Rooster Teeth is one of those YouTube channels who more frequently gets known for the strength of its productions than it does for the team who helms it. The creators of Red Vs. Blue, Halo: Combat Evolved voiceover commentaries, RWBY and the annual RTX Festival in Austin, Burnie Burns and Matt Hullum are on the cusp of becoming household names. Whether they want that is up for debate. Their latest effort, a science fiction comedy feature film Lazer Team, which deals with some likeable nerds gaining possession of a “superhero suit” that can help save the galaxy, is set to wrap up filming by the end of November. And that is where NMR got ahold of them — prying them away from their directing (Matt) and acting (Burnie) duties.
Choosing to film and live in Austin as opposed to Los Angeles offers its share of challenges as well as opportunities, but with Rooster Teeth’s recent acquisition by Fullscreen, the company now has a sugar daddy to help keep everything running as smooth as a hen’s egg. Or something else that’s smooth that might be a little more appropriate/punny.
We’re excited for Lazer Team, which is set to come out in some capacity in 2015, but we were even more excited to chat with the duo and see just what the hell is going on with them. Turns out, it’s a lot.
This has been a HUGE year for Rooster Teeth. You guys have had an acquisition, you’re making a feature film, you just had a mobile game come out. What else do you have going on?
Burnie: Yeah, the mobile game’s number five on the app store!
Burnie: Yeah, yeah.
Matt: We’ve got that moon colony. (laughter)
Burnie: We have a line of designer jeans. (more laughter)
Matt: Actually, to be fair, we might actually do pirating clothing stuff.
Burnie: And we had the very simple direction of a feature film for Matt. We had the mobile game, we also just launched our mobile app as well, for the website. We just launched a personality-driven show for the Fall, which is an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery done in the tone of Rooster Teeth. And we’re about to launch our new animated series, based on our amazingly popular gaming group Achievement Hunter, we have a new show coming out on them called X-ray and Vav.
So the sky is the limit for you guys now, yeah?
Burnie: Well, it’s been a very good year for online video in general. Rooster Teeth’s been here since pretty much the beginning and we’ve been pretty happy with this year overall and very happy specifically with our part of it.
Let’s talk about the feature film — it’s called “Lazer Team”?
Burnie: Yeah, this is Burnie who’s been talking by the way, I should probably let Matt talk about that, since he directed the film.
Matt: Well, I’m directing it, but Burnie was the lead writer and he’s starring in it, so he plays a little bit of a role in the production of it. We’ve been shooting for about 20 days now, we’ve got about 20 days to go. It’s just turning out incredible and everybody’s super excited. We’ve had several scenes where we’ve had thousands and thousands of extras come out — I can’t quite reveal what the purpose is or what those scenes are about yet — it would be like spoilers at this point. But it’s been a ton of fun and really great, and I think people are just going to be blown away by it.
Burnie: We got a great cast — we got Allie DeBeery, who was on a Disney show, we’ve got Alan Ritchson, who is just an amazing talent; he’s been on Blue Mountain State (Thad!), Smallville, Hunger Games … and then Colton Dunn — he’s a really funny dude. He was one of the writers for —
Matt: — he’s a writer/comedian/actor. And there’s a lot of depth. And action. It’s been a lot of fun working on this.
Burnie: Really great, really great. The best part of it is we’re producing a feature film in Austin.
Matt: As far as the rest of the cast, Burnie is one of the lead roles and Michael Jones, who’s one of our crew and famous for Rage Quit (YouTube gaming series) and Gavin Free, who most people know from Slo Mo Guys. So it’s one of those YouTube productions.
Now Burnie, being the lead writer on this — was there no one else who could play your role in the film or was this your vanity “coming out piece,” where you announce to the world that you’re also a great actor?
Burnie: All of the above (laughs). You know, it was one of those things where, especially when we were in the crowdfunding phase said — this project was made possible by our Indiegogo campaign — that, “If we’re going to be making Rooster Teeth’s first movie, that we do need some more household names in our cast, but that if you went to see a Rooster Teeth movie, and there was no Rooster Teeth people in it, that would be a little odd,” we felt. Particularly, I’m a big fan of College Humor, and College Humor made a film called “CoffeeTown.” I went to see it, well, downloaded it on digital, and I was a little disappointed, there weren’t College Humor personalities that I loved in that movie. So we always take a look at what other people are doing in the online video space and we wanted to make sure we had a Rooster Teeth cast and a more traditional cast as well. That’s why with the principal cast, three of them are outside Rooster Teeth and three of them are our big personalities.
Matt: Well, I think the goal is that this will appeal to our core audience, but we don’t want it to be limited to our existing audience. We want to reach a broad spectrum of people. And I think we have a great movie for that — we’ve brought some familiar faces to moviegoers and TV watchers and I hope to capitalize on that. And, as you said, to have Burnie’s coming out party and show the world what a great talent we have within Rooster Teeth.
