Josh Rittberg

Arts and Culture Editor

Zeke Zelker’s excitingly innovative new film, Billboard, hits the famed art house theatre, Zoetropolis, on the night of November 27th. The film viewers will witness that night is many years in the making and features talent from all over the local PA area. Zelker, a PA native himself from Allentown, strives to bring a homegrown touch to each of his projects, and Billboard is no exception.

Zelker is a filmmaker who stays true to his local roots. Zelker, who has been making movies for about 20 years, has never moved to NY or LA because as Zelker says, “I want to bring something to my hometown of Allentown.” Through his local filming, he has found success at major film festivals around the world and has gotten quite a career for himself. Zelker has auditioned actors in NY, LA and Philly as in the case with his current project. He also tries to get local talent.

Along with having a homegrown quality, Zelker is also an advocate for innovation in filmmaking.  Billboard, Zelker says is inspired by “An actual billboard sitting contest that took place in 1982.” It tells the story of a struggling radio station that decides to hold a billboard sitting contest. In this contest, four people live on a catwalk in front of a billboard. The prize for this contest is winning a mobile home and “nine-sixty thousand dollars”. In addition to the film, Zelker is also creating a web series that brings viewers deeper into the world of the film and its characters. The web series is 25 episodes long and speaks to the film’s idea of getting to know the contestants.

Zelker, as the director, writer and producer, has had quite the responsibility. The challenge that comes as the writer, director and producer is that, “You have to worry about the business side of it and you have to worry about all the creative things from the directing side of it”. Along with creating the film, Zelker even made his own radio station, WTYT 960, just for this production. The station has bands from all over the world. As an entrepreneur himself, Zelker believes in “co-creation”. This particular production, involved a fun process where people submit music that is considered for the film’s soundtrack and web series. Zelker has even made mock newspapers that incorporate characters and ideas from the film. Marketing is huge for Zelker, and he certainly is thinking outside of the box and showing himself as a film innovator.

With all the creative marketing and behind the scene mechanics, Zelker’s latest project, Billboard, is ultimately a labor of love. Over the ten years of working on this film, he says that there have been over “2,000 people who have worked on this project from beginning to end.” At its heart, “the film is about an entrepreneur’s struggle to succeed.” This is a theme that hits close to home with Zelker, and while he says it started out as “telling a fun story in a creative way”, over the nine months of filming it was the film’s story that ultimately stuck with him. Local films do not come around too often, and Zelker’s heartwarming passion project in Billboard is one not to be missed.