Film Courage: How did you know you were rushing through your first film, was it feedback was it an epiphany you had?
Zeke Zelker, Writer/Director/Producer of the transmedia project BILLBOARD: Just me watching my own material. I think that filmmakers need to be honest with themselves. And not everything you make is going to be great but everything you make should be a testing ground for your next project.
We are filmmakers, it’s a craft. You have to remember we are craftsmen. We are crafts ladies you know? And it’s a matter of with film you bring all of those craftspeople together to create one piece of work. It’s one of those things that people don’t think about enough and you also hear these talks to students and they say “Listen you’ll learn more by doing than you will in school.” Because you have to do it. You have to fail. You have to figure out what works and doesn’t work.
But I learned that I was rushing through things by watching stuff myself after the fact. I was a bit naïve, a bit arrogant in thinking that what I would make money and thankfully it all has.
It’s interesting I have a different business model (I keep saying that). All of my films have been profitable except for one. It’s the only film that we sold. It was very strange because I firmly believe in theatrical distribution. I believe in what I call a $10,000 screening where you are actually netting $10,000 at a screening.
So I will rent the largest place possible, we’ll sell as many tickets as we can, we tier the ticket prices – $10.00, $35.00, $125.00 (that’s one hundred twenty-five dollars).
For instance $10.00 just gets you in the film. $35.00 is the film and after party. The $125.00 is a pre-party, after party and then “swag bag” types of stuff. Then we hand out film bills that we sell advertising in. And then we have merch and all of these types of things. I literally net $10,000 per screening. And I generally do that in the early parts of film release and I’ve been successful at it. So you string enough together and you are in the black.
It’s just a model that I’ve created for myself. I’ve always had some other type of IP [intellectual property] involved. Like for instance with AKA (the film I told you about earlier), the film tanked, it didn’t do well. I made more money on a cocktail book than I did associated with the project than I did with the project itself. But I still equate that with the film itself as it’s all part of the same property. So I always think about creating different revenue streams for every project.
For instance with BILLBOARD I created a radio station WTYT 960. We have the web series, we have now the interactive play, we have the feature film and then with all that stuff we can sell sponsorships because we are actually showing off brands within the content that we’ve created. So that drives a whole other level of income.
Film Courage: How many sponsorships do you have for BILLBOARD?
Zeke: Four…six…seven…eight…there’s nine, nine sponsors and I’ll be very candid they go anywhere from $9,000 up to $40,000.
Film Courage: I see…so $9,000 is your minimum entry point?
Film Courage: And do you know these…that’s fantastic. Did you have prior business relationships with any of the sponsors or…
Film Courage: Or you just cold-called…
Zeke: Cold-called. But I also firmly believe that filmmakers need to build audience early on. And so what we did first is we created the radio station WTYT 960 where now there is well over a 1,000 bands on it. I think we are in 22 countries, 49 states. And so I did that because I knew that we had an audience. And no sponsor is going to give you anything you can prove that you’re going to have impression counts and they know that they are going to have some sort of audience for their project.
So not only do we have those 1,000 bands but we have fans. And we did an average of them. Each of the bands average…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).
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