Rooster Teeth’s Matt Hullum on the Indiegogo-busting Lazer Team
Matt Hullum has flown in from the States to present his first theatrical feature, Lazer Team, world premiering in Sydney off the back of huge Australian support during the film's crowdfunding.
Hullum is one of the brains behind Rooster Teeth, an online entertainment company based in Austin, Texas, that he founded with a college buddy.
Hullum and Burnie Burns (Lazer Team's co-writer, co-producer and one of its stars) started making features at university and thought they'd continue to do so.
Things changed when "we ended up having big success online with this show Red vs Blue", said Hullum.
"We were unprepared for it, it took off so fast. We looked up several years later thinking -'this is really awesome, we've been able to develop a company off the back of this show, but there's a lot of other things we want to do'.
Foremost among them was to make a feature. The result is Lazer Team.
The company's mammoth crowdfunding drive – the film raised more than $2.6 million on Indiegogo from 37,493 supporters – was not just a financial tactic. It provided Rooster Teeth, which churns out forty to fifty shows a week, with the impetus to actually fit a feature in around the rest of their slate.
"A feature was always going to be the next thing to do, but we didn't have the time or resources to focus on it", said Hullum. "We really needed somebody driving us to do it, and that was the backers. We got up every day knowing they were expecting us to make this movie and make it great".
The company doubled in size, from one hundred employees to around two hundred, and now sits at about 150. Rooster Teeth pays for them through an economic model that doesn't rely on online advertising for revenue.
"We're a diverse business. When we founded back in 2003, it was primarily home video and merchandising that funded everything that we did. And they're still gigantic pieces for us."
Hullum calls YouTube a "fantastic partner" but points to roosterteeth.com and the company's apps as its bread and butter.
"We have a lot of shows that have a bigger life even now on DVD and blu-ray or TVOD than they do on the web. I think that always surprises people. Conventions are always a really big deal for us as well".
One such event will take place in Oz directly after the film's premiere. RTX Australia at Sydney’s Australian Technology Park (January 23-24) will be headlined by Lazer Team's crew and stars.
Hullum is most excited at finding out what people unfamiliar with his company's web series think of the movie.
"We think it stands on its own. If you don't know anything about Rooster Teeth, if you don't know anything about web content, you're not interested in the YouTuber-transitioning-to-traditional-media story, I think it's still just a fun, exciting film."
Rooster Teeth is in development on two more features, and is looking to follow the Netflix mini-studio model.
"We have a platform that's been running since the beginning of our business thirteen years ago, and we've increasingly been focussing it on higher quality premium content. This year we'll be rolling out three new premium series".
They will be two half-hour comedies and one hour-length drama – Day Five.
The way Hullum describes Day Five's inception is testament to the increasingly two-way relationship between online content-makers and fans.
"We pitched it to our audience a few years ago before we got started making it. It's an apocalyptic series in which everybody on the planet who's asleep dies in the middle of the same night. Everyone [who falls asleep] after that point dies too. So the survivors must stay awake to find a cure, and we pick up on their fifth day without sleep".