‘Good Trouble’ filmmakers participate in panel for middle, upper school students


Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

The promotional poster for the 2020 documentary “Good Trouble.” Congressman and voting rights advocate John Lewis was able to view the film before his death on July 17 of this year.

By Rio Hundley, Features Editor

The country is expecting one of the highest rates of voter turnout as the 2020 presidential election season comes to its end this week. This comes just a few months after the death of civil rights activist John Lewis, known for his activism around voting rights. On July 4, filmmakers Dawn Porter and Laura Michalchyshyn released “Good Trouble,” a film centered on the Georgia representative’s life and activism.

On Tuesday, Oct. 27, “Good Trouble” producer Michalchyshyn and editor Jessica Congdon visited the Archer community and participated in a virtual panel viewed by the middle and upper school. Both women have experience in documentary filmmaking, particularly centered on activism.

“It was just an honor to be working on this film. I think whenever you get a chance to … work on a project like this I always tell people it’s kind of like doing a dissertation,” Congdon said. “You just steep yourself in so much information over the course of a year and as Congressman Lewis says, you get the feeling of walking in somebody’s shoes.”

However, “Good Trouble” was unique because, in Michalchyshyn’s words, “[Lewis] chose us.”

“[Lewis] had a lot of people ask him to make a film. When Erika [Alexander], Dawn and I embarked on this, [Lewis] immediately turned to Dawn and said, ‘You’re my documentary team, you are my team,'” Michalchysyn said. “So, we were very honored but I do believe it wasn’t just us choosing him, he chose us to tell his story and we’ve held that in very, very precious and high regard.”

Although Congdon came into the film in post-production, she too had a role in shaping the final product.

“In documentaries you’re exploring where the story happens in the editing room. There’s no script, so you’re really writing and discovering it as the story is unfolding in the filming,” Congdon said. “I was just being handed hours upon hours of footage and that’s where the story had come to life.”

Senior and panel attendee Caterina Cajrati Mesmer Nobili commented on the importance of making such a film.

“It was great to see that there are people so dedicated to documenting the story of such important figures like John Lewis,” Nobili said. “I really enjoyed the panel.”

According to Michalchyshyn, over 25,000 people have seen “Good Trouble,” including Lewis himself before his death on July 17, 2020.

“He was very private about his personal life [and] he didn’t want anyone to worry about him,” Michalchyshyn said. “I can’t help sometimes wonder maybe he knew something was happening, and he really wanted this documentary to sort of be a message to America, and to young people about dedication and democracy and how we all have to show up.”

Michalchyshyn believes that the central message of “Good Trouble,” and of Lewis’ life of activism, is essential to honoring his memory.

“We have to get into good trouble because that’s really what [John Lewis] was about. He deflected any attention off of himself,” Michalchyshyn said. “He was passing the torch on. He loved being around young people because he really believed you are the future of this country, and of our democracy.”