PBS Premiere: June 18, 2018Check the broadcast schedule »

QUEST: Film Update

In June 2018, POV asked QUEST filmmaker Jonathan Olshefski and producer Sabrina Schmidt Gordon what's happened since the cameras stopped rolling.

Has the Rainey Family seen the film? What do they think?

QUEST has been a collaborative process from the very beginning. The Raineys have seen the film many times throughout the production process and through many iterations beginning as early as December 2007. We watched the film together prior to our premiere at Sundance in 2017 and based on some feedback from them even made a few changes to the theatrical version of the film. In some ways the film feels like home movies to them and offers them the opportunity to reflect on the past. There are people in the background of scenes that have passed away. Objects that have gone missing ("whatever happened to that sauce pan?"). The experience of touring with the film and sharing it with audiences all over the country has provided them with a platform to connect to people in a deep way that has been very satisfying for them. The Raineys create community and the film has profoundly expanded their circle.

Quest's Mom always told him, "Instead of doing something destructive, do something constructive." How do you think this quote shapes the film?

Quest's mom, Carol Rainey, was a nurturer and a community builder. Quest follows in her footsteps and heeds her words. He loves his community and he is dedicated to giving back. Everquest Recordings, the studio Quest and his wife Christine'a run from their house is not just about music, but fundamentally, it is about relationships. Together this couple built a safe place for people to connect. They are builders and we see them live out the idea of "doing something constructive." Choosing to express compassion and tenderness even in the midst of incredibly difficult situations is a major theme of the film. The Raineys are about building, planting, growing, and nurturing. You see them sacrifice for the sake of their community. At the root of it is a son striving to live out the legacy of his mom.

What's QUEST Studios up to now?

Freestyle Friday continues to happen every Friday! The Raineys continue to fling open their doors to this day. You can follow the action on their Facebook page.

What was the community's reaction towards filming? What was is like "being a fly on the wall"?

As a white guy roaming around the neighborhood with a camera some folks were a little skeptical at first (and rightly so!), but Quest vouched for me and since people trusted him they came to trust me as well. After a little bit of time the community simply began to think of me as "Quest's cameraman." Over the years I had the opportunity to make so many friends in the community many of the folks only appear briefly in the background of a shot and others that I have known for years didn't make it into the film at all, but at the end of the day the process was a catalyst to connect to a ton of amazing people. At the end of the day, I make films to make friends. Being a "fly of the wall" probably isn't the best description of the production process. I was present throughout, but rather than fade into the background I could fade into the foreground because I was just a constant presence. The Raineys have described it in Q&A a number of times: "Jon became like furniture, but also like family." I didn't work with a big production team, or even a sound person. It was just me tagging along with my camera. The Raineys were always supportive of the project and me. The kindness they show to others as seen in the film was always extended to me as well. As a filmmaker and a friend I couldn't ask for more. When stuff would get real I would hang back and just do my best to capture it. So many beautiful things unfolded while I was with the Rainey crew over all of these years. Vicarious joy is the best way that I can describe it. Also, it wasn't about just about filming. A lot of time was spent just hanging out: messing around in the studio, playing cards, watching Kung Fu movies, Quest helped me fix my motorcycle, and much of the time just talking. It was a joy to hang out with these people. It was always a two-way street. The Raineys know my family. They went to my wedding. They knew both of my kids from the time they were born.

What was the dynamic between the neighborhood and police officers? A few times we see them celebrating with the block, but also agitated when asking Mr. Rainey questions due to a suspect description he fit.

As always, this stuff is complicated. To this day the Raineys are incredibly thankful for Officer Moll as he really went above and beyond to support them in a moment of crisis. They shout him out every chance they get, but not all of their experiences with the police have been so positive. There are times when the community is grateful to have the support of the police, but at other times they feel villainized and victimized by the cops. At the end of the day the community wants the police force to be accountable to its mission to protect and serve and when they harm the community they need to own up to it.

Talk about your relationship with the Rainey family. What are they up to now?

I am just so thankful that the stress and craziness of releasing the film has not negatively impacted our friendship, but has actually allowed us to get even tighter. We still see each other a lot as we are constantly screening the film and participating in Q&As. Everquest Recordings is still going strong. William is doing well and continues to strive to be a great dad to Isaiah who just finished kindergarten. PJ is now 18 and she is about to go to college at Rowan University to follow in the family business and study Music Industry. The family put together a Go Fund Me page to help cover school expenses. She just performed live in front of hundreds of people at the prestigious Kimmel Center in Philadelphia after one of our screenings and just blew everyone away. Check out our Facebook page to see photos and video. I just want to promote her as much as I can. There is much more to come from PJ Rainey. I'm just proud to say that I knew her way back when.

What are you working on now?

In my thirties I am trying to complete all of the work that I started in my twenties. I'm a perfectionist and I like to take my time to make sure that I get things right. One project is called "Punk Rock Mommy" where I collaborated with my good friend Andrea Collins-Smith to document her life as she was raising her six kids while battling stage 4 cancer.
In 2011 I started working on another documentary project in parallel with QUEST. It is follows in the footsteps of QUEST in many ways as it documents the life of an American family over many years. The Fiddler family, like the Raineys, are talented musicians and dancers; they also community builders who want to give back to their community. It is important that I get this right and honor the trust that this family has put in me to reflect their experience, so even being 7 years in, I still have a ways to go.
I am also working on myself. I wasn't prepared for how relentless finishing and exhibiting a movie could be. QUEST demanded a lot from me both day and night for many years. I lived it, breathed it, and dreamed it. I never wanted to look back when all was said and done and feel like I left anything on the table. I felt a huge weight of responsibility to the Raineys and their community. Being immersed in this process profoundly impacted my develpment as an artist, but it limited my capacity personal growth and deep reflection. There was also a cost to my family. Today I'm trying to be more present to the needs of Holly, Caleb, and Zeke and give them a fuller portion of myself. I am trying to figure out how to move forward with my creative work without placing so much of a burden on them. For this journey I have the luxury of tapping into an amazing community of people in Philadelphia and beyond who do great things in the world and love each other well. This also includes deepening my dialogue with the Raineys as they provide a wonderful example of a family that is on a mission to build something greater than themselves, but are also there for each other in both times of crisis and in the small, quiet moments. Sometimes its those small, quiet moments that are the most important of all.