Jon Reiss

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Jon Reiss
Jon Reiss
Born Jonathan Reiss
United States
Occupation Film director, producer, writer, teacher
Years active 1980 – present

Jon Reiss is an award-winning producer and director, named one of "10 Digital Directors to Watch" by Daily Variety. His work has screened at prestigious film festivals around the world, including Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, Tribeca, Los Angeles, Rotterdam, Seattle, New Directors/New Films Festival, and São Paulo, among others. As a result of this success, Reiss has built a dedicated global film audience.[citation needed]

Early life and film career[edit]

Reiss graduated with a bachelor's degree in Economics, Magna Cum Laude at the University of California, Berkeley and earned a Master in Fine Arts in Film and Television Production at the University of California, Los Angeles. Jon Reiss started working in film in 1981 with Target Video until 1983, where he worked on numerous documentaries of the West Coast punk explosion many of which were titled "Underground Forces". Bands and artists documented during this period include Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, The Circle Jerks, T.S.O.L., Zev, Johanna Wendt, The Cramps, Iggy Pop. He traveled extensively in Europe screening the work and filming European punk rock bands in the early primitive years of video projection.

From 1983 to 1990 he worked on five documentaries featuring the internationally renowned performance group Survival Research Laboratories. In the same period he also wrote, produced and directed the short narrative film "A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief" featuring the anthropomorphic robots of Survival Research Laboratories. After graduating film school he produced Jill Goldman's feature Love Is Like That.

In 1992 Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails requested that Reiss direct the music video for "Happiness in Slavery". From there Jon went on to direct music videos for Slayer, Danzig, the Black Crowes, Type O Negative, Kottonmouth Kings and numerous other groups. In 1995 the Toronto Film Festival curated a retrospective of his music video work.

Between 1997 and 2000 he produced and directed features Cleopatra's Second Husband while at the same time directing Better Living Through Circuitry. In 2004 he released the compilation DVD Survival Research Laboratories: Ten Years of Robotic Mayhem.[1]

In 2005 he began production on Bomb It which was completed and premiered in 2007 at the Tribeca Film Festival. He went on to create a hybrid distribution strategy for Bomb it including a DIY twenty city theatrical release. Based on his experiences he wrote three articles for Filmmaker magazine about hybrid film distribution and began blogging for Ted Hope's Truly Free Film Blog.[2] Jon has appeared on numerous film festival panels such as South By Southwest, Tribeca Film Festival, True/False and Los Angeles Film Festival.

This work culminated in the seminal book Think Outside the Box Office: The Ultimate Guide to Film Distribution and Marketing for the Digital Era, which launched at the 2009 Independent Film Week in New York and the 2009 Vancouver International Film Festival.


Love Is Like That[edit]

In 1992 Jon produced Love Is Like That, a feature drama starring Tom Sizemore, Pamela Gidley, Seymour Cassel, Richard Edson, Debi Mazar, Joe Dallesandro.[3]

Cleopatra's Second Husband[edit]

Reiss' first film as director, Cleopatra's Second Husband (1998), is a psychological drama that screened at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, Seattle, Montreal World, Hamptons, Houston, São Paulo and Bangkok film festivals, winning Best First Feature at Cinequest before its theatrical release in the United States. DVD – First Run Features. Broadcast on IFC.

Better Living Through Circuitry[edit]

Better Living Through Circuitry (1999), Jon's previous documentary feature was a startling, humorous and entertaining glimpse into the exploding rave culture featuring such acts as the Crystal Method, Roni Size, and Moby, among others. The film played at such festivals as RESfest Digital Film Festival, Rotterdam, São Paulo, Copenhagen, Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, Seattle, Vancouver, and Sheffield International Documentary Festival before being released theatrically in the United States. For his work Reiss was awarded the Best Documentary Director at the Chicago Underground Film Festival.

Bomb It[edit]

Bomb It (2007) is a feature documentary covering the explosion of graffiti culture throughout the world – shot on five continents featuring such seminal figures as Taki 183, Shepard Fairey, Os Gemeos, DAIM, Revok and many more. Globally comprehensive as well as politically relevant, ( stated: “… At the core of the film is a poignant social statement about public space and the war being waged for it. Shot on location in New York, Philadelphia, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Barcelona, Berlin, Cape Town, São Paulo, and Tokyo, and Los Angeles. Bomb It premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival as an Official Selection and has screened at over 20 others including Full Frame Documentary Festival.

