By Zeke Zelker, October 28th, 2010

Since I launched my latest film, “Billboard, an Uncommon Contest for Common People!” along with my Indiegogo fund raising campaign, people have balked at the amount of money that I’m attempting to raise, $300,0000. I scratch my head at this, and wonder why filmmakers do not disclose their true budgets, what their real cost was to take their movie to market? This means including scripting, preproduction, production, post production, prints (yes virtual prints in our digital age), marketing, advertising, etc.

What is the benefit to tell people, that you made your movie for a paltry sum? Is this just showing people how cheap you are? How crafty you are? How fiscally responsible you are? By reporting deflated numbers, you build up the hopes of so many aspiring filmmakers to enable them for failure by lying to them. Is this inflating the risk reward model? Something is just wrong with this. Could Weiler and Avalos really make and distribute their film “The Last Broadcast” for under $900? I wonder how they printed call sheets and scripts or got the drive space to edit the film? Or Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi” for $7,000? Did this include transportation to and from Mexico? Did the filmmakers behind the reported $15,000 “Paranormal” include salaries in their budget? Or was Kevin Smith’s movie “Clerks” really made for $26,000? I’ve shot a lot of film in my day and I know what it costs to strike a print. Was music even included in this? I wonder why so much attention is drawn to movie budgets. Who really gives a shit. We only have a fiduciray responsibility to our funders, not one another. Does bragging about how cheap you made your film for, really make a difference? Can we celebrate the birth of a movie without needing to tell people how much it cost?

What if Picasso put a “made for tag” on all of his pieces of work? In art and filmmaking, there is the inherent value perception, what you think something is worth, this is the business behind the art and certain perimeters drive the price. What if every year we had an auction where filmmakers and distributors fill a room and every film is auctioned off just like at Sotheby’s? Imagine the feelings in that room.

Should filmmakers take a salary as they create their work? In every business plan I have ever read, there has always been a line item for the entrepreneur’s salary, if not, I would raise the question, how are you or this project going to survive? Why is our budget exclamation so important to our industry? You seldom hear, it took company Y to produce product G. Then you also have the reverse, people inflating their reported budgets because they want to drive up a distribution sale. Budget reporting is all over the place and there is little truth in the numbers.

Can we all be more accurate in our budget reporting, if we feel the need to report how much it cost us to make our latest work? I feel that it would level the playing field. Filmmakers may even get more money for their films, even if it truly only cost them $50k.

ps. here’s a little diddy about fund raising that my friends at Lehigh helped me make: Top 10 Reasons to fund Billboard over Politicians

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Posted in education transmedia

Zeke Zelker – an award winning filmmaker, blends art and commerce in all that he does. His latest film InSearchOf is not only creating buzz about the content of the story line but also for his business techniques. Always creating new revenue streams by blending traditional distribution outlets, adapting others to suit his film’s needs, and pioneering some of his own Zeke has been forging a pathway to profitability. He is currently developing on a transmedia project that will begin unraveling 2010.


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