Rooster Teeth

Rooster Teeth founders Burnie Burns, left, and Matt Hullum acted in and directed the movie “Lazer Team,” respectively.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Annie Ray | Daily Texan Staff

Hilarious dialogue, fast-paced action and great animation are trademarks of Austin production company Rooster Teeth. The next project on the company’s list: a crowd-funded science-fiction comedy.

Rooster Teeth, known for its popular animated web series “Red vs. Blue” and “RWBY,” will soon release its first feature film, “Lazer Team.” Matt Hullum, Rooster Teeth CEO and UT alumnus, directed the movie, which stars studio regulars Michael Jones and Gavin Free, along with co-founder Burnie Burns. Hullum said the movie will retain Rooster Teeth movies’ trademark strain of outrageous humor.

 “Sci-fi, comedy and action has always been the heart and soul of what we do at Rooster Teeth,” Hullum said. “We thought it would be fun to do something similar [to Red vs. Blue] but in live-action.”

The film follows the story of extraterrestrial beings who make contact with the U.S. government. After discovering a race of evil aliens preparing to invade Earth, the government commissions a power suit set meant for a Champion of Earth to wield. Unfortunately for the people of Earth, the suit accidently falls into the hands of four local idiots, who band together as heroes to protect the planet. 

Rooster Teeth produced “Lazer Team” with a budget of $2.5 million mostly crowd-funded through an Indiegogo campaign. The film is the most funded campaign on the site to date. Rooster Teeth intern Mackenzie McMahon, a radio-television-film freshman, said some fans donated as much as $10,000 toward the movie. Those who donated significant amounts received special perks, including an executive producer title and a small role in the film.

“[Rooster Teeth has] such huge fan support,” McMahon said, “It was completely amazing just to see how much the fans were willing to contribute and how they blew away their Indiegogo goal.”

Hullum said he made sure every penny earned from the campaign benefited the film. According to the film’s Indiegogo page, nearly 17 percent of the money raised went directly toward producing high-end special effects.

“We wanted to make every dollar count toward the production value,” Hullum said. “[We wanted to] make it look and feel like a big cinematic experience.”

Biology junior Michael Li, an extra in “Lazer Team,” said he was excited to work with Rooster Teeth. He said the company’s distinct movies are what attract audiences.

“Rooster Teeth has its own unique flavor as far as comedic talent and storytelling goes,” Li said. “It’s one that resonates with a lot of the community.”

Li said that the crowd-funding campaign allowed the creators to make what they envisioned without dealing with overbearing, outside forces.

“Without a producer looming over their head, they had a lot more creative control over their own project,” Li said. “I look forward to seeing the live-action Rooster Teeth vision.”

Hullum said that “Lazer Team,” like all of the content Rooster Teeth produces, couldn’t have happened without the support of the company’s fans. He aims to attract current Rooster Teeth fans and the general moviegoer population once the movie is released, sometime in the next year. The full trailer premieres March 16 during SXSW. 

“It’s going to be like Rooster Team content in terms of talent and humor,” Hullum said. “We’re definitely taking it up several notches in terms of production value and the big, sweeping epic of it all.”

A contender in the "Halo 4" Global Championship competes in a qualifying round at Rooster Teeth Expo.

Photo Credit: Andrew Huygen | Daily Texan Staff

A horde of nearly 300 people running across a convention floor, nearly knocking others down in the pursuit of an autograph from Jen Taylor, the voice of Cortana from the “Halo” series, was a cinematic sight and just one highlight of RTX this weekend.

Rooster Teeth, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, hosted Rooster Teeth Expo, or RTX, which included informational panels, celebrity appearances, indie game demos and costumed fans. RTX took place at the Austin Convention Center on July 5-7. This is the third iteration of the convention, with its first year having been a “small” gathering of 500 people at a field in Austin.

Gus Sorola, director of RTX and voice actor for the “Red vs. Blue” series, has seen unprecedented attendance growth at 
the convention.

“When we were done last year, we hoped — people thought I was crazy — but I hoped to double the size of the convention, and we successfully did it,” Sorola said. “We are officially twice the size of last year and there have been relatively 
few hitches.”

One major presence at the convention was 343 Industries, or 343i, an offshoot of Microsoft Studios and the developer of “Halo 4.” 343i used the convention as a kickoff for the “Halo 4 Global Championship,” which will take place over the next two months and will award the winner with a prize 
of $200,000. 

