In the Works: New Take on Billboard-Sitting Contest, Textbook Wars, YoYos, Los Amigos & NW Hip Hop
Zeke Zelker.


Zeke Zelker ("InSearchOf") headed to the Sundance Film Festival with a film, but he didn't spend most of his time handing out postcards or getting ready for post-screening Q&A's. Zelker served as co-producer for Lance Weiler's short "Pandemic 41.410806, -75.654259" (Watch it here), but spent most of his time as the on-site producer for the film's interactive component, "Pandemic 1.0."

"Pandemic," it turns out, wasn't just a film submitted to the festival as a short; it was a true transmedia experience. Visitors to the festival could work with people from around the world following the story on their wired devices to find objects around Park City that would help expand the story world of "Pandemic." During the festival, Zelker was holed up in the basement of the Park City miner's hospital, which housed the fest's New Frontier section, mission control for the "Pandemic" experience.

Now back from the festival, Zelker is hard at work at his follow-up transmedia experience. This one, "Billboard," will be anchored by a feature film that he will direct. Both "Pandemic" and Weiler's "Hope is Missing" have served as research and development for this new project.

A promotional image from Zeke Zelker's "Billboard." [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

"When I was a kid, there was this billboard sitting contest [where contestants would brave the elements and each other on the platform to a roadside billboard] in Allentown, PA," Zelker told indieWIRE. And from that germ of an idea, Zelker decided he wanted to recreate a similar event. To do so, he created WTYT 960, "Your only virtual alternative rock AM station." To populate the station's airwaves, Zelker has an open call for bands to submit to the station. "The playlist is based on fan votes and fan interaction. It provides a platform for community involvement, a chance for upstart bands to show off their music and get their stuff out there."

A few months into the radio stations existence, Zelker and his team will announce The Great TYT Billboard Sitting Contest. At that point, people will be able to create audition videos for the contest. The winners of that online contest will be invited to act in the film. For other roles in the film, Zelker will go across the country, hosting events with WTYTs' bands and holding casting calls. Zelker explained, "It's always been interesting to see how people audition, so I'm also taking it to the people and also asking people to submit video."

If all goes well at that point, Zelker will have what he needs to make the film. And in the film, the fictional owner of the radio station is struggling (no surprise for an alt rock AM radio station in the 21st Century). The owner announces the contest, a publicity stunt, and the film's drama erupts from the billboard platform. And when the film is released, there will be an alternative reality game, which will allow someone to actually win the $96,000 the film hypes in its fictional universe.

Setting the film on a billboard (with rotating ads) allows Zelker a chance to fund this film. "I've always used product placement to fund my films. Right now, we're in the midst of finding sponsors, with and Discover Lehigh Valley on board." It turns out Zelker wants to shoot his film in the Lehigh Valley, right where the idea came from. Union rates may curtail that from happening, but already the area's tourism board is helping to fund the film. Zelker continued, listing all of the advertising options open to potential buyers. "Radio station ads, ads on the website, the billboard will change. There will be smaller ads on the billboard platform. The larger billboard will be on the film's key art, its DVD case, the film stills." He paused. "Does indieWIRE want to buy some space?"

More Projects

"Standing Up to the Experts"

A photo from the set of "Standing Up to the Experts." [Image courtesy of filmmakers]

Log Line: This film takes an intimate view of the political wranglings behind America's largest and most influential state board of education, Texas.

Production Team: Director: Scott Thurman; Producers: Orlando Wood, Pierson Silver; Writer/Associate Producer: Vijay Dewan; Associate Producer: Chandra Silver; Editor: Jawad Metni

About the Film: "In a small room in Austin, Texas, a group of fifteen people are deciding what is taught to the next generation of American children.   ;The highly politicised fifteen-member Texas State Board of Education is currently going through the once-in-a-decade process of rewriting the teaching and textbook standards for its 5 Million schoolchildren. Texas is America's largest single purchaser of textbooks, so when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas affects the whole nation.

"Over the course of the current review, the board has been focusing on infusing the school curriculum with broader conservative and religious themes. In science, there has been an insistence on questioning the theory of evolution. During the review of the history standards, the more conservative members have attempted to define the United States as a Christian nation governed by Christian principles. They further assert 'American Exceptionalism,' or the notion that America is special and destined to lead the world morally, militarily, and commercially." -- Scott Thurman

Current Status: The team is now in post-production. They have a few pickup interviews to do still.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $10,000 by the end of the campaign (February 18).

