October 20, 2022

‘GENO’ a passion project for director

Aidan Miller/CFL.ca

We can always be haunted by the ones that get away from us in life.

With the release of his short film, GENO: The Story of Eugene Lewis, Aidan Miller has managed to corral a lost project and bring it to fruition.

A video coordinator for the CFL in 2019, he’d pitched two stories that he was interested in bringing to life. One was on then Edmonton Elks linebacker Vontae Diggs. The other was on Eugene Lewis.

The Diggs story — a powerful, revealing piece — dropped that season but the Lewis story was moved to the shelf. The pandemic hit in 2020, Miller moved on to a job at Narcity Media and Lewis of course stayed in Montreal, spending the last two seasons establishing himself as one of the top receivers in the CFL.

Despite the job change, the Lewis story continued to feel like the one that got away from Miller. Until he decided to do something about it.

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“I really wanted to get back into more filmmaking and just doing more stuff in sports,” said Miller, who was recently hired as the digital content manager for the Toronto Argonauts.

“So one of my friends just told me to use the resources I had and the connections I had and to try to make a film out of that.”

The result is a pure labour of love that sent Miller from his Oshawa, Ont. home to Montreal and to Lewis’ hometown of Norristown, PA. He told Lewis’ story — one of being an exceptional athlete that had his pro career come down to one big reception in 2019 and whose former NBA player father Rev. Eugene Lewis Sr. battled addiction and found his way through it — while revealing the competitive fire that seems to constantly burn inside the 29-year-old.

Doing the project on his own, Miller turned to those close to him for help. Friends chipped in where they could. His girlfriend joined him on the trip to Norristown. He rented the classic Mercedes that features prominently in the video because he felt it added a cool aesthetic touch to the production.

Miller makes excellent use of the exclusive access he had to Lewis and his family. He interviewed Lewis’ parents, his grandmother, sister, uncle, best friend and his high school coach. Miller saw firsthand how revered Lewis is in Norristown. His old high school’s first football game of the season was sold out, with no one else being admitted, Miller recalled, until the woman behind the ticket window saw Lewis’ face. He was instantly in.

“It’s cool seeing how much of a celebrity (players) are in their cities and those places,” Miller said.

“As soon as they saw him it was smiles to everyone’s faces, just a really good energy because he does some really good things out there, especially with the kids. A lot of them call him and he takes a lot of time breaking down football lingo to them as well as work ethic stuff and motivational stuff. It was incredible seeing that side of him.”

Eugene Lewis (right), with his father, Rev. Eugene Lewis Sr. (Aidan Miller/CFL.ca)

Toward the end of his shoot in Norristown, Miller suggested Lewis and his family hit a nearby basketball court and get some shots up. He was thinking purely of b-roll footage or photo opportunities to tack onto the finished product. Instead, he saw just how much Lewis wants to win at everything he does.

The exchange between Lewis, his father and the rest of the group as they engage in a three-point shooting contest was a boon for Miller. He included it as the final footage in his film.

“Seeing how connected he is to his family and how important that is to him was super cool, but the coolest thing that I saw…we wrapped it up with the basketball game,” he said.

“Seeing the competitive edge turn on with him and him and his dad just kind of talking s— back and forth was so fun to see. It was literally his family and how competitive he was, talking s— and his dad was giving it right back to him. You see how that dynamic is and it’s so entertaining and it’s so cool seeing him so competitive even at a family basketball game.”

Just settling in to his new role with the Argos, Miller is eager to tell similar stories for the players and figures that work within the organization.

“It was definitely a learning experience,” he said of producing the short film. “I’m glad I got it under my belt, especially as I start with the Argos.”

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