A Story About The Politics Of Pit Bull Dogs

Concept Trailer

“Once In A Lifetime” Concept Trailer

A ‘Concept Trailer’ is a short video often used at an early stage in filmmaking for the purpose to provide prospective interview subjects, financial partners – big and small, as well as the targeted demographic or audience a sample of what to expect once the project is complete.

This specific concept trailer is a teaser into the highly controversial and emotionally charged ongoing debate surrounding dogs labeled “pit bull”, and the intersecting sub-topics they are often connected to – dogfighting and breed specific legislation, told through the lens of a special human-canine relationship.


“Once In A Lifetime” Promotional Video | “October 4th”

Dogs are widely considered (hu)man’s best friend. Through history, they’ve served a number of purposes, assisting us in both working roles (farming, hunting, etc), as well as for companionship. But, since the 1980s, one breed or type of dog has been singled-out in political wars, perceived to be unlike any other domestic canine before him or her. They are said to be the most common dog found at dogfighting raids, and the primary villain of laws called breed specific legislation. The dogs we’re talking about are often simply called – Pit Bulls.

This film is a love story about how fate disguises itself as coincidence. It’s a story about raw and mutual adoration. But, it’s also a story about struggle and redemption. And, about loss and grief. Using home video shot during his 12 years together with Preston, Cleveland-based filmmaker Jeff Theman further examines the controversy surrounding “pit bull” dogs, exploring the incredible human-canine bond, and how the importance of one chance encounter went on to influence a greater purpose for all dogs, as well as their humans.

How To Help

“Once In A Lifetime” Pitch Video

Watch the ‘Pitch Video’ (above) to learn about the events which forced this film into existence, and ways you can support the project.

Given the ambitious goals “Once In A Lifetime” sets out to accomplish, and our status as an indie film with a purpose, please consider contributing to make this important film a reality by participating in our global initiative to repeal breed specific legislation worldwide, or by taking advantage of one of many incentives for making a big or small donation.

The Dog

image by Greg Murray Photography

On July 6, 2006, three dogs – including Preston, were taken from a home in Akron, Ohio by humane investigators during a drug bust where they were alleged victims of dogfighting. The dogs were then brought to the county humane society where they would stay until the conclusion of the case. The owners were never officially charged with animal fighting crimes, just the drug offense(s), hence the use for the word – alleged.

Things were grim for dogs like them in those days, and especially for dogs who came from suspected dogfighting backgrounds. This, of course, preceded the Michael Vick case and all the exposure it brought to dogfighting and the victims of that barbaric and illegal activity, in a state which had statewide laws called breed specific legislation, that restricted the ownership of such dogs. Those “pit bull” dogs who found their way into city and county shelters in Ohio were often systematically killed without much, if any, publicity.

The Filmmaker

image by Greg Murray Photography

Born on July 28, 1977 in the southwest suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, I was a creative person the moment I was able to pick up a pencil and put it to paper. Through the years I dabbled in many forms of self-expression – from drawing and painting, to poetry and other forms of creative writing, and later photography and the creative outlet I spend most of my last decade+ on – filmmaking…documentary film to be more specific. 

Besides the value I set on the arts, the other main constant throughout my existence has been my love for dogs and other animals. My family has had dogs most of my life; I was born into a home with a dog. Even as a young child I believed animals had complex emotions and suffered in many of the same ways that humans do, despite an old narrative some adults attempted to pass on me that animals were here for us. Even still, I had a long way to go before I could say I lived a life of compassion towards all animals, as some still ended up on my dinner plate.

Their Story

image by Greg Murray Photography

From the moment I adopted Preston on October 4, 2008 we were inseparable from that day forth. I was already in a transition in life going into my 30s, spending less time socializing with long-time friends who were getting into serious relationships and having babies, which made it easier to live a simple life; Working my day job, then coming home and going on a daily walk with Preston through rain, sleet, sun or snow, and the rest of my time was devoted to examining breed specific legislation.

Since this law is not exclusive to Ohio or the rest of the United States, I didn’t know how broad I wanted to explore it on a global basis. Places like the United Kingdom, who has had a ban of American Pit Bull Terriers and associated” breeds since 1991; the entire Canadian province of Ontario, who passed a ban a few short years before Lakewood; or, in the Down Under where “pit bull” dogs have been legislated against in Australia and New Zealand. These are just a few examples of the dozens of countries who singled-out “these” dogs. They can’t all be right, right?

The Issues

image by Greg Murray Photography

The animal and human issues this doc-series sets out to objectively explore are separate with their own unique differences, but together they are connected at the root. In each of my previous film projects, I attempted to peel back as many layers as possible, to really get at the many nuances involved. And, “Once In A Lifetime” is no different. If anything, these primary sub-topics will be put under a microscope even more in hopes of being a vehicle for change.

There is a political aspect of this film, and that brings its own challenges. What this film hopes to accomplish is to create meaningful dialogue in a productive way, because this can’t be the way we live.

Inside The Film

Once In A Lifetime” is a
River Fire Films, LLC production