Dawn of the Dead is one of my favorite zombie movies. The original, not the 2004 remake with Ving Rhames. I love the cheesy, campy, blue painted zombies, the phenomenal quotables that lend some insight into the chaos of the apocalypse, and that late 70’s charm as survivors make a new life for themselves in the heart of a shopping mall. Romero’s zombies became the perfect analogy for the overbearing consumerism and materialism swallowing an entire nation. If you haven’t watched it you’re missing out. It’s the cyanotic zombies from this horror masterpiece that have always inspired my look for the Nashville Zombie Walk. I didn’t realize, though, until I took over the event, exactly how much like Dawn of the Dead this whole thing really is.
Everything in our lives comes down to money. Your ability to feed and shelter yourself hinges on your ability to earn. You’ve got to pay bills, buy necessities, and surrender a sizeable amount of cash in taxes each year just to live free and continue existing in this world. Thanks to our celebrity obsessed culture and the need to keep up with the Joneses, our status in society and even our self-worth can be equated in dollar amounts. Over half of all marriages end in divorce and the most common source of strife and contention in those relationships are the finances. I really should have known that the biggest hurdle I’d have to clear by taking on this event would be funding but it never crossed my mind until I was actually holding the reigns.
Any public event is going to need funding, even those volunteer based block parties and I don’t know why I was ever under the impression that the zombie walk would be any different. Yet there I was, thrust into the middle of it and looking at a sizeable budget and not a single dime of revenue. Even writing words like that make me feel dirty. I mean, “budget” and “revenue?” Who the hell am I, the Monopoly guy?! Still, there were a lot of things I’d never considered about the zombie walk, that I don’t think many of the participants have ever thought of.
To host an event in downtown Nashville, the first thing I have to do is get permits. For a zombie walk that’s a parade permit for the actual assembly and walking, a bridge permit in case we walk across any pedestrian bridge, interstate overpass or body of water, and a dance permit because, who knows, we might spontaneously break out in a reenactment of Thriller. Each permit is around $100 and has to be reviewed by a committee before be approved. If denied, you have to reapply. But that’s it, right? Three hundred bucks and we’re good to go? I should know better. Next come the insurance fees. See, large crowds of people attract everyone from your happy family looking to be a bit strange to your deranged weirdo aiming to misbehave. The worst walk yet happened when a group of Juggalos came one year and had to be asked by organizers to leave because they kept trying to turn everything into a fight with the business owners along Broadway. When you have the potential for people breaking the law and getting hurt and you’re holding the bag as far as being the reason they’ve all assembled in the first place, you’ve got to take precautions.
In short, insurance runs between $500 to $3,500 depending on the coverage level. This covers everything from sprained ankles and skinned knees to gang rapes and arsons. Yeah, that’s right, you can –and probably should- buy rape insurance if you’re organizing a zombie walk. I had to read that a few times, in fact, because despite a decade spent working in law enforcement I was shocked to think that I needed to take steps to provide some sort of financial support should anyone end up getting raped during the zombie walk. It was enough, in fact, that I almost said “fuck it” right then and there and washed my hands of everything. Here I am trying to plan an event so that horror fans and Halloween lovers can gather in Music City and celebrate their strangeness and the reality that people respect each other so little as to require me to buy insurance to protect myself and compensate victims of a violent, heinous act almost killed this thing before it started.
Sorry, I get really worked up over that part.
So the running tally on cost is up to what, now? $3,800? But wait, there’s more!
Now that we’re permitted and insured, we’ve got to advertise. Thankfully, there was already some infrastructure left in place thanks to years of previously existing but it’s all severely out of date. The Facebook account is easy enough to update, sure, but the website is another story. Unless you’re willing to renounce your entire life and devote yourself solely to being both web master and social media manager for the event –you know, the one you’re organizing and trying to find a way to bankroll- then you’re going to have to hire someone who can do this. If you’re lucky, you’ll know someone or meet someone who is willing to do this as a volunteer but there’s a good chance you’ll have to beg and barter with someone to do it for you. That’ll be anywhere from a case of beer to a hundred bucks or so. Then you add five to twenty-five more dollars a month for the domain name and web hosting unless you can find someone willing to give you some server space for free. Plan on keeping it live through the end of October just to make sure you’ve covered your bases and move on to the actual advertising now that you’ve got the platform secured.
Facebook charges anywhere from $5 to $500 to run ads and attract people to your page, which is great because the chances of creating some grass roots, viral marketing campaign on your own for free are slim to none. So, that’s $40 minimum for the web hosting and we’ll go with the low end of the spectrum for Facebook advertising at around $150 and we’ve broken past $4,000 to make this event happen.
So now we come to the tricky part which is finding the money to do this. There are a few options open to me at this point but only two that I can think of worth exploring. I could crowd source it through GoFundMe or some similar site which, ideally, is what I’d love to do. This is, after all, an event for fans and it’s only right that the fans should have some stake in its resurrection. People are more likely to come and to take pride in it if they own a piece of it. The problem, though, is in crowd sourcing itself. Few people do anything without reward and when you contribute to some fundraising campaign like this, you expect something in return. Since there’s no zombie walk swag to offer, it means a portion of their donations would go to paying for their rewards which means I’d have to raise even more money to pay for all that stuff and still have enough to make the walk happen.
My other option is no less cringe inducing as it involves asking for people to sponsor the event. Rumors ran rampant during the two year hiatus of the zombie walk, several of them focusing on sponsors who had a controlling interest in the event crippling it with their demands. It feels cheap and hollow to think of “The Nashville Zombie Walk sponsored by CONGLOMO” or “Come on down to Joe Bob’s Nashville Zombie Walk.” It feels cheap, dirty, and hollow. More importantly, it takes the focus away from the event and the reasons behind it. In the end, however, it’s exactly what I’ll have to do because, unless someone out there reading this is willing and able to anonymously donate four grand to the cause, I’ll have to sell my soul a bit to get funded.
Still, I look at pictures of my son and I together in years past and, despite the nuisance and stress, I know it’s going to be worth the work in the end.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.