Rooster Teeth's new sci-fi movie "Lazer Team" is sure to make their fans happy - it was the number one crowdsourced film ever on Indiegogo, bringing in $2.5 million - but producers Burnie Burns and Gavin Free wanted to appeal to mainstream sci-fi fans as well.
"Gavin put it best," Burnie told me during their appearance on the What's Trending Podcast last week. "When we were making this movie, we didn't want to make 'Rooster Teeth: The Movie,' we wanted to make a Rooster Teeth movie."
"Lazer Team," which was released in theaters last month and comes out on YouTube Red on February 10, is about four small-town losers who stumble across a UFO crash site containