Born in Chicago in 1943, of a military family, Jost grew up in Georgia, Kansas, Japan, Italy, Germany, and, Virginia. Expelled from college in 1963, He began making 16mm films. He is self-taught. He has made some 20 shorts and 16 feature films, all of which he has conceived, written, photographed, directed, and edited. In 1965 Jost was imprisoned by US Federal authorities for 2 years and 3 months for refusal to cooperate with the Selective Service System. On release, he quickly became engaged in political activities, helping start the Chicago branch of what became NEWSREEL, the New Left film production and distribution group, as well as working for the draft and the Chicago Mobilization. Jost made his first feature-length film in 1974, and has since devoted to the making of a wide-ranging series of films, largely focused on specifically American topics, in form ranging from essays, to essay-fictions, to avant-garde and new narrative forms. His work has shown widely in museums, film archives and festivals since 1975. In 1991, The MOMA in New York assembled and presented a complete retrospective of Jost's work encompassing 11 features and 5 programs of shorts.