The Tiger Next Door is a documentary film that tells the story of a man named Dennis Hill who has been breeding, and selling tigers from his backyard in Flat Rock, Indiana for over fifteen years.
Tigers, and other big cats, are simultaneously an occupation and an obsession for Hill. As the film begins, Hill has 24 tigers, 3 bears, 6 leopards and one cougar. He claims to know exactly what they are thinking by the look in their eyes. He is especially consumed with the prospect of breeding a stripeless white tiger. But now, after a surprise government inspection, he’s lost the license that allowed him to keep exotic animals, and the state of Indiana is threatening to shut him down. He has just five days to find alternate homes for all but three of his brood and to bring his facilities up to code – or else lose what he considers to be his life’s work.
As Hill fights to hold on to his tigers over the days and months that follow, The Tiger Next Door follows him – exploring his motives, his past, and the curious, ethically-murky world he’s created in his backyard. At the same time, the film ranges far beyond Dennis’ animal compound, illuminating the connection between breeders like Hill, and the near-epidemic of wild animal keeping in the United States.
Camilla Calamandrei, Director & Producer
Award winning documentary filmmaker and interactive producer Calamandrei began her journey into the world of American captive bred tigers in 2003—when a long time tiger owner in the New York area (the “tiger lady” Joan Byron Marasek) was forced to surrender 24 tigers, found to be living in unsafe, inhumane conditions. Following those tigers to their new home in Texas led the filmmaker to a myriad of other captive bred tiger stories around the country. Camilla has previously produced and directed two other independent documentaries about uniquely American stories that were broadcast on PBS and abroad. The historical documentary “Prisoners in Paradise” was voted Best of Festival at the Rhode Island Film Festival in 2001, and the short subject documentary about Ballroom dancing “At Arm’s Length” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1990. In addition to making documentary films, Camilla has worked as live action director/producer for The Jim Henson Company, and as a producer of interactive media for Scholastic and LEGO.
Bernadine Colish, Editor
A talented documentary film editor with a great sense of story and poetry, Bernadine Colish is known for crafting films that take audiences seemlessly on complicated, subtle and deeply human journeys. Her recent film “Herb and Dorothy” (director/producer Migumi Sasaki) won the Audience Award at Silverdocs, 2008. The Ellen Spiro/ Phil Donahue documentary that Bernadine edited “BODY OF WAR,” was runner up for the prestigious Audience Award at Toronto Film Fest 2007.
Tamara Goldsworthy, Cinematographer
A passionate animal lover, and talented cinematographer—has built her career shooting independent documentaries, including projects for HBO, the BBC, NBC, ABC, Discovery Channel, MSNBC, Burma Border Projects and various independent producers. Her credits include Big Mama, which won the 2000 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject, “Shut Up and Sing” (2007) and “The Calling” (2008). Goldsworthy got her start in shooting documentaries with the acclaimed veríte cinematographer Joan Churchill.
Dana Kupper, Cinematographer
Dana Kupper was co-winner of the ‘Excellence in Cinematography’ award for the documentary “Stevie” at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. And, was the primary cinematographer on “5 Girls” for Kartemquin Films, which aired on POV (PBS).
Director • Producer
Tamara Goldsworthy & Dana Kupper
George Yuri Raicin, Misho Stawnychy, Diane Zander,
Mark Mandler, Andrew Garrison, John Murphy
Eddie Marritz, Deborah Lewis, Marie-Joelle Rizk
Louise Rosen, Lisa Leeman
Dawn Brown, Judith Calamandrei, Donny Rowles
For Animal Planet
Splash Studios, New York
Framerunner, New York
Archival Footage courtesy of:
KAAL-TV Channel 6
WFLA-TV Channel 8
FOX 59 Indianapolis
Margaret Davis, Bonnie Hagenbuch
Web Site Construction
This film was made possible in part from contributions from:
Culture & Animals Foundation
and with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.
For more info please contact: TheTigerNextDoor@gmail.com
A documentary film about captive wild animals, people who keep tigers as pets, backyard tiger breeders, white tigers, the exotic pet trade, the black market for tiger bone, pelts and meat, tiger conservation, and tiger attacks. Also concerning, human-animal relationships, animal law, and animal hoarding in the United States — as in the case of Terry Thompson in Zanesville, Ohio. Filmed on location in Indiana, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, California, and Wisconsin. Director, Producer Camilla Calamandrei, Rolling River Films.