"Strings: A YoYo Documentary"

An image from Dawn Schwartz's "Strings." [Image courtesy of filmmaker]

Logline: The documentary film, "Strings," follows six yo-yo players as they prepare, travel to, and experience the 2010 World Yo-Yo Contest. Get an inside look into this vibrant subculture and see how a worldwide community comes together amidst the drama of a contest.

Production team: Producer/Director: Dawn Schwartz

About the film: "I knew very little about modern yo-yoing before starting the project, and was truly amazed by the worldwide friendships that tie this community together. Thinking back to when I played with a yo-yo as a kid, I remembered some tricks such as Around the World and Walk the Dog, but I was so surprised to see the evolution that has taken place. The community today is defining what yo-yoing is. While some consider yo-yoing a sport and some consider it more of an art, the community today is creating new tricks and adding new dimensions, forming a truly dynamic and exciting culture.

"I wanted to create a character-driven film, giving viewers an inside look into an unseen vibrant community. Yo-Yo’s are something that most people have once held in their hands and whether it’s through nostalgia or a connection with larger themes (such as passion, competition, and friendships), those outside the yo-yo community will be able to relate. The film is centered around the contest, but it’s a film about characters’ personal stories and challenges as well as the community they belong to." -- Dawn Schwartz

Current status: The team is now in post-production and are working towards a rough cut.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $6,000 by the end of the campaign (March 17).

"La Casa del Ritmo"

An image from Javier Andrade. [Image courtesy of the filmmaker]

Log Line: A fIlm about Los Amigos Invisibles and their 20 year musical journey.

Production Team: Director: Javier Andrade; Executive Producer: Juan Miguel Marin; Cinematographers: Catalina Kulczar-Marin, Chris Teague, Rafael Salazar Moreno, Daniel Roversi

About the film: "Back in 2005 I toured with my former band La Rúa as the opening act for Los Amigos Invisibles in the US southeast. That's how I met them and learned the incredibly hardworking guys they are, and how committed they are to their music and their fans. How many bands out there can claim the fact of being together for 20 years with their original line-up?... Los Amigos Invisibles most have done something right despite the complicated industry they are in, so there is a great story to be told, that I am sure a lot of young musicians will appreciate. Also the fact that David Byrne from the Talking Heads discovered them the very old-school way is a fantastic piece of the whole story. We want this film to be a celebration of a great musical journey. Twenty years is something very special." -- Javier Andrade

Current Status: The team is currently in production, capturing interviews with band members, producers, and people like David Byrne.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $30,000 by the end of the campaign (February 20).


Logline: The new sound of Seattle.

Production Team: Director/Producer: Daniel Torok; Executive Producer: J.R. Celski; Co-Producer: Jeff Santos; Story: J.R. Celski, Vinny Dom, Jeff Santos, and Daniel Torok

About the film: "First and foremost, we are passionate fans of hip hop and proud citizens of the northwest. We wanted to display our pride by giving back to the city, the art, and culture that has inspired and nurtured us. After the 2010 Winter Olympics, two time medalist JR Celski’s local fame became the platform for The Otherside. JR had the opportunity to meet up with Seattle rapper Macklemore and pitched the idea of a benefit concert the coming summer. Macklemore was on board and soon after, JR was apporached by filmmakers Dan Torok and Jeff Santos who were interested in documenting the process of putting the show together. The show was put on hold while a new approach was taken. The idea of creating a documentary about a scene that had no exposure in the rest of the country sounded like a subject that could make a great story. JR then recruited childhood friend and hip hop enthusiast Vinny Dom, and the four of us began work on The Otherside."

Current Status: This film is currently in production until the summer of 2011. Together they will continue to document historic sold out shows, first-time headlining tours, and Seattle’s best music festivals that attract talent from all over the world.

For more information and to support the film: Visit the film’s Kickstarter page. As with all Kickstarter projects, the filmmakers will only receive donated funds if they reach their target goal of $15,000 by the end of the campaign (March 17).