“The big goal there was to create a skill-based tournament that is super accessible to all players with numerous ways to qualify,” said Andy “Bravo” Dudynsky, a member of 343i’s Matchmaking Systems team. “It’s been really exciting checking out the action. You can navigate throughout the booth and watch everyone play and stand beside the players.”

343i also used the panel to unveil the newest downloadable content pack for “Halo 4,” entitled the “Champions Bundle.” The pack will include a remake of the fan-favorite map “The Pit” from “Halo 3,” as well as three new sets of armor and seven new stances for a Spartan character.

“We’re fairly happy with the way that ‘Halo 4’ is right now, and we’ll continue to maintain with gentle touches, sort of sustaining that game,” said Frank O’Connor, director of the Halo franchise. “[Our multiple teams have] helped us to do what the right thing for the game is, which is to sustain it and its community.”

“Red vs. Blue,” which many would say is the seminal “machinima,” or video game-based narrative series, is the product that put Rooster Teeth on the map. The cast and production crew for the series premiered the newest episode in front of an audience of fans. The 10-minute clip, which involved characters Caboose and Church and an explosive obstacle course, was met with an uproar of applause.

“We so rarely get to see it with an audience,” said Burnie Burns, creator of “Red vs. Blue” and founder of Rooster Teeth. “It’s so fun to see it with an audience, and that’s why we go to conventions.”

Burnie Burns, creator of the animated web series about a civil war, “Red vs. Blue,” stands in the Rooster Teeth offices (Photo by Annie Ray).

The Daily Texan sat down with UT alumnus Burnie Burns, who is the founder of Rooster Teeth, one of the 15 most viewed YouTube channels. The channel has a near cult following of video gamers, but it is most known for its series “Red vs. Blue.” Burnie will appear alongside Machinima Network and BlackBox TV for “Blood, Sweat, and Online Videos: How to Achieve the Digital Dream,” a panel about how to achieve digital success.

The Daily Texan: Tell me a little bit about what you’re expecting at the panel at South By Southwest.

Burnie Burns: A big part of SXSW is that it’s interactive, and it does have educational purposes. It’s a conference that covers a lot of territory. Just staying interactive, you’ll go to one panel and see someone who’s talking to people who trade crochet patterns, and you’ll go to the next and it’s about how to be a Facebook competitor. So you know, we want to make sure that online video in particular is represented there because it’s a growing industry. And we want to give people some headway. I’m especially happy that we’re part of a panel at SXSW that’s free, so you don’t need tickets to go. 

DT: Why do you think “Red vs. Blue” was so famous?

Burns: Well, I think one of a few things was that the timing was good. Back then there wasn’t a lot of web content that was online. In fact, when we first started we had to educate people that there’s a video this week, and guess what? There’s going to be another video next week. But there wasn’t that type of video back then. It was mostly silly, dancing babies and stuff like that. Those things are still around, but they didn’t have the serious content back then. 

DT: When did you start to realize that it was possible that it could be a job instead of a hobby?

Burns: The problem a lot of people have is that they tell you that you can’t monetize video, that you can’t do it online. But we were pretty successful at it right away in 2003. I knew it was going to be a viable project really quickly, but I just didn’t know for how long. So how long was the big question. So that’s why it took me a couple of years before I quit my “day job” and dedicated myself full time to making entertainment. 

DT: Did you have a particular moment when you went, “Wow, I’m really lucky to be doing this”?

Burns: There was a moment that came really early on, and that’s when we went from 3,000 views on the first video to a quarter of a million views on the second video, and by the end of that first month, we were doing a million views every time we put something online. It was really quickly. 

DT: Is it hard to come up with so much material so often and stay funny?

Burns: It is, but that challenge is part of the fun — trying to keep your feet on the post and trying to stick with characters that people know and love, but still give them fresh material so it doesn’t get stale. And that’s been a lot of fun and a big challenge at work to have 10 years of making this content. 

DT: Tell me a little bit about your experience at the University of Texas.

Burns: The biggest thing about UT is the size of it, right? So sometimes the education that you can achieve is well beyond the walls of the classroom. One of the key things that I learned here is that it’s a city unto itself. So just like the real world, there’s a lot of resources at UT that people can find, locate and be successful just by having a little bit of drive and ambition to discover where these things are.