Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Jeff Theman – founder of River Fire Films, has a lifelong history of exploring many different avenues of the arts; first with drawing and sketches from the moment he could hold a pencil and put it to paper. As a teenager, he discovered the power of words and began writing poetry, which he kept to himself. From there, in his mid-twenties, Jeff wrote his first full feature screenplay – a coming of age story about friendship, love and addiction called “kArmA”. After a few failed attempts to turn that script into a film, Jeff turned his attention towards documentary filmmaking.
In February 2007, Jeff – a lifelong animal lover – began researching animal cruelty, in an attempt to find a topic to base his first documentary on. After a couple months, NFL star quarterback, Michael Vick, was all over the news suspected of dog-fighting. Jeff took that as a sign, and started a documentary on the illegal and inhumane “bloodsport”, focusing on the victims – the dogs.
While living in Lakewood, Ohio, a trendy suburb of Cleveland, Jeff changed the direction of the film to breed discrimination, after city council proposed a ban of “pit bull” dogs, just as he was in the process of adopting Preston (pictured upper left) – a rescue dog saved from a home who allegedly used him for fighting purposes. And that began Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent, the documentary with the goal to putting an end to breed discriminatory laws.
During the production process, Jeff began writing articles on his personal blog titled, Preston’s Perch. He became an expert in laws that target certain breeds (often called BSL) in the dog community, and has been interviewed by local and national news media for stories, such as: Huffington Post, Cleveland.com, WBNS-10TV (Columbus, OH), among others (see “In The News” section for more). Jeff has also wrote as a guest blogger for BarkPost and The Dodo.
The film (the “Rescue Version”) premiered on April 28, 2013 in Cleveland’s Capitol Theatre, and went on to have 20-some other screenings around the country – including two official film festival selections (2013 St. Louis International Film Festival, 2014 Kansas City Film Fest). The official (re)release (fully enhanced and re-edited) is TBD in 2017.
In early 2016, Jeff began his second documentary, Made In Cleveland, about the recent renaissance of the city, after a nearly 60 year decline. That film is currently in the beginning stages of production, with an expected release in Q4 of 2018.
Also in 2016, Jeff expanded River Fire Films, and began offering photography (fine art and for-hire), as well as freelance creative writing services.
In 2017, Jeff began authoring his first book about the relationship with his souldog, Preston.
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.
Our primary focus is on thought-provoking and compelling documentary films, which tell complex stories about social issues.
In 2016, River Fire Films began offering photography to our media company, providing both fine art sales and for-hire services to our .
In 2017, we added a creative writing division.