Private Project

The Tigress

The main trajectory of 'The Tigress' follows Tischa Thomas during the course of a year as she competes in the female bodybuilding circuit with the sole goal to place number one in the world. At 48 years old, she is in denial that her time is limited. Beyond the need for recognition, she strives for the title as a means to justify all that she has sacrificed in the name of being a female bodybuilder, meaning romantic relationships, financial stability, and societal acceptance, even from her own Harlem community. Her life is defined by training, a regimented diet and working as a dominatrix to support herself financially. The paradox of Tischa's life is found in the salvation of the sport that gave her confidence and focus and the resulting isolation and discrimination she faces due to her muscled 'masculine' appearance. Her only real connection is with her roommate Eddie. In addition to financially supporting her, he attends all of Tischa’s competitions as her support team. However, Tischa takes him for granted and projects her frustrations onto him when she loses the first round in Virginia. But Tischa is a complex character in that she also struggles with connection and self-doubt. Her only means of intimacy and even just physical touch is found through her work as a dominatrix. After losing in Virginia, Tischa has one last chance to qualify for the world championships in Romania. She travels there with Eddie where things quickly start to unravel; illness and a massive fight push Eddie to his limits. Although he adores her, her continued outbursts and projections of anger start to wear him down. When Tischa loses and her dream is destroyed, the two return to Harlem. Beneath the surface of the main narrative lies the story of what a person does in the face of failure; how one must reinvent and accept their loss. Tischa's message of self-love and the power of body transformation find a place on Instagram where she has more than 10,000 followers. It is with her live video series "In the Cage with The Tigress" that she promotes her own journey of losing 150 pounds through bodybuilding as the power of self-acceptance. When they both move to Florida to start a new life, Eddie proposes marriage to Tischa. With her loss of the title and her dream shattered, can Tischa discover the life that waits off the stage?

  • Philipp Fussenegger
  • Dino Odsmanovic
  • Michael Steinwand
  • Tischa Thomas
    Key Cast
    "The Tigress"
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Sport
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 30 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    August 31, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    200,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Romania, United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital 4k
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Philipp Fussenegger, Dino Odsmanovic

Philipp Fussenegger is an Austrian director, scriptwriter, producer, and photographer. After Fussenegger finished his childhood studies in classical piano, he went on to start a career as a photographer and copywriter in the advertisement industry. In 2010, he received his Bachelor of Arts in directing at Salzburg. He then continued in film studies at the renowned Academy of Media Arts in Cologne where he completed his well-received thesis film, “Henry”. “Henry” was awarded the prestigious German First Steps Award in the category Best Mid-Length Film. “Henry” was also nominated for the Austrian Film Award.

Dino Osmanovic was born in Doboj, Bosnia, but moved to Austria at the age of 7. He completed his studies in Multi Media Arts at the University of Applied Sciences in Salzburg, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree. During his studies, he spent an Erasmus semester at the Film Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He went on to study cinematography at the Munich Academy of Television and Film in 2010. In recent years, he has worked on numerous films as a cinematographer.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Throughout my own journey, I’ve felt limited by the stereotypical idea of how a man should look or present himself. I’ve struggled with self-acceptance around my own gender fluidity and the resulting societal discrimination. I want to add ‘The Tigress’ to the global movement that seeks to disrupt conventional attitudes around gender. ‘The Tigress’ also expresses a perspective on the sex work industry that shows a woman as empowered in her decisions in her work life. She is not a victim, but an autonomous woman who chooses to use her power and physique to provide financial stability and personal fulfillment. In my personal life, I gravitate towards the symbol of the mask. I use wigs, make up and fashion to embody different personas. In these creations, I am searching for my true authentic self. Can I be all of these different embodiments or must I choose one? Tischa has inspired me to own all the ways in which I express myself and to remain strong in the face of judgment and discrimination.