My name is Jeff Theman and I’m an Independent filmmaker based in Cleveland, Ohio. I started my video production company, River Fire Films, in September 2007 – about five months after I began research for my first documentary, “Guilty Til Proven Innocent” (GTPI), which initially started as an anti-dogfighting film in response to the Michael Vick case, but evolved a year later examining Ohio’s 25 year statewide restriction on the ownership of ‘pit bull’ dogs originally passed in 1987 (repealed in 2012), and its effect on local municipalities.
The shift in focus was due to meeting a dog named Preston (pictured) on May 15, 2008, who I immediately fell in love with and made my intentions known about adopting him, only for those plans to be temporarily derailed when Lakewood City Council proposed a ban on ‘pit bull’ dogs four days later, and subsequently passing the legislation in July of that year (repealed in 2018).
After five years of intense research, GTPI premiered in my hometown on April 28, 2013, and went on to do twenty-some other screenings around the country, including official selections to two film festivals (2013 St. Louis International Film Festival; 2014 Kansas City Film Fest), was shown in three law school universities as part of their animal law curriculums, and supported by one of the largest national animal welfare organizations in the U.S., who sent copies of the DVD to state and local lawmakers faced with the issue.
Towards the end of touring GTPI around the country, I began a new documentary sometime in January 2014 originally titled “Train Ave”. As a Clevelander, I’ve known about Train Avenue for its graffiti-laced walls lined up and down the railroad tracks, but my curiosity about the road and its history piqued when I learned about the dead dogs in garbage bags being routinely dumped on Train Avenue and its adjoining streets for years and years.
The more I dug and found, the more passionate I became about Train Avenue. The dead dogs were a symptom to a bigger illness.