News around the events documented in Netflix's Tiger King continues to unfold in real time, which might make you wonder when Tiger King was filmed, and how creators Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin got that much footage of its subjects' zoo-running antics.
The short answer is filming began in 2014 and ended in 2019, according to The Guardian. Goode, a devout reptile conservationist, initially set out to investigate an infamous Florida-based snake dealer. Just by happenstance, he and Chaiklin came across a man, pictured in Episode 1, with a caged snow leopard in the back of his van in humid, 100 degree weather. “That set me on this journey to really understand what is going on with people keeping big cats in this country," Goode explained.
The filmmakers were eventually introduced to the series' main character, Greater Wynnewood Zoo owner Joe "Exotic" Maldonado-Passage, which narrowed their focus around his public rivalry with Carole Baskin of Big Cat Rescue, who condemned him for breeding animals for profit. Little did they know, he would eventually be sentenced to 22 years in prison on account of allegedly hiring men to murder her.
When Goode and Chaiklin reached out to Exotic about filming, he jumped at the idea, and "loved being on camera," according to Chaiklin, whether it was for Tiger King or for his own YouTube channel, dubbed Joe Exotic TV. “We were blessed in this project in having subjects that were obsessed with filming themselves. Narcissism was a common thread,” Chaiklin told IndieWire. “Honestly, there was so much archival that we probably, to this day, have not watched every second of it because it was so overwhelming.”
As the feud between Baskin and Exotic continued to escalate, the filmmaker duo kept working. According to The Guardian, they witnessed Exotic's arrest in September 2018 and proceeded documenting its aftermath. “I probably spent about 40 percent of 2019 on a plane and filming," Goode told IndieWire. “There were a few times where we missed an event, but for the most part, we were capturing it as it was happening.”
And they somehow managed to squeeze five years of footage — archival and original — into seven 45 minute episodes. “We had a story that was unfolding every day, practically. If somebody was in the field, all the footage was coming in from shooting 18 hours a day,” Chaiklin added. Goode said they even have clips from after they capped Tiger King. He's considering saving them for another project, but he's not sure.
“We do have footage that we shot since we locked, and maybe it’d be interesting to put that out there in some way,” he said. “I just think my intellectual curiosity has kind of ended.” Thanks to him, though, everyone else's has just begun.