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‘Tiger King’ music supervisor Randall Poster ’84 P’23 discusses the documentary series’ rise

Interviewed by Watson Director Edward Steinfeld P’20, Poster ’84 discusses his involvement in Netflix’s ‘Tiger King,’ the show’s popularity

Since its March 20 debut, Netflix’s “Tiger King” has taken the United States by storm. Receiving over 34 million views within its first ten days on the streaming platform, the seven-part documentary series tells the story of three eccentric private zookeepers and their dangerous, alleged secrets and crimes.

On April 9, Director of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Edward Steinfeld P’20 spoke with film music supervisor Randall Poster ’84 P’23 about his work on “Tiger King.” Part of the Watson Institute’s “Trending Globally” podcast, the discussion dissected Poster’s role as music supervisor and why “Tiger King” has become such a prevalent social phenomenon amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual interview, live streamed to the public, was part of the John F. Kennedy Jr. Initiative for Documentary Film and Social Progress. The initiative “aims to bring film and filmmakers to the University with the goal of shedding light on some of the most urgent, challenging and complex issues facing society through the prism of documentary,” and is framed by the values of Brown alumnus John F. Kennedy Jr. ’83, The Herald previously reported.

When Poster first started working on “Tiger King,” he “thought it was a sort of anthropological study.”

“As it evolved, I kept thinking to myself, ‘God, this is really good, this is great storytelling,’” he said.

Poster touched on the importance of curating music to complement the eccentric and compelling characters and their storylines. He commented that with “the music in (‘Tiger King’), there may be a few standout moments,” but he ensured the soundtrack would “not call too much attention to itself. You weren’t going to be able to compete with these characters,” or “impede them with flashy music moments.”

“Tiger King” has been lauded by audiences for its captivating cast of characters — particularly Joe Exotic, former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.

“People are captive audiences,” Poster said. “There is such a voracious appetite for content. You look at the image of Joe Exotic, and it’s so compelling. You’re drawn into his personality, and he’s rendered in a very human way.”

Poster also suggested that “in contrast to maybe some of the other people in this country (whom) we are force-fed on a nightly basis, (Exotic’s) strange humanity is comforting in the sense that somehow it is a reflection of all of our unique personality, … that somehow it’s a signal of hope for something, in some crazy way.”

Steinfeld responded to the dilemma of viewers’ “skepticism” of Joe Exotic — specifically in relation to the zookeeper and reality star’s political ambitions, treatment of animals and other dubious practices. “But we are also in this P.T. Barnum moment,” Steinfeld said. “Our own president has that kind of quality to him.” He noted that whether this idea “may be captivating or appalling, … Joe Exotic feels like a man of the current moment.”

Poster’s advice for Brown students looking to enter the film or documentary industry is to “find your peers who want to direct or produce movies and throw in with them. I think that’s the most organic way to get involved in filmmaking.”

He added that “rendering the truth or tracing some nuances of the truth are of vital importance to this democracy” in relation to both the Initiative for Documentary Film and his own work, including “Tiger King,” in addition to frequent collaborations with film directors like Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater. Poster was also a classmate and friend of the late Kennedy Jr. and is currently one of the collaborators with the Watson Institute on the Initiative.

“We’re trying with the Initiative through Watson to … bring some younger practitioners who can engage students on a very practical level, in terms of where do you begin? How do you begin? How do you find a visual platform for the stories that you’re interested in telling, or things that are happening you think are important to share with a larger audience?” Poster asked.

“Hopefully the evolution of this program will extend John’s hopes and ambitions for communication and storytelling,” Poster added.



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