“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
Founded in 2007, River Fire Films is a small video production and photography company based in Cleveland, Ohio, with a heavy focus on thought-provoking and compelling documentary films, which serve a purpose.
Chosen as a way to pay homage to our once struggling city, the name is a reference of the thirteen historical times the Cuyahoga River – which separates Cleveland’s east and west sides, caught fire due to mass pollution. It’s a narrative Cleveland (and its people) have been unable to shed, despite renewed community pride and the infancy stage of a renaissance. But, there is a symbolic meaning to the name, also – which embraces the struggle of the underdog, allowing it to be the force behind our resilience and perseverance to succeed – against all odds.
In 2013, River Fire Films released the “Rescue Version” of our first full feature documentary, Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent (GTPI), about Ohio’s 25 year statewide breed specific restriction, which regulated “pit bull” dog ownership, and showed the effect it had on the state’s local communities. The film answers the important question:
“Do we have a dangerous dog breed problem, or just dangerous laws targeting dogs?”
It went on to be screened over 20 times in major cities around the U.S – including two official film festival selections, and backed by one of the largest national animal welfare organizations, Best Friends Animal Society. The official (re)release of the film is slated for mid-2017. Read more…
In 2016, River Fire Films added professional photography and creative writing services, too.
Posted on March 27, 2017
Laws are oftentimes written – even if originated with good intent – in response to protect the safety of the public from a potential danger, but fail to solve the real issue, instead turn to a perceived threat as the culprit or scapegoat. Additionally, it’s common for the marketing of such misguided initiatives to tap into a tangible fear or phobia the community can comprehend, which allows politicians to swiftly push an agenda through without thoroughly examining the complexity of the issue.
The documentary film, “Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent” (GTPI), which asked the important question – “Do we have a dangerous dog breed problem, or dangerous laws targeting dogs?” ™…is now optimistically asking a new question:
Are We Finally Ready To Put An End To Dog Breed Discrimination & Fear?
In 1987, the state of Ohio passed a law called breed specific legislation (BSL), which restricted the ownership of ‘pit bull’ dogs, requiring owners of such breeds and mixes to purchase $100k of liability insurance coverage, mandatory muzzling in public, special containment and leashing requirements, among other regulations. Cities and municipalities around Ohio subsequently either mirrored the state law or enacted all-out bans within their governing limits for their local ordinance, singling-out certain breeds or types of dogs as inherently dangerous and/or vicious at birth.
The photograph above is of Preston (River Fire Films’, Jeff Theman’s dog, and inspiration to ‘GTPI’), taken at the corner of West 117th and Detroit Avenue – which separates the city of Cleveland, Ohio from the west-side suburb of Lakewood, where there is currently a ban of “pit bull” dogs. An imaginary line that, if crossed, could mean trouble for dogs like Preston simply due to physical appearance or looks – which completely ignore the behavior of the individual dog.
In 2008, Lakewood City Council passed the ban, which ‘GTPI’ followed through the process of proposing the legislation and the obstacles that followed, which included questionable practices by law enforcement and legal challenges.
A Film With A Purpose
The primary objective of the film was to shine a bright spotlight on breed discrimination, as well as impact positive change throughout the country and around the world. And, of course, we hoped Lakewood would finally repeal their local law, too.
Now, we want to change the narrative of this conversation some more with the launch of this large-scale, multi-level campaign – WOOFobia ™, through collaborative efforts using the arts and education to reach our targeted audiences and lawmakers, by implementing a strategic, grassroots political action plan, that can be replicated community by community – to be the vehicle of progress in making our communities truly safe and humane place for all people, dogs and other animals.
With this program, there are several moving parts and components, which will be released step-by-step to ensure overall productivity and professionalism remain a high priority. The testing ground will start in Ohio, where currently 263 communities statewide (*as of April 1, 2017) are impacted in some way due to breed discriminatory laws.
As our 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, proclaimed,
“The only thing to fear, is fear itself”:
Help join our fight for a fair and level playing field for all dogs and their owners! Sign up and take action below: