system of justice?

Lawyer turned filmmaker Dawn Porter spent three and a half years following three public defenders working in the deep south. The result was Gideon's Army, a feature documentary about their work.

Porter founded Trilogy Films and both produced and directed Gideon's Army, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and aired on HBO Documentary Films in July 2013. The film received the 2014 Ridenhour Prize for Documentary films and won an award for best editing.

As an alumnus of the Tribeca All Access program, Porter won the 2011 juried Creative Promise Award for Gideon's Army. Realscreen named Porter one of their 2012 Doc Hot Shots 15 emerging directors to watch. Other Trilogy projects include Spies of Mississippi for ARTE Germany and PBS.

Before becoming a filmmaker, she was the Director of News Standards and Practices at ABC News, and Vice President of Standards and Practices at A&E Networks. Porter is a graduate of Swarthmore College and the Georgetown University Law Center. She was a practicing attorney at Baker & Hostetler and ABC Television Networks before beginning her film career.


  • Defending America in the Age of Mass Incarceration
    America imprisons more people than any other industrialized nation in the world. The overwhelming majority of those who are arrested qualify for free legal representation from one of the nation's 15000 public defenders. But these legal officers are struggling to keep up as more and more people are arrested each year. Dawn Porter spent almost four years making a film about three remarkable public defenders on the front lines of a culture of mass incarceration. She shares her insights into the criminal justice system from this unique vantage point, that of the accused and those who represent them.

  • Spies of Mississippi
    Based on her 2012 film Spies of Mississippi, Dawn Porter tells audiences the story of a secret spy agency formed by the state of Mississippi to preserve segregation and maintain white supremacy. The anti-civil rights organization was hidden in plain sight in an unassuming office in the Mississippi State Capitol. Funded with taxpayer dollars and granted extraordinary latitude to carry out its mission, the Commission evolved from a propaganda machine into a full blown spy operation. This wealth of first person primary historical material guides us through one of the most fascinating and yet little known stories of America's quest for civil rights.

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