By Bree Brouwer
Rooster Teeth’s first-ever crowdfunding campaign for its feature-length film “Lazer Team” broke a new record last weekend when it closed out with over $2.4 million, making the movie the most-funded film in Indiegogo history.
In an exclusive interview at RTX in Austin, Burnie Burns, Rooster Teeth’s co-founder and creative director, revealed how the entire campaign got started and how the staff never expected it to become as hugely successful as it did.
“We had expectations, but it was a lot like the beginning of Rooster Teeth where expectations got blown away in day one, where we set a goal for $650,000 — we broke that in 10 hours,” Burns explained. “We’d never done crowdfunding before. We’d never tried it.”
Previously, Rooster Teeth has relied on sponsors to back some of its content, like producing season two of “The Gauntlet” under Verizon’s funding. But Burns said they wanted to try something different. “We’d always had great success with the audience by taking finished products and monetizing them, but we were kind of banking on the fact that for 10–12 years now, we’d been making content, and does the audience have the faith to [follow]? You know, we’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re doing something bigger; come in with us and let’s do this thing.’”
“Lazer Team” is scheduled to start production in Austin and New Mexico in August, with a release date set for spring 2015. The movie takes place during the 1970s SETI project, which receives a communication from an alien race that warns humanity that the universe is a dangerous place. The aliens send a power suit to Earth to be worn by a champion trained by the US government, but (according to Burns) “four idiots shoot down the spaceship by accident” and inadvertently become the heroes of Earth.
“You can see how it’s very Rooster Teeth,” he said.
While Burns is proud of the fact that “Lazer Team” is Indiegogo’s most-funded film to date, he’s more adamant about the fact that it’s an original story.
“It’s not a reboot, and it’s not a sequel, and I think that’s important,” he said. “People always complain to Hollywood that [it] makes nothing but sequels… the crowdfunding revolution should have changed that but it didn’t.”
“It’s nice to have an original IP that people are excited about, and they’re funding,” he said.
Burns is also excited about the fact that the company’s film is going to be science fiction. “The story for sci-fi in the last couple of decades has been a really popular sci-fi thing comes out, and then a network cancels it, and then people fight to get it back. So we know sci-fi fans are ravenous, because we’re in that group ourselves — we’re huge sci-fi fans — and so to be making a sci-fi thing is a really big deal. I couldn’t imagine anything better to put on crowdfunding than a new sci-fi [project].”
Rooster Teeth plans to focus its efforts on “Lazer Team” for the foreseeable future, and doesn’t want to put efforts into other projects just yet. Burns said, “We always have a whole catalog of products we haven’t made, projects we want to produce, so it all depends on where we end up, how successful is “Lazer Team,” what kind of deals can be put in place after that… That will determine what show we work on next.”
“You can honestly say that the mission of Rooster Teeth when we started was to get to the point where we could be making some movies.”
Now that “Lazer Team” is a go, and is slated to be a comedic sci-fi dream, we asked Burns what would happen if aliens did come to Earth.
“We would be first assimilated, let’s be honest,” Burns joked. “We’d immediately be like, ‘You guys seem pretty powerful. Yeah, we’re on board with this.’ We would rat out all the other humans.”
Header image (Burnie Burns, left; Matt Hullum, right): Annie Ray
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to RTX as ATX. RTX is the annual event held by Rooster Teeth Productions in Austin, Texas.