Back in 2019, I found a plastic container of old photos and VHS tapes in my basement. The photos were from a time when my Uncle owned Siberian tigers in the early 2000s. I can barely remember when he had tigers because I was around five years old at the time. When the tigers were taken away by the local police I was too young even to remember it. I know that the tigers meant a lot to him and it was something he always talked about more than a decade later. As I began my research, I found more and more photos/videos from the past, so the documentary quickly began to form on its own in my head. I remember from a young age that anytime I mentioned that my Uncle used to have tigers it sparked immediate interest, especially considering he lived with tigers on a hillside in southern Minnesota. My hope for this documentary is to be able to tell my Uncle's story from a more well-rounded and informed perspective compared to how the media portrayed him at the time.
Some of my inspirations come primarily from short documentary pieces on YouTube. One of the channels that I drew from was VICE NEWS which regularly releases shorts covering odd or interesting subjects and events. I was also inspired by the documentary film Trophy, which covers big game hunting in Africa. This documentary hits all sides of the topic from conservationists, big game hunters, and poachers. Another documentary I drew inspiration from is The Look of Silence, which tells an emotional story of the Indonesian Communist Genocide of the ’60s. The film focuses a lot of the camera work on facial expressions and movement in daily life. The importance is put on showing both sides of the genocide and the emotion that comes from both the killers and victims. Grant still holds strong emotions towards his tigers, so I wanted to make sure to capture that accurately in this film. For the production of this documentary, it was primarily a 2-person crew operation with my Editor/Asst. Director/Co-Producer Sam Ruesink assisting on secondary camera/monitoring. As for post-production, I have been working hand in hand with Sam to organize the story and footage in a way that best covers all stories surrounding the Tiger Zone and remains entertaining.
My hope for this documentary is to first tell the story of my Uncle's time raising tigers before they were taken away from him. Secondly, I want to create something entertaining and exciting to watch. Something that will pull the audience into feeling like they are getting an inside look at how those involved have been impacted by events from 20 years ago to the present. My aim was to show a well-rounded view of the Tiger Zone and those involved with it, then let the viewer form their own opinion on what occurred through interview/video evidence. For the 3+ years, Sam and I have been working on this film we have continuously pushed our release in order to form an accurate story. Between gathering new interviews/photos, the COVID-19 pandemic, graduating college, and a full-time job I have worked to make sure this story isn't rushed. My main hope for this film is to show that my Uncle Grant is more than the criminal the news and local officials portrayed him as. Personally, I don't think there is a clear line of who was right or wrong, but I know there's more than one side to every story. So whether my Uncle was in the right, wrong, or somewhere in-between I leave that up to the viewers to decide.