Dawn Porter directing documentary about Cirque du Soleil’s comeback

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Filmmaker Dawn Porter [Photo by Henny Garfunkel, Courtesy Trilogy Films]

Director Dawn Porter is joining forces with MGM Television to produce a feature documentary about Cirque du Soleil as the live entertainment company makes a comeback after the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to shutter operations and declare bankruptcy.

The documentary will provide a behind-the-scenes look at Cirque du Soleil’s resurgence after the most difficult period in the global circus’ history, Deadline reports.

“Like so many people, I have always been enthralled with the beauty and mystery of Cirque du Soleil and fascinated with the extraordinarily talented people who make the seemingly impossible come to life. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to document Cirque’s biggest challenge, a return to the stage after one of the world’s greatest crises,” Porter said in a statement.

“The performers, cast, company, and crew are giving their all to make this the biggest premiere of their careers. This is a magnificent story and I’m so grateful to be able to tell it.”

Porter is directing and executive producing the new project, with her production company Trilogy Films and partner Industrial Media providing production services.

Filming on the project took place leading up to the July 1 opening night for Cirque du Soleil’s show “O” as it returned to the stage at Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, according to Deadline.

“We are thrilled to have MGM on board to capture this once-in-a lifetime moment in Cirque du Soleil’s history,” said Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, in a statement. “The return of ‘O’ is marking the long-awaited return of live entertainment and solidifies the future of our company.”

For the first time in its 37-year history, Cirque du Soleil granted Porter and her team exclusive access not only to the executives making decisions behind the scenes but also to the acrobats and divers performing in the water show.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to document this incredible chapter in Cirque du Soleil’s story. Chronicling the re-opening of the aquatic ‘O’ show brings MGM back to its roots, as it was 75 years ago that the studio produced the first ‘Aqua Musicals’ with Esther Williams,” said Mark Burnett, MGM’s Chairman of Worldwide Television, in a statement.

Like all live productions, “O” was walloped by COVID-19. Before the pandemic, Cirque du Soleil had performed 52,000 shows for more than 70 million people in Vegas as well as to audiences around the world, according to Deadline.

The Quebec-based global powerhouse was forced to shut down productions in China, Italy and the United States, among other countries, and filed for bankruptcy protection, Reuters reports.

Prior to the pandemic, the entertainment company had 44 performances running worldwide and generated about $1 billion in annual revenues from shows. Show cancellations in 2020 led the company to permanently or temporarily lay off 95% of workers.

Now, Porter – whose documentaries include “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” “The Way I See It” and “Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer” – is chronicling Cirque du Soleil’s comeback.

“This film is a collaboration of incredible talent. Cirque du Soleil are the masters of theatrics and acrobatics, and Dawn Porter is a gifted director who brings the personal stories and struggles of these performers to center stage. Intermission is definitely over,” said Barry Poznick, MGM’s President of MGM Television and Orion Television, in a statement.

— BAM

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