Private Project

John Lewis Makes Good Trouble

As a teenager, a young John Lewis wrote to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., asking for help integrating segregated Troy State University in Troy, Alabama. King wanted to meet ‘the boy from Troy’ and send him a round trip bus ticket. From that meeting, Lewis would go on to become one of King’s most important deputies, leading dangerous sit-ins to integrate Nashville lunch counters, organizing Freedom Rides that left him beaten, bloodied and jailed, and standing at the front line as young and old attempted to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Lewis’ work is not over. Today he continues to work to protect the right to vote as a sitting Member of Congress. The boy from Troy could not know that some of his most important work would come as he approaches his 80th birthday when the right to vote faces the most significant challenges since the segregated days of Jim Crow.

  • Dawn Porter
    Bobby Kennedy for President, Trapped, Gideon's Army, Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper, Spies of Mississippi
  • Dawn Porter
    Bobby Kennedy For President, Trapped, Gideon's Army, Rise: Promise of my Brother's Keeper
  • Laura Michalchyshyn
    Bobby Kennedy for President, Momentum Generation, The March
  • CNN Films, Courtney Sexton
    RBG, Three Identical Strangers, Blackfish
  • AGC, Stuart Ford
    Ask Doctor Ruth, Fahrenheit 11/9
  • Color Farm Media, Erika Alexander & Ben Arnon
  • Magnolia Pictures, Dori Begley
  • Participant Media, Diane Weyermann
  • TIME Studios, Ian Orefice & Mike Beck
  • John Lewis
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    documentary, news
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    January 3, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    1,800,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Distribution Information
  • CNN Films
    Country: United States
    Rights: Internet, Video on Demand, Pay Per View, Airline, Free TV, Paid TV
    Country: Canada
    Rights: Internet, Video on Demand, Pay Per View, Airline, Free TV, Paid TV
  • AGC Studios
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: All Rights
  • Magnolia Pictures / Participant Media
    Country: United States
    Rights: Theatrical
    Country: Canada
    Rights: Theatrical
  • TIME Studios
Director Biography - Dawn Porter

Dawn Porter is an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has appeared on HBO, PBS, Discovery, and Netflix among others. Her most recent work is a four-part archive based documentary Bobby Kennedy for President, which aired on Netflix in 2018.
A two-time Sundance festival Director, her film Trapped exploring laws regulating abortion clinics in the South won a special jury social-impact prize at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. It also won a Peabody and numerous other awards.
Her 2013 Emmy nominated documentary Gideon's Army premiered on HBO and won the editing award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Gideon’s Army was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and received numerous other prizes including the Ridenhour Prize.
Dawn also directed and produced Spies of Mississippi, a critically-acclaimed historical documentary that was part of the Independent Lens series on PBS; Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper, a film for Discovery Channel chronicling President Obama’s program to help young men of color succeed. She interviewed President Obama for the film.
Dawn has been commissioned to create films for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Time and Essence Magazines, The New York Times Op Docs, and Amazon. Her work has received generous support from the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute, Sundance Film Institute, Chicken & Egg Pictures and other esteemed organizations. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Directors Guild of America.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I was curious about how we understand the Civil Rights heroes of yesterday. For too many of us, I fear they remain calcified, historical images existing only in the hazy memories of imagination. The fragmented images of their bold sacrifices are at once familiar and yet unknown, images of humans being beaten and bloodied are so deeply burned into our collective consciousness that we forget they are actual people. What becomes of a man like John Lewis who was famously beaten on a bridge in Selma while marching peacefully for the right to vote? He is not just a photograph, he is still here. Still working, still marching, still organizing, still leading.

So I wanted to explore the world he lived in, and juxtapose that world with his work today. The images and the brutality are breathtaking. But what is often overlooked, is the methodical planning and resiliency it took for those young people to continue their work. The young men and women marching and demonstrating in the South did not stage spontaneous uprisings, they soberly planned their moves. They did not always agree. Some called for confrontation in the face of a violent enemy. But Lewis forged a different path, a path of non-violence and understanding. Perhaps this is why Lewis is so well suited to Congress. His vision, not his bravery, may actually be his superpower. Lasting change requires the boldness to envision a future that wholly departs from the past. Young John Lewis never having seen an integrated school, lunch counter, or mode of public accommodation had to imagine it first.

He still imagines a better world, and he shares that vision with the next generation of leaders, who like those of a generation before them are impatient with the way things are. Lewis now uses his position as a United States Congressman to steadily, insistently and patiently insist America do what is right. He conducts hearings on government corruption, campaigns for the next generation of leaders and even leads sit ins on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Through it all, he acts with a quiet determination that the sacrifices are worth the trouble. They are Good Trouble, Necessary Trouble.