Jonathan Olshefski is a documentary filmmaker and artist. He strives to tell intimate and nuanced stories that honor his subjects’ complexity by employing a production process that emphasizes collaboration, dialogue, and relationship to amplify their voices and reflect their points of view in an artful way.
He has an MFA in Film and Media Arts from Temple University and is currently an Associate Professor at Rowan University where he teaches in the department of Radio, TV, and Film. He lives in Philadelphia with his partner Holly and two sons, Caleb and Zeke.
A Portrait of an American Family
Feature Length Documentary
Work in Progress (10 years in the making)
World Premiere: Sundance Film Festival 2017: Documentary Feature Competition
Filmed over a decade, Quest: The Fury and the Sound is an intimate portrait of the Raineys, a family living in North Philadelphia, whose home music studio is a creative haven for their community.
• Gallery Show / Screening Event – pilot for engagement campaign 10/7/2016 – Circle of Hope Gallery – Philadelphia
• Co-production agreement with ITVS, April 2016.
• Grant from the MacArthur Foundation, January 2016.
• Grant from Cinereach Foundation, December 2014.
• Good Pitch New York 11/15/2016 – https://goodpitch.org/events/gpny2016
• Philadelphia Inquirer Article – 2/14/2016 – A Portrait of a Family and a Window into the City
Punk Rock Mommy
Photo/Transmedia Exhibit, Interactive Website, Animation Installation
Book is forthcoming – seeking publishing partner
Punk Rock Mommy is the story of Andrea Collins-Smith, mother of six, and a good friend. I documented her experience as she fought terminal cancer while she reflected on her life by writing a blog that eventually went viral and culminated in over 600,000 views.
I miss Andrea dearly. Her persistence in compellingly sharing her story through good days and bad days as a means of connecting to others demonstrates the power of narrative to create community. Her choice to collaborate with me throughout her journey was an incredible honor and is what gave me the confidence to pursue everything that I have done since.
These media artifacts include: four different interactive websites, a collection of still photographs hand-printed in a darkroom, three videos, an interactive installation, a booklet/zine, a solo gallery show, and a book that is currently in progress.
• Blog – http://punkrockmommy.org/blog/
• Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/punkrockmommy
• Video from gallery show: https://vimeo.com/78958331
• Gallery show website: http://punkrockmommy.org/fn/prm1.html
• Punk Rock Mommy article 5/8/2014 : Philadelphia City Paper
• Punk Rock Mommy article 6/18/2014 – Main Course Philly
Depaul USA: We Believe in You
Completed: February 2014
A recovering heroin addict comes to Depaul House after being released from prison in order to seek a better life. Depaul USA is a nonprofit organization that provides shelter and job training for homeless men in Philadelphia.
I was an artist in residence at Depaul when this film was made. I have served on Depaul USA’s Local Advisory Council since 2014.
• Won an Award of Excellence in promotional video category at the Broadcast Education Association Conference, Festival of Media Arts: Faculty Competition in February 2015.
The Closer Project
Closer: A Journey with Charles is a multi-format, multi-year (2008 – 2013) transmedia documentary project. It seeks to provoke introspection about one’s proximity to marginalized individuals and to question assumptions about people from these communities while creating a complex portrait of a man named Charles as he transitions out of homelessness.
Closer: A Moment with Charles
Interactive installation: a metaphor for daily erasures that renders certain members of our society invisible.
Documentation website: http://whispersinthestorm.com/installation/
• Won “Best in Show” at the International Digital Media Arts Association national conference in November 2012.
reClose: A Journey with Charles
This chapter conveys Charles’ transition from the streets to housing.
• Received “Honorable Mention” at the International Digital Media Arts Association national conference in November 2013.
Website – http://whispersinthestorm.com/reclose/
Documentary – 32 minutes / Photo Essay
The Scrapper follows the nightly routine of Joe, one of Philadelphia’s scrappers. Scrapping is a way of life in many urban areas where a tremendous amount of wealth is simply thrown into the trash.
After the sun sets Joe traverses the urban landscape in search of treasure. The film sheds light on a hidden, yet pervasive, activity through a man who desires to be respected for doing the activity that he loves. As the secrets of his shadowy activities become revealed so do the details of his surprising past.
• Premiered at the 2008 Chicago Underground Film Festival
• Broadcast run on MiND TV in 2011 – 2016
Whispers in the Storm
A series of photo essays captured in North Philadelphia between 2005 and 2007.
Whispers in the Storm pairs photos essays with audio interviews to tell of stories hope and hardship in North Philadelphia.
Complete series: https://vimeo.com/album/4259669
Memoir: The Oral History
Interactive Narrative – Flash
As a non-linear, interactive experience Memoir: The Oral History provides fragments of narrative that the participant must piece together in order to reveal a treatise on memory, violence, and who gets labelled “the bad guy” in our society.