During the final games of his high school basketball season, Tom Irvin is faced with an encounter of sexual misconduct. An affair that leaves Tom losing grip with reality and struggling to regain his self-identity.
Outcast from the basketball team, Tom longs for acceptance amongst his teammates. After several altercations with Zaac Manning, the starting forward and captain, Tom approaches his coach Grady Parsons about leaving the team. Through confiding in Parsons, Tom is able to find some grounding, and a friendship that he and Parsons had both been searching for.
One evening, after reaching out to Parsons for help, Tom is brought into Parsons’ home where this newly formed friendship leads into inappropriate circumstances.
Confused and misguided, Tom isolates himself even further. Naive and unaware that what has happened was not a form of love or connection. It isn't until his conflict with Zaac escalates during the final game of the season, where the truth about Coach Grady is unraveled.
Tom and Zaac face moments of jealousy and betrayal, and through their struggle are able to unite against this tragedy...
I was 11 when I experienced sexual abuse for the first time, by a good friend's older brother. I have only starting talking about it transparently in the last year. Too often, cases of abuse get stifled and buried deep down, for fear of embarrassment and guilt, my case being an example. You think you're alone in it. And, when you're so young, you have no experience to yet draw from. You're navigating young adulthood, and for all you know, the abuse could be "normal".
Up until last year, when this story came to my mind, I would look back on that time in my life filled with regret; wishing I had spoken up and wishing my abuser would have faced consequences of his actions. With this story, I have found my voice.
We are born with the innate feeling of when something feels not right, and too often we ignore that instinct for fear of looking bad. Even when I was 11 I had a strong gut instinct that something was wrong, but did not have the self-awareness to understand. In speaking up about this, I have come to an overwhelming epiphany that I am not alone. I want this story to empower victims and those witness to them to speak up and report incidents of abuse.
Brock Davis Mitchell
As humans there is an innate desire for connection, so when this is stifled because of any insecurities or the lack of confidence in someone listening, problems can be pushed into the deep recesses of one’s identity.
This was a major touch stone when Sarah approached me with this story about Tom. Not only was it a story about toxic masculinity and the deep struggle with ego, but it was too her story. It was Sarah’s way of finally expressing what she felt she couldn’t so many years ago. My role at that point, throughout the rest of the production, and for years to come was to listen. Listen and stand beside her and all the other survivors of abuse.
This story is a true testament of her strength and bravery.
When developing the script, Sarah and I settled on the backdrop of a small town, which brought along my story as well. It became my gateway into understanding how these instances can happen and go untold. We were able to implement specific conversations and themes into the film from a young man’s point of view. From insecure locker room talk to what it means to be a “man”.
With the help of our brave cast, talented crew, and amazing backing support “A Gentleman” was created in hopes to bring awareness and courage to those who need it, with every day on set filled with truly emotional moments of growth with one another. And since the final day of production people have been sharing their personal stories, further illustrating that all it takes is seeing that there is a venue for them to share their story - helping to end these cyclical patterns.
On OCTOBER 20th 2018 A Gentleman premiered to over 350 attendees in Calgary, raising over $4500 for the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre, Kids Help Phone, and NextGenMen.
“Thank you so much to everyone who has supported this film from development through to the screening. Without you we wouldn’t have got to where we are today. Every single person in our lives and community pushed us to dig deeper, and to give this story everything we’ve got. And with the same amount of passion, sweat, and tears from all our cast and crew we told as truthful of a story as we could. - We hope to share this story even further, with screenings across Canada alongside local foundations to raise awareness around sexual abuse and misconduct.” - Brock Davis Mitchell
Check back for future screening dates across Canada
If you suspect someone is being abused, or if you are not certain what to do with what you have seen or heard, call Alberta Children’s Services
For support in Southern Alberta contact Sheldon Kennedy Advocacy Centre
For more information
Sheldon Kennedy Advocacy Centre empowers those who are impacted by child abuse to lead healthy and productive lives by creating a community that responds collectively to child abuse. Their multi-disciplinary approach treats abused children, youth and their families; supports their recovery; seeks to stop the cycle of abuse and is dedicated to bringing perpetrators to justice. They assess, investigate, intervene, and provide therapy and support for child victims of sexual abuse and the most severe and complex cases of physical abuse and neglect.
