Friday, November 1, 2013

"Tiger Within" Director Rafal Zielinski

Rafal Zielinski has directed over 20 feature films ranging from award winning independent films (where his heart truly lies) to more mainstream Hollywood projects and television.

His early years were spent in Eastern Europe. While in grade school he was lucky to travel several times around the world and gain a global perspective, an 8mm camera always at his eye. He was schooled in North America, the Middle East and the Orient.

During high school he was fortunate to attend the prestigious Stowe School in England where he received the Duke of Edinburgh Award enabling him to make his first documentary film about the temples in southern India.

He went on to graduate from M.I.T. with a Bachelor of Science in Art and Design focusing on the new field of art and technology, and studied cinéma vérité documentary filmmaking with veteran Richard Leacock.

As an independent filmmaker Rafal has always generated his own projects either by creating an original story that he was passionate about then collaborating with several screenwriters or adapting works from the theater in collaboration with the respective playwright. On most of the independent films that he directed he also served as his own producer often producing through his own company.

To learn more about Rafal and his films please visit

Visit to learn about "Tiger Within"

What is "Tiger Within" about?

"Tiger Within" is a film about an unlikely friendship between a young skinhead and a Holocaust survivor. Both have lost their families and face the struggle to love and forgive. Samuel has lost his family in the war, and Casey has a broken family who doesn't love her unconditionally. Their circumstances and loss establish a connection between them that they never would have thought existed.

What does forgiveness mean to you?

Forgiveness is a powerful process. If we all learn to fully forgive, there would be an extreme peace that would radiate throughout the world. I believe in its force and in our ability to heal ourselves through forgiveness. However, there are certain types of pain and loss that are nearly impossible to forgive. Samuel has experienced those and Casey has only just begun to know the harshness and reality of the world.

Is there a proper way to grieve and heal after a loss?

Everyone is unique in their grieving process, so it's all relative to that person's emotions. Someone like Samuel has held onto his grief for such a long time that it's interfered with his every day life. Part of his soul was lost with the loss of his daughters, but Casey's appearance in his life brings about a light that he thought was dimmed forever.

Can an elderly person learn something from a teenager (and vice-versa)?

Absolutely. History gets lost from generation to generation. Casey has lived in a bubble surrounded by her own pain, completely unaware of others' life experiences. Samuel has shut himself off, basically preparing to be alone forever. Casey learns about history and true suffering from Samuel. They learn that they aren't alone in their pain, and it's comforting.

Why do you want to make this film?

Writer Gina Wendkos and I have wanted to make this film for over 20 years, since our "spirits melded", as she said in a recent interview. This film's story is timeless, universal and pure: Two individuals from different generations, a homeless punk teen and a war survivor, overcome their pain stemming from loss and "choose" each other as family. We are not all born into a family that is best for us, so sometimes, choosing a new family is necessary, even often life saving.

Why did you choose Kickstarter to finance the film?

I love the idea of crowdfunding, and really believe it to be a superior financing route than than relying on businessmen sitting behind a desk to get funded. It's more inspiring to have everyone be a part of the film who truly believe in the story and want to see it made.

How do you think you experiences from your previous films will help you make this one?

Quite a few of my films have given voices to the rebels, misfits, and outsiders of society. My first film, "Hey Babe", featured an 11 year old Yasmine Bleeth whose character was orphaned. She befriends a homeless man who is played by the legendary Buddy Hackett. My film "Fun", starring Alicia Witt and Renee Humphrey, is based on a true story of two girls who commit a senseless crime. Both girls are from abusive and broken homes, but establish a sisterhood because of their pain. These types of characters breathe much-needed life into film.

Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers?

I would suggest researching heavily, as well as envisioning the actors who you'd like to play the part as you write or create. Also, do not give up when trying to get your film made! As I mentioned, this film has been 20 years in the making, and we feel that now is the right time. Luckily, for us, the film's subject is timeless.

Advice to aspiring filmmakers:…………

Is there anything you'd like to add?

Believe in your film..believe in your characters. Keep them close.


Thank you for doing the interview Rafal. I wish you all the best with "Tiger Within".