Produced with Color Farm Media and AGC Studios
Dawn Porter to direct verité film on civil rights icon for 2020
Following the successes of RBG, THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS, and APOLLO 11, CNN Films announced today that it has partnered with Trilogy Films and Color Farm Media to develop a documentary feature about John Robert Lewis. Directed by Dawn Porter (Gideon’s Army), the film will explore the extraordinary life of the civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman. CNN Films will retain North American broadcast rights for the film. Other U.S. rights for the film, including theatrical distribution, remain available. AGC Studios is co-financing and controls international rights that will be sold via its worldwide sales subsidiary, AGC International.
The untitled film is being produced by Porter and Laura Michalchyshyn for Trilogy Films, with Erika Alexander and Ben Arnon of Color Farm Media. The executive producers are Amy Entelis and Courtney Sexton for CNN Films; and Stuart Ford and Rachel Traub for AGC Studios.
Porter started her year of principal photography with the Congressman in September 2018, as he began an exhaustive campaign schedule for himself and others in advance of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections and continued through the first year of the 116th Congress. Her cameras followed a modern political thriller that unfolded as the nation lurched towards a record-setting government shutdown, and will continue to follow the Congressman through 2019. Ultimately, using interviews and archival footage, the film will illustrate how Lewis’ 60+ years of legendary social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, healthcare reform, and immigration, has prepared him for today.
Porter’s present-day interviews with Lewis, now 79 years old, will explore his childhood experiences, his inspiring family, and his fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1957. Lewis, whom King nicknamed ‘the Boy from Troy,’ in recognition of Lewis’ preternatural oratory and commitment to social justice, would go on to become one of King’s most trusted contemporaries, and, as the then-chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lewis was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
“John Lewis is a national treasure whose leadership paved the way for a generation. In much the same way as his life and work has been shaped by great civil rights leaders, Congressman Lewis continues to serve the country, introducing legislation to protect our most fundamental rights. There has never been a more urgent need for the type of moral and compassionate leadership that he embodies. I am so honored to be directing this documentary for CNN Films, in partnership with AGC Studios, and am excited to show the world how John Lewis continues to make what he calls ‘Good Trouble,’” said Dawn Porter, founder of Trilogy Films and director of the feature.
In addition to her interviews with Lewis and his family, Porter’s primarily cinéma verité film will also include interviews with political leaders, Congressional colleagues, and other people who figure prominently in his life. Lewis’ speeches and achievements will be highlighted through rare and recently-discovered writings, insights from Lewis and people in his intimate circle, as well as visual and audio archival material that illuminate his continued influence on American culture and Congress.
“CNN Films is honored to be a part of telling Rep. John Lewis’ historic life through Dawn’s film,” said Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, and Courtney Sexton, vice president for CNN Films, both executive producers for the film. “We hope generations to come will learn from Mr. Lewis’ remarkable American story.”
CNN Films is behind the Academy Award®-nominated RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen; Tim Wardle’s lauded THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS; and Todd Douglas Miller’s APOLLO 11, soon to be broadcast as a CNN Films documentary, following its already record-setting theatrical run. LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival. Frédéric Tcheng’s HALSTON, which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, also screened at Tribeca in 2019.
The film about John Lewis marks the third collaboration between CNN Worldwide and producer Laura Michalchyshyn. Their previous collaborations include the CNN Original Series Chicagoland (2014), and Death Row Stories, now approaching its fourth season as an HLN Originals Series.
The deal announced today was negotiated by Stacey Wolf, vice president of business affairs, and Kelly MacLanahan, assistant general counsel, for CNN Worldwide on behalf of CNN Films. Victoria Cook of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz represented the filmmakers.
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About Trilogy Films
Dawn Porter’s Emmy®-nominated, Peabody-winning Trilogy Films is a production company that specializes in creating award-winning, feature-length documentaries and series. Both of her feature films premiered in competition at Sundance Film Festival and received juried awards. Trilogy also works with businesses and nonprofit organizations to create media that communicates big ideas in smart ways.
About CNN Films
CNN Films produces and acquires documentary feature and short films for theatrical and festival exhibition and distribution across CNN’s multiple platforms. Amy Entelis, executive vice president of talent and content development, oversees the strategy for CNN Films; Courtney Sexton, vice president for CNN Films, works day-to-day with filmmakers to oversee projects. For more information about CNN Films, please visit www.CNN.com/CNNFilms and follow @CNNFilms via Twitter. Recent acclaimed CNN Films include RBG, directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen; LOVE, GILDA, directed by Lisa D’Apolito; American Jail, directed by Roger Ross Williams; Three Identical Strangers, directed by Tim Wardle; and APOLLO 11, directed by Todd Douglas Miller and currently in theaters.
About AGC Studios
AGC Studios was founded and launched by Chairman and CEO Stuart Ford in February 2018 as a platform to develop, produce, finance, and globally license a diverse portfolio of feature films, scripted, unscripted and factual television, digital, and musical content from its dual headquarters in Los Angeles and London. The new studio’s Hollywood output has a wide-ranging multicultural focus, designed for exploitation across an array of global platforms including major studio partnerships, streaming platforms, traditional broadcast and cable television networks and independent distributors, both in the US and internationally. AGC Studios is initially-backed by three key investors: Latin American private asset management firm MediaNet Partners; Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Symantec CEO and founder and chairman of Fibonacci Films, Greg Clark; and Image Nation Abu Dhabi, one of the leading media and entertainment companies in the Arabic-speaking world. Chief Operating Officer Miguel Palos is also a stakeholder in and co-founder of the business with Ford.
About Color Farm Media
Color Farm Media is a 21st century entertainment, innovation, and social impact company. Color Farm’s mission is to create greater equity, inclusion, and diversity in media, by empowering overlooked and undervalued voices. Color Farm is currently developing several projects for film, television, and streaming platforms. Color Farm’s co-founders are actress/writer/producer, Erika Alexander, and former Google executive and tech entrepreneur, Ben Arnon. www.colorfarmmedia.com