For support across Canada:
Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only free, anonymous and bilingual professional counselling, information and volunteer support service for young people. They are available 24/7 by phone, Live Chat, and the Always There chat app.
Winning for “Best Actor” at the inaugural 2018 CSIF Stinger Awards, Samuel Duke stars as Tom Irvin. Actor best known for his work on Heartland (2011), and Olympus (2015).
A “man of the house” alongside his single mother, Tom is faced with the social expectations of masculinity, and his role within sport. Tom struggles to put on a mask, or an outer shell of athleticism in order to define his identity within his peers. Focussing on body image and physique in order to size himself up with the other players. Hiding within social norms and body expectations for a young man in the 21st century. Perfect hair and toned muscles are bred to be expected amongst teenagers of this generation.
This image of man is what leaves Tom unable to speak the truth around his encounters with Coach Grady. Tom is “supposed to be” strong - invincible, and never showing his vulnerability.
Samuel Duke plays this fragility with a strength in his eyes that expresses everything that Tom feels he verbally can't express.
Phillip Lewitski plays Zaac Manning, high school heart throb and captain of the Phoenix basketball team. He is the personification of these masculine social expectations, and the “All American”. Athletic in build, his identity is strictly defined by his image. The amount of weight he can lift, or what type of girlfriend he has, brings a level of entitlement. The pressures of what it is to be a “man” allows him to hide his insecurities and his toxic secret. He has become unpredictable, and somewhat menacing in defence, trying to hide within aggression and commanding authority.
Phillip Lewitski is a film, television, and stage actor who has been working professionally for over 10 years. Winning the provincial Drama Award at St. Helena theatre, Lewitski was enrolled at the Bishop Carroll Performing and Visual Arts Production. He spent years training at Storybook Theatre. Crediting Peter Bryant and Valorie Hubbard as his mentors, he has appeared in several independent film productions. Phillip Lewitski is best known for his work on Heartland (2015), Incontrol (2016), Dr. Face (2016), Lockdown (2016), and The Search (2017).
Coach Grady Parsons is bravely played by Murray Farnell, who took a human approach to this perceived darker role. Parsons is a veteran all-star college sports player that can be compared to an older version of Zaac’s character. Strong, stoic, demanding of respect. Looked upon by the community as a family man, but is unfortunately driven by the ego of toxic masculinity.
Parsons was never intended to be shown as someone with ulterior motives, but more so a broken man who is seeking connection and redemption. His role as a father, provider, and man have been challenged and scrutinized driving him to feel victimized - only to push back and grip onto what he thinks is still able to control.
Originally from Sonningdale, Saskatchewan, Farnell has followed a winding path to theatre (bartender, pilot, social support worker). An alumni of the Performance Training Ensemble at Prairie Theatre Exchange, Farnell’s film/television credits include Hell On Wheels (2016), Wynonna Earp (2016), It's Not My Fault and I Don't Care Anyway (2017), and Mind Blowing Breakthroughs (2014).
What initially got you both interested in being a part of this film?
Samuel Duke: When I first read the script I was taken aback, first of all just by the writing, the quality of the writing but also by how powerful the story is. It really drew me in. Initially we both were going to go out for both roles, we were both going to audition for both Zaac and Tom. Phil and I met up and decided we were going to self tape together, so we spent one very long day going through all the details and reading over the script very meticulously, going through the sides. And after talking about it we decided that I could only play Tom, and Phillip could only play Zaac. That was the only thing that made sense.
Phillip Lewitski: Once we began to really break down the characters and dive into the script it was pretty obvious to us that we had made the right decision as far as character selection went. When we started doing the self tape for the audition, it was amazing how much time had flown by just because of how invested we were in these characters and how much we were breaking and dissecting each little moment in the script. And we just became really attached to these characters. Once we sent off the audition it was almost mixed emotions because those characters almost became a part of us, and it was like detaching ourselves from something that we had created.
The film deals with extremely tough subject matter. Did that affect your decision in taking your roles at all?
S: When I was first offered the role of Tom I was very hesitant to accept it. Quite frankly put the role made me uncomfortable. Its something that was so far out of my comfort zone and so beyond anything I had ever thrown myself into. But after really thinking about it I realized that, thats exactly why I had to take this role. Because sexual abuse is something that is uncomfortable to talk about, no one wants to talk about it, but that’s why it has to be talked about.
P: This movie has opened up a lot of doors to some conversations that may have never happened in my life with people who are close to me. And that was just by mentioning certain details around this project. I could only imagine the sort of affect it is going to have on people now that its actually out, and the positive affect that its going to have on peoples lives and people close to them.
What was your process in preparing for these roles?
S: Before we even arrived in Calgary to start filming, I remember how heavily we were involved in developing these characters, and that was just such an incredible opportunity. It was just days after we both got cast we hopped on a Skpye call with Brock and Sarah. It was about a two hour call, where Brock and Sarah let us know exactly what this film meant for them, and where they wanted it to go, and what they wanted it to feel like and their end goal of the whole thing. And truly that was such an inspiration and a driving force through the entire film because we felt like we were full invested. We already felt like we were invested but this just put us over the edge and really helped us feel like we were part of a community making a film, instead of individuals going in and doing their pieces, it was a collective project. I remember in that call, one of the things that Brock mentioned to us was the color scheme he wanted for the film. I remember just being in awe because I have never been part of a film where I have any idea what the color scheme is supposed to be like. So little details like that, and just knowing that going into it was such a blessing.
Another example was the sound track. We got to hear the soundtrack before we even started filming, so that helped set the framework for what we were building, and we got to build it inside of that and keep that in mind.
The costumes as well were another example - Most of the time when you go to a costume fitting they’ll hand you articles of clothing, and they are just checking for your size to see if it fits. But this one, we would try something on, make sure everything fit, and then Brock and Sarah would ask, is this something Tom would wear. Is this Tom?
Again, I was just in shock with that because it really put me there, and it really helped me develop this character.
Working on a sports driven movie, what was it like working amongst the team you shared the screen with?
P: The first scene we shot in the movie was the shower scene. Me and Sam talked about that in how it couldn’t have been a better scene to start off with just because it helped the whole basketball team get really vulnerable with each other and it helped break that initial ice and it helped everyone get really comfortable with each other. And slowly the cast and crew just became one tight knit family. I just remember the basketball team became pretty close, we’d practise basketball in between takes, we’d play basketball through lunch breaks - we started off hardly being able to dribble and missing every shot, to knowing how to slight dribble and missing every second shot. So we made some progress there.
With production lasting ten days, thats a long time to stay within this subject matter. Did you notice this start to affect your performance at all?
S: As the production progressed, and as we got further and further into the project, and filmed more and more days, the project really started to take a toll on everyone on set visibly. But just me personally, it really started to get to me and affect me. But I came to the realization that I am just an actor, and I am acting this out and reading a script, and pretending to be in this position - and that really put it into perspective how people who really go through this just how courageous they are. Because, being in a position where I had to try my best to mentally be in that place and get there, mentally to portray this character was extremely challenging and I can’t even imagine what people who actually go through it would feel.
P: While filming, there were a lot of strong emotions attached to some of the scenes that we were doing. And a lot of the time I found myself getting lost in the character of Zaac. Those feelings of betrayal, anger, were all just tied up into a lot of things I was feeling in those moments. One example of a sequence that we shot where certain things would happen that weren’t necessarily in the script is it was a scene between me and Sam where he was on the ground and I was over top of him and it was quite an angry scene and in the midst of it I ended up spitting on him and it was that feeling of pure anger and betrayal that possessed me to do that and again we are actors, this is what we do, so I could only imagine what someone actually going through this would actually feel.