This Is The House Where I Learned Not To Sleep
a feature documentary by Anne de Mare & Kirsten Kelly
produced by Spargel Productions and Andrew W. Schwertfeger
projected festival release: Winter/Spring 2021
Decorated Nashville cop and childhood domestic violence survivor, Lt. Mark Wynn, travels the country on a mission to shatter the culture of violence and silence that surrounds crimes against women. Working from inside to change law enforcement, he encounters fellow survivor Byron Sanders and an organization called the Dallas HeROS who are enacting a 'zero tolerance' policy towards domestic violence in their Texas community.
This Is The House Where I Learned Not To Sleep follows Mark, Byron and the Dallas HeROs as they face deep prejudices and confront other men to stand up and take a central, crucial role in ending the larger cycle of male violence against women. The film reveals how these men’s tragic connections to domestic violence as children inspire deep questions about what it means to be a man and how we raise boys. It is ultimately an examination of how these men broke their particular family cycles of violence, transforming their own lives while creating crucial cultural change for survivors.
In the midst of today’s powerful #MeToo cultural shift, their deeply personal journeys bring new energy and a seldom-heard perspective to the national conversation.
For 11 years as a child, Mark Wynn hid from both his abusive stepfather and the cops when they showed up at the front door. Then for 21 years on the Nashville Police Force, he was the cop who showed up. This dual perspective gives Mark powerful insight; “I lived with a monster, I know how this works,” he says, “I’ve been on both sides of that door.” Our story follows Mark as he challenges law enforcement at every level – from Federal Justice Department officials to beat cops in local precincts, from rural Oklahoma to the Chicago Police Department – trying to end generations of mishandling, internal cover-ups and lack of urgency within the system.
Through his groundbreaking work, Mark meets fellow survivor Byron Sanders, part of an innovative group of men in Dallas called the HeROs (He Respects Others). From the age of six, Byron was his mother’s “protector”. Now, as an adult, he is part of this unlikely and diverse group of businessmen, law enforcement, religious and community leaders that are committed to ending domestic violence by breaking down traditionally patriarchal systems.
The film follows the HeROs as they are called on by the Dallas County Prosecutors Office to take on gender bias in the courts and sit in solidarity behind women survivors in the courtroom. They are on the newly appointed Domestic Violence Task Force for the Dallas Mavericks. They are called on by local shelters to do carpentry and move furniture to get rooms ready for women and children in crisis. They commit to weekly BBQ’s and serve dinner to women survivors as ‘gentle men’. And they commit to mentoring young boys through the tough transitions involved in leaving their abusers, who are often their fathers, and building new futures.
The intimate journeys of Mark, Byron, and the Dallas HeROs inspire hopeful solutions and challenge the very foundation of society’s silent acceptance of household violence.
Our continuing work on This Is The House Where I Learned Not To Sleep is made possible by the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, Kind World Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Bachrach Family Foundation, and Chicago Media Project, who awarded the film an Early Stage Grant.