Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guilty ‘Til Proven Innocent Documentary

Guilty 'Til Proven Innocent is a documentary film chronicling the history of Breed Specific Legislation in Ohio since its conception, and challenging its future. Here's what Producer, Director and Assistant Editor Jeffrey Theman told PBRC about the inspiration and creation of this documentary:

The day my whole life changed was not as obvious back then, but in retrospect is
starkly apparent. That day has become the reason I wake up every morning. I have always been an animal lover, especially dogs, and I wanted to raise awareness about the cruelty that exists against our four-legged companions. In early 2007, I decided to put my creative talents to use and produce a documentary about animal abuse in general. I wanted to narrow down the topic to one of the many types of cruelty, so I embarked on a mission to find the issue that needed the change the most.

After many weeks and countless hours spent barricaded in my Lakewood, Ohio
apartment, brainstorming possible topics for this film, a well known star NFL quarterback was suspected of dogfighting crimes. On April 25, 2007, I had an epiphany, this was sign I was looking for, and started planning my new film with the idea of exposing dogfighting, with an emphasis on the victims - the dogs. It wasn't until nearly a year later that "Guilty 'Til Proven Innocent" became the film that it is today. The city in which I lived in proposed a ban of Pit Bull-type (and "Canary") dogs, just as I was in the middle of adopting my American Pit Bull Terrier, Preston. Preston is a little black dog, who was saved from an Akron, Ohio house during a drug bust where they used him fighting. The first day I met him, I knew that he was my soul dog; I knew he was meant for me.

Preston had spent two years in the rescue getting passed over when potential adopters came to see available dogs, mostly due to his color (black dog syndrome), and the percieved challenges of sharing a home with a dog scarred both physically and emotionally. Add in the mix that he resided in the most restrictive state when it comes to Pit Bulls, due to its statewide breed discriminatory laws. My struggles to adopt Preston and my status as an Ohio resident, which has harbored its breed specific laws for the past 24 years (and counting), prompted me to start seriously investigating the impact of BSL. It felt like negligence if I didn't probe further. I quickly found breed discrimination presented a compelling type of abuse. Hidden behind a cloak of institutionalized legitimacy, these laws target millions of innocent dogs and impact good families across this country and around the world. These laws seemed to grow in popularity, particularly around where I lived. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I never knew these laws even existed prior to 2007. I've heard the media hype about Pit Bull dogs, but I didn't know there were laws in place that could allow animal control to take and kill or label vicious and restrict a dog for no other reason than the opinion of a person with little to no knowledge about dogs, dog behavior, dog breeds, or any other pertinent factor. It became obvious to me that this documentary would transition into a film about these laws and the dogs and owners who battle the accompanying intolerance.

It took five months and a new residence outside of Lakewood to finally bring
Preston home. We've now had three years to bond, and to prove to the public that dogs should be judged on a level playing field, based on their actual actions. Because everything that Preston has endured, and as friendly as he is to any human willing to give him a chance, he continues to change people's minds, and makes them question the same things I did not long ago.

It is these questions that the the tagline of the film asks: "Do we have a dangerous dog breed problem..., or just dangerous laws targeting dogs?" When people ask me why I chose to explore breed discrimination with this documentary, I tell them, I didn't choose the film, the film chose me.

Jeffrey Theman - official film website - Preston's facebook fan page


Anonymous said...

My mother called her gas company to ask why her meter had not been read, she was told a "vicious dogs" tag had been placed on her address. Mom laughed & said "I have 2 chihuahuas. But, the meter is outside the 6' fence." Her neighbours meter is directly across from hers & was being read monthly. Pitties arent the only ones with a bad rep. However, I'm glad this has been looked into, bravo!

GemmaZ said...

I know Jeff personally and professionally. He is a truly inspirational person and an incredibly thorough professional. I sincerely hope his work receives the recognition it deserves, both as an advocacy tool and as a testament to years of blood, sweat, and tears that Jeff has put into the film.

Thomas Gamble said...

Super post! I`ll send it to all my friends!