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Billboard comes down from Zeke Zelker's new film

Billboard comes down from Zeke Zelker's new film

A green billboard in the lot of Rothrock Motor Sales that has been visible from route 22 for over a year is coming down.

The set built for the filming of Zeke Zelker's film "Billboard" for which filming ended last month is being removed and the lumber is being donated to Habitat for Humanity.

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"I feel very blessed by this project and we want to give back," says Zelker, a Forks Township filmmaker.

The project included an interactive play at State Theatre in Easton which raised more than $30,000 for the Miracle League, he says.

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The billboard also was painted green making it into a giant green screen. Zelker says the green screen billboard space will be sold to advertisers and part of the proceeds will go to various organizations that fight hunger as well as arts organizations.

"The interesting thing is we can change the billboard in every community through the world if we wanted," Zelker says. "We want this project to touch people around the globe."

"Billboard" focuses on the story of a struggling radio station,  WTYT 960,  that decides to hold a billboard-sitting contest to drive up ratings. It is inspired by a real event in 1982 and 1983 when a Lehigh Valley radio station held a promotional contest on a billboard at MacArthur Road and Route 22 in Whitehall Township.

Zelker calls "Billboard" a "a cross media project" with the story told across multiple platforms.  The story is told from two perspectives. The movie focuses on the radio station that hosts the contest. An interactive play and a 25-episode web series concentrates on the stories of the four billboard sitters.

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A play was presented at Bucks County Playhouse in 2014,  and the web series was shot last fall. Zelker said he plans to release the web series leading up to the release of the movie.

Another part of the project is a virtual radio station at wtyt960.com at which bands from all over the world are submitting music to become a part of the project. The music from the radio station will be featured in the web series and movie.

Zelker's team also has created a mobile app through which the audience can interact with the characters via social media.

The film stars John Robinson,  who plays Casey,  the man inherits the radio station and decides to create the contest. Robinson appeared in the films "Elephant, " "Lords of Dogtown" and "Transformers."

Heather Matarazzo and Leo Fitzpatrick play the radio station's DJs. Matarazzo is an Independent Spirit Award winner who appeared in "Welcome to the Dollhouse, " "Devil's Advocate, " "The Princess Diaries" and "Hostel: Part II." Fitzpatrick appeared in "Kids, " "Bully, " "Gotham, " and "Storytelling."

Eric Roberts,  who was nominated for an Oscar for "Runaway Train, " plays an unscrupulous radio executive who wants to drive WTYT 960 out of business. Alice Wills plays the station manager. Also featured in the film are local actors Michael Fegley,  Cristina Lucas Tissot,  Kristyn Koczur and David Lind as the billboard sitters.

Other local actors include Tracy Cesian,  Troy Brokenshire,  Samantha Meskill,  Jenn Gotzon,  Brian Wilson,  Chris Burcin,  Ashley Russo and Roy Shuler.

The rest of the "Billboard" cast of more than 80 characters was filled with local actors.

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Zelker is one of the pioneers of this form,  having produced the first cross media project - the 2011 short "Pandemic" - at the Sundance Film Festival.

Zelker has been making films in the Lehigh Valley for 20 years. His movies include "InSearchOf" and "Loggerheads."

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