Prints & Advertising (P & A) - Independent Motion Picture Distribution

Steve Zambo (Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Steve Zambo is president of Salty Earth Pictures, housed in a 30,000 sq. ft. studio in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, where since its founding in 2003 he has written, directed and distributed four feature-length films as well as many other educational and promotional materials. He teaches and directs the Digital Cinema and Media major at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee. Working with wife Beth, his past and current clients include Christian Aid and Relief, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Jesus Cares Ministries, and private sector initiatives for President George H W. Bush.


As he produced and distributed four feature-length films from Salty Earth Pictures over the past several years, Steve Zambo has gathered experience, insights, and ideas about how to gain a wide distribution of productions like these. He presents some of what he has learned in this slide show.

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Mark R. Harrington 25 days ago
Steve: what is intriguing to me sir is the attention getting quality of such graphics, photos, and movie posters as you have exemplified above. While I can see that the thrust of your presentation above involves motion pictures and their distribution, it seems that a good movie poster is a valuable aid in capturing a potential audience's imagination. Are you able to elaborate on any particular resources, software, or ways that local churches can produce quality flyers, handouts, graphics, photos to similarly capture the imagination of those in the community who may see or receive printed material or who are viewing graphic/photo presentations on church websites?
Steven Zambo 19 days ago
There are many fine graphic artist. In fact the programs at both WLC and Bethany may be interested in assisting a congregation. You are correct! Artwork is very important. In our case the covers/poster are done in partnership with the movies distributor.
Steven Zambo 18 days ago
Also I would suggest the Adobe line of media products available through their Creative Cloud Suite. There is an educator and student discount. Though there is a learning curve with each product, it is a one stop shop for graphic design, video editing, photo enhancement, script writing, and much more.
Mark R. Harrington 18 days ago
Thanks so much for your response and helpful pointers Steven! I signed up for a trial of Creative Cloud Suite with a 30 day trial download of Illustrator and Photoshop. I can see that the Creative Cloud Suite offers a lot, and am trying to learn by designing a flyer/handout to use in promoting an upcoming event at the church building!
Tom Kuster 22 days ago
Steve, your focus here is distribution, but you have shown yourself to be a skilled screenwriter and director as well. In regard to the "Gospel" aspect of this conference, what ways have you considered for making the Gospel appear in your films? Are there good ways (and then even better ways) to include the name of Jesus, and even more, to express what he has done for us? To me it seems a challenge for the Christian screenwriter to do that in a way that is integral to the story. It is one kind of challenge when writing screenplays depicting Bible history stories. But perhaps more difficult still in the stories you like to tel, featuring settings contemporary to us. How have you approached the challenge of making your films vehicles of the Gospel?
Steven Zambo 19 days ago
Great question. It all depends on the story and the intent for distribution. In "Journey to Paradise" the Gospel was told through Lucy's love of the Lord and the wonderful music of Michael Schroeder. In "Mister Scrooge to See You" were were able to take Scrooge's new found love of Christmas and use the story of Christ's birth to share the true meaning of Christmas in a way that was entertaining yet Gospel focused. In "The return" the fairytale approach allowed us to create an allegory message from John 3:16 that has been able to reach both Christian an secular markets. Christians get it, while main stream audiences like the fantasy fairytale story, yet at the end we can tell them that this "love" story between princess and his bride is true! In our next movie "The Open Door" the story will create situations that present ways for characters to react in one of two ways, the world's way or Christs way. Conflict. conflict, conflict is the key to any good screenplay. As you know there is a great deal of conflict in life. Does Scripture provide us the path to address conflict? Yes. A screenplay, a story, can share this in an exciting way. 1. One a upon a time there was.... 2. Who lived .... 3. One day...... 4. This caused..... 5. So that this happened..... 6. If it was for........ 7. So finally...... 8. Everyone lived happily ever after or not.
William Bukowski 22 days ago
Steve: I am guessing you have media students that want to come and work for you, and I am sure you can't absorb all of the young talent that would be willing to join your production company. What kind of advice and encouragement do you give to the recent graduates or soon to graduate- students interested in Christian film?
Steven Zambo 19 days ago
There are many careers where students interested in media can serve. May non-profits, churches, businesses,, organizations are looking for someone that can help them to tell their story and to share that story with the world. Today the investment isn't in equipment as was the media crazy in the 90s. The investment is in people. So, if someone know how to visually tell a story, a mission, a product. They are in great demand. Visual media does several things well. It can move to action, it can help educate, it can entertain, and it can sell. If someone know how to do this they can be very successful. Museums, libraries, theme parks, television stations, online retail, education, and marketing are all looking for people who can tell visual stories. Also with the price of production and the availability of distribution, people today can find audiences for their productions.
William Bukowski 14 days ago
Steve, are there filmmakers now in the "Christian" film industry whose work you admire or emulate? Do you also draw inspiration or influence from non-Christian filmmakers?
Steve Zambo 5 days ago
Great question. In both Christian filmmaking and in secular production I believe that as Alfred Hitchcock said you need three important elements. They are story, story, story. I admire story tellers who can use the media of moving pictures in a way that helps to tell a story in a way that holds an audience attention and also inspires them.

I think there is a trend to providing eye candy rather than telling a story. I don't think that has to be the way to go. when teaching digital cinema at Wisconsin Lutheran College my heart is always warmed when a student sees a classic movie for the first time and says, "Wow, that was really a good movie!" These movies are story driven and not effect driven.

A more recent example of a wonderful picture that is a terrific example of a story driven movie is "The King's Speech." Tom Hooper did an excellent job with this movie on a relatively small budget, by Hollywood standards.

We have the most wonderful story ever told to tell! From "In the beginning" to "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen." there is a story that needs to be told and shared by all possible means. I don't mean we need to produce Bible epics alone, though that would be wonderful, but stories that share the Christian journey, the gift of salvation, the hope that we have, and the promise that lightens the world through drama, allegory, comedy and other genres.

It is my prayer that Christians in both the religious and secular arenas will produce stories that challenge minds, lighten hearts, and strengthen souls.
Paul Ziemer 19 days ago
Because it is most difficult for civilians to understand the military world, I encourage people to view "The Band of Brothers,""Saving Private Ryan," and "We Were Soldiers Once--and Young." Otherwise, most of the movie presentations of military life are misleading. Recent documentaries showing footage of war zone action, including "Restrepo" also help civilians to gain an accurate picture. But none that I have seen show the active faith life of the Christian warrior. Maybe that cannot be done. But it would be nice to see--and you might be the one to do it...