Bomb It 2[edit]

Bomb It 2 (2010) was commissioned as a web series exclusively for the digital broadcast network Babelgum and expands the global reach of Jon Reiss' exploration of graffiti and street art into new and unexplored areas of Asia and South East Asia, the Middle East as well as Europe, the United States and Australia. Reiss traveled by himself to Bangkok, Jakarta, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Palestinian refugee camps on the West Bank, Perth, Melbourne, Copenhagen, Chicago and Austin. Artists featured include Klone, KnowHope, GreatBates, Zero, Darbotz, Killer Gerbil, Bon, Alex Face, Sloke, Thor, Husk Mit Navn, Ash, Phibs, Stormie Mills, Beejoir & Souled Out Studios, Inspire, and many more.

Short films[edit]

A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief Jon Reiss' short film (1986), screened at film festivals throughout the world including Sundance, Berlin, New Directors/New Films, Edinburgh. Broadcast in Europe and on PBS in the United States.

"Baited Trap" Short film (1985) Reiss' first short narrative made during his first year at UCLA Film School screened at the Berlin, Hong Kong, Torino, Bilbao, Göteborg Film Festivals.

Music videos[edit]

As an award-winning music video director,[citation needed] Reiss has directed videos for Nine Inch Nails, The Black Crowes, Danzig, Slayer, and the Kottonmouth Kings. Reiss' Happiness in Slavery video for Nine Inch Nails won awards at the Chicago International Film Festival and Golden Gate Competition at the San Francisco International Film Festival and was voted Top Ten by the Village Voice Critics Poll for Best Music Video.

In 1995 the Toronto International Film Festival curated a retrospective of Reiss' music videos. Jon also directed the music video "It's Coming Down" for Danzig during their "Classic" original lineup-era (1987–1994). Happiness in Slavery was banned from MTV and featured Bob Flanagan.


Jon's experience while releasing Bomb It with a hybrid strategy was the inspiration for writing his first book Think Outside the Box Office published March 2010 – step-by-step guide addressing how filmmakers should approach the distribution and marketing stage of the filmmaking process in today's extremely digitized world.

Within Think Outside the Box Office are the opinions, strategies and tactics of fellow indie distribution and marketing thought-leaders like über-consultant Peter Broderick, B-Side's Chris Hyams, Cinetic Rights Management's Matt Dentler, publicist Cynthia Swartz and filmmakers like Todd Sklar, Joe Swanberg and Cora Olson.[4] Think Outside the Box Office central concern is how a film is targeted at an audience and how the filmmaker is able to understand and act on the preferences of the film's audience and Due to "Think Outside the Box Office" and its impact on the film industry. Think Outside the Box Office is currently used as a text for film courses at institutions such as Stanford, Princeton, UCLA and New York University.[citation needed]

In 2011 Reiss released the book Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul co-written with Sheri Candler and The Film Collaborative. Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul features a series of case studies that dive deep into the real numbers and real details of independent film distribution. In 2011 Reiss also contributed to the free ebook The Modern Moviemaking Movement with Norman C. Berns, Gordon Firemark, Tom Malloy, Carole Dean, Peter D. Marshall, Gary King, Sheri Candler and Jason Brubaker.


Jon teaches in the Film Directing Program at California Institute of the Arts. He created the course "Real World Survival Skills: Everything I Wish I Had Been Taught in Film School" which covers the practical/business aspects of filmmaking from fundraising through distribution.

Festival panels[edit]

Awards and recognitions[edit]

Complete filmography[edit]

Year Film
2010 Bomb It 2
2007 Bomb It
2001 Survival Research Laboratories: Ten Years of Robotic Mayhem
1999 Better Living Through Circuitry
1998 Cleopatra's Second Husband
1992 Broken For Music Videos Happiness in Slavery and Gave Up
1991 Love Is Like That as Producer
1990 The Pleasures of Uninhibited Excess
1988 The Will to Provoke
1987 A Bitter Message of Hopeless Grief
1986 Virtues of Negative Fascination
1984 A Scenic Harvest From The Kingdom of Pain


  1. ^ The New York Times
  2. ^
  3. ^ Love Is Like That on Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ Adam Chapnik, Distribution Ammunition: An Indispensable Manual for the DIY Forces, March 18, 2010, "", June 1, 2010

External links[edit]