You guys were trying to raise 650,000 dollars, you got $2.4 million; just tell me you spent some of that extra money on cocaine and Ferraris.
Burnie: (laughs) Well that was actually detailed in the budget. You know, it’s sci-fi — specifically a sci-fi comedy, so once we started shattering goals, we hit our first $650,000 goal in the first few hours? And then we hit our million dollar goal in the first 48 hours. So it was really amazing. But we were very clear to tell the audience we had goals we wanted to hit — the sky is basically the limit for a project like this because you can always scale up visual effects and there were some things where we thought, “It would be great if we can do this, but I don’t know if we’re at a level where we can actually afford to do it,” and then the audience made those things possible.
Matt: There wasn’t going to be an entire team — it was just going to be Lazer Dude.
Burnie: Lazer Guy.
Matt: More lasers is what you’re getting.
Burnie: And if we hadn’t gotten that far, it would have been Laser Pointer Guy. it would have been a PowerPoint Presentation.
You guys collaborated with Freddie Wong on how to actually do the Indiegogo video?
Burnie: Freddie is awesome. We worked with him on one of our shows, The Gauntlet, and he’s been a regular attendee/guest of our RTX convention — he was actually our first keynote speaker at RTX. So we’re huge, huge fans of Freddie — he even gave me a cameo in VGHS 2. Freddie has a great philosophy that we should share these numbers and we should talk to each other. People who are making online video should collaborate — not just on a project and creative basis, but on a business level too. We totally share that philosophy. The relationship with Freddie has been a great one, and we’re really excited about what he’s been doing over there at RocketJump. And he was invaluable to us when we were formulating our plan for our crowdfunding campaign.
Was he pissed that Rooster Teeth beat the hell out of his total (for VGHS 3)?
Matt: No, no, he supported us all the way.
Burnie: I don’t think there is anything about VGHS that Freddie is worried about. Their last episode (aired) Monday.
So, Rooster Teeth got picked up by Fullscreen?
How did that come about? Did it just come out of the blue? Or were there other companies circling?
Burnie: Well, we can’t really talk about specifics unfortunately, but we’ve always taking a look for where the environment for online video is and where Rooster Teeth fits into it, so we started doing this stuff before you could even play a video in a web browser. They had to teach you how to download videos and watch them in a player outside the browser. A lot has changed since we started this company. And even when big things came along, like social media, we didn’t go all-in on those kinds of things because if we’d just concentrated on social media when we first started, it would have just been about how many Myspace friends we could get.
Matt: Or Friendster connections.
Burnie: Yeah. And so we always had our own place on the web, our own destination where people knew they could find us. And then when YouTube came along, we were a little late to the YouTube Game. In fact, initially, we identified them as a competitor. Once YouTube grew to the size and the brand that it is today, basically, as the primary destination for watching online video, we started embracing it more and we played catch-up pretty well. We were able to grow to the number four most watched non-music channel last year and that was a huge milestone for us because we didn’t get started until about three or four years late. We’ve always had a very adept strategy of looking at where online video is going now — we’re looking at the number of traditional media companies that are just sprinting towards the red at this point and we have been a huge part of the first chapter of the online video revolution and we want to make sure we’re a part of the next chapter. And talking to Fullscreen, George Strompolous and the team there, we just got really excited cause we share so much, and George had such a great vision that it just made sense to do it.
Now as you guys grow more mainstream, are you going to distance yourselves from the whole “CockBite = Rooster Teeth” thing?
Matt: Well, no. I don’t think it’s a question of us changing what we do. We’re still going to be authentically Rooster Teeth and stick to our values and aesthetics and make the kind of content we would like to watch. That’s always been our guiding philosophy. When you say “more mainstream” it’s just more audience is finding out about us.
Burnie: Rooster Teeth fans always want to introduce Rooster Teeth to other people in their lives because with a lot of web brands, they have such huge dedicated audiences, but they’re not really aware of what everyone else watches. For instance, someone who’s a HUGE Jenna Marbles fan might not even know who Tyler Oakley is. They’re so dedicated to that one person or one brand. And Rooster Teeth are immune to that. Our audience, they consume hours and hours of Rooster content each week but they’re still trying to find ways to introduce it to other people and get their other friends hooked on Rooster Teeth. I think Lazer Team is going to be a great opportunity for them to do that.
Is Lazer Team going to be ready for a debut at RTX in August or what kind of release are we lookin’ at?
Matt: It will be ready next year — we haven’t decided what the window for release is, but it will definitely be coming out next year.
So there you have it. The legend, the story, the teeth.