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Director/Producer Laura Zinger of 20K Films

November 16, 2010 | By | 1 Comment

When Laura Zinger, director and producer of “Proceed and Be Bold!” was 13, her father asked her what her dreams for the future were. At the time she had been watching a lot of movies, and thought maybe she would be a film critic. But a viewing of Clint Eastwood’s “Line of Fire” changed that, with one little word that rolled in the credits: “director.”

“I thought to myself- ‘That’s what I want to do,’” Zinger said. “And I haven’t found anything else that I’ve wanted to do ever since.”

At 16, she attempted to begin making films on a Hi-8 video camera, but struggled with the lack of technology. It wasn’t until she went to college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that she had the proper equipment at her disposal to start making real films.

She joined several film clubs, and her first film was a parody of “Fight Club” called “Code Club” that she made for the Association of Computing Machinery.

“Right after that I was approached by some guys to direct a low-budget on campus porno,” she said. “I wisely turned that one down.”

Having bypassed a possible career in the adult-entertainment industry, Zinger took a job at Naperville Community Television, (NCTV17) in 2004. There she worked as an associate producer and then producer on documentaries about Naperville’s history.

In 2007 Zinger began production on “Proceed and Be Bold!” a feature-length documentary profiling Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., a man who gave up his comfortable middle-class life to become a letterpress printer.

Released in 2008, “Proceed and Be Bold!” was the first film in which Zinger had sole creative control. Funded by a loan from her father, “Proceed and Be Bold!” began as a five-minute documentary that she filmed at a Chicago art gallery. After posting the video to YouTube, Kennedy emailed the link to a letterpress listserv which received 800 hits in the first week. From there, Zinger began the 14-month process of filming the full length documentary.

Zinger decided to buy all of the equipment for the film that they needed.

“Video equipment is so cheap at this point, that by the time you rent it from a professional rental house, you might as well have just bought it,” she said. “But I’m talking from a place where we shot the whole documentary on relatively cheap equipment.”

She used a Panasonic DVX100B which she got for around $2,700. She also purchased an iMac for editing purposes for $3,000.

“It [the iMac] included enough hard drive space to edit, although we eventually moved to a 1TB drive and edited off that master drive for most of the time, and we had a second 1TB drive as a back up at all times,” she said.

Funding is always an issue in independent filmmaking, but Zinger and her crew made it work.

“It’s pretty incredible that in this day and age, you can buy all of the gear you need to make a feature documentary or film for around $5-6,000,” she said. “I know that seems like a lot, but if you had a full time job, you could easily save up and pay for that in a year. It’s a good idea to own the means of your own production- then you can shoot whatever, whenever.”

Another avenue Zinger took for funding was through a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter.com is a “crowdfunding” site where people can donate various amounts of money to a film. You have to either be invited by a friend of Kickstarter to join, or email them directly.

Zinger is currently raising funds of Kickstarter to print 1,000 more DVDs of “Proceed and Be Bold!.”

When the film was finished, Zinger began by marketing it to the letterpress community.  She took a self-distribution workshop with Yvonne Welbon through IFP Chicago as a starting point.

“I chose to self distribute the film namely because it is so small and independent that I knew a large distributor would not take it,” she said. “I didn’t want to go with a mid to low-level distributor because they take on hundreds of films and they never give all of the films the level of marketing and help they need to get out to a larger audience. I really felt I would do a better job of marketing and distributing the film myself, and then 20K Films (my company) could keep the profits and use it to fund its next round of projects.”

Once she noticed college students taking an interest in the film, she began selling the documentary to universities.

“A lot of colleges saw a larger message in the documentary than just that the letterpress is a cool new art form,” she said. “They saw Amos’ message to do what makes you happy in life. From there, the documentary just spread by word of mouth.”

A combination of charging public screening fees and DVD sales helped Zinger earn money back from her film, but one of the most profitable ways she made money was by selling educational licenses.

For about $250-$300, universities and colleges alike will purchase a license to show your film as a learning tool, and to rent out to students and faculty.

Zinger has since made the money back from her film, but still considers herself in debt because she funneled all of her earnings directly back into her business.

She is currently working on three new features, “Sick Cells,” about Sickle Cell Disease; “Dinner,” which suggests that they way Americans eat dinner affects us psychologically and socially; and “Nipples,” which is about the world’s attitude towards breastfeeding.

TwentyK Films

Kickstarter Page – Ends on 21st

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