Dawn Porter is an award-winning screenwriter and producer. His work has been featured on HBO, Netflix, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, MTV Films and other platforms. Porter’s 2016 film “Trapped,” which explores the laws governing abortion clinics in the South, won the Special Jury Prize for Social Impact at the Sundance Film Festival and a Peabody Award. His other credits include “37 Words”, “The Way I See It”, “John Lewis: Good Trouble”, and “Gideon’s Army”. She is a recipient of the 2022 Critics Choice Documentary Awards Impact Award and is a winner of the 2022 Gracies Leadership Awards.

“Cirque du Soleil: Without a Net” screens at the 2022 DOC NYC Film Festival, which runs from November 9-27.

W&H: Describe the film in your own words.

DP: “Cirque du Soleil: Sans filet” is an extraordinary return to the brink of collapse. Cirque almost did not survive the pandemic. Their staff experienced significant hardship and isolation. A year later, the reopening of live performance at large was uncertain but it was also too big to let go. We went behind the scenes of “O”, Cirque’s most popular show, and filmed for two months while the cast and crew worked tirelessly to piece together their show. What we discovered was a story full of uncertainty but also full of hope and resilience.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

DP: I’m a news junkie, and a year into the pandemic I was completely exhausted by the state of the world. I wanted to focus on something else. I have always been fascinated by the beauty and artistry of Circus and jumped at the chance to explore their world.

W&H: What do you want people to think after seeing the film?

DP: One thing I thought about a lot while making this film was the idea of ​​connection. We’ve all lost a sense of connection at some point during the pandemic. Many are still looking for it. What about the in-person gathering that cannot be replicated? An indescribable and yet essential feeling. The experience of sitting in a theater and watching a Cirque du Soleil show has everything to do with that connection – between the performers on stage, the crew in the background, and the audience seated in their seats. I hope this movie can help us remember how magical it is when we come together.

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

DP: Filming every day for two months was both a blessing and a curse. Think of how visual a Cirque show is – people literally jumping around while flying through the air. “O” is a water-based show, so there are intricate and intricate details that unfold both above and below the surface. We filmed everything, from several angles, rehearsal after rehearsal, day after day. We were lucky enough to capture hours and hours of stunning footage. But when it came to post-production, it was a challenge to sift through the volume of footage to find the best moments.

W&H: How did you finance your film? Share some thoughts on how you made the film.

DP: It’s private funding.

W&H: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

DP: I felt I had something to say.

W&H: What is the best and worst advice you have received?

DP: Best advice: don’t be discouraged by your goals as long as you know who you are. If you know who you are and what you want, your inner voice is a good guide.

Worst advice: Buy cryptos! I don’t – I don’t buy things that I don’t understand.

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

DP: My advice for female directors is the same as for any director: figure out what you want to say and keep asking yourself if you’re saying it.

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

DP: “The Oath” by Laura Poitras. It’s so honest.

W&H: What responsibilities, if any, do you think storytellers face in the tumult around the world, from the pandemic to the loss of abortion rights and systemic violence?

DP: I think it goes without saying that documentary storytellers are driven by a desire to right wrongs and confront injustice. But at this point, the field is crowded and the audience is faced with information overload. We have a responsibility to make sure that we create stories that go beyond just showing the terrible thing that exists in the world: what else can we say with our story?

W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people of color on and off screen and reinforcing — and creating — negative stereotypes. In your opinion, what measures should be taken to make Hollywood and/or the world of docs more inclusive?

DP: There are so many people involved in making a movie – executives, financiers, directors, agents, writers, producers, DPs, etc. The decisions each of them makes escalate and can have a huge impact on the stories being told, and by whom. The more people of color we have in decision-making positions across the industry, the better equipped we are to tell authentic stories.