filmmaker bio

Filmmaker, Jeff Theman, and his dog, Preston, on Train Avenue. Taken by: Greg Murray Photography

Train Ave” was Directed, Produced and Edited by Cleveland-based Filmmaker, Jeff Theman and his production company, River Fire Films.

Jeff is a lifelong self-taught artist, who besides filmmaking has dabbled in multiple other creative outlets, including drawing and painting, pottery, creative writing and photography.

He got his start in filmmaking after two years of writing a coming-of-age screenplay called “kArmA” about a time period in his life during his mid-20’s. After a couple failed attempts to turn that script into a feature film, he turned his attention to documentary film to be able to better control the process from start to finish.

In January 2007, Jeff began researching animal cruelty to narrow down a subject matter to base his first documentary on, which took until late-April when his subject matter found him – the day NFL star quarterback, Michael Vick, was suspected of dog fighting. He took that as a sign, and began an anti-dog fighting film, with an emphasis on the victims – the dogs.

A year later (April 2008), while visiting the only “pit bull” rescue in Cleveland, Ohio, Jeff met a little black dog named Preston, who he instantly fell in love with and declared on that day he would adopt. Easier said than done, as Ohio had a statewide law (breed specific legislation) since 1987, that placed heavy restrictions on the ownership of dogs that resembled him, and two weeks after they met, the Cleveland suburb (Lakewood) he lived in proposed and eventually passed a ban on “pit bull” dogs.

Jeff immediately changed the direction of that film to breed discrimination, and titled the project – “Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent“. After several years of research and production, conducting interviews with both sides of an extremely emotional subject matter, the film premiered on April 28, 2013 at the Capital Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio, then went on to be screened 20-something times, including two film festivals (2013 St. Louis International Film Festival; 2014 Kansas City Film Fest), at least three law school universities for their animal law curriculum, and supported by one of the largest national animal welfare organizations in the U.S.

The film was re-released on April 28, 2019 (exactly 6 years from the original), completely re-edited, enhanced and updated to include the repeal of Lakewood’s law after ten years of its failure to do the job it was intended on doing.

In January 2014, Jeff met Cleveland tattoo and visual artist, Sean Jason Kelly, through a friend’s referral while looking for a tattoo artist to get work done, which is where he learned about his work on Train Avenue.

As of January 2020, Jeff has two more documentary films in beginning stages of production – “Great Stakes” and “Once In A Lifetime“.


To follow on Facebook, go to @jeffreytheman
To follow on Instagram, go to @riverfirefilms
To follow on Twitter, go to @riverfire
To follow on LinkedIn, go to @jeffreytheman

River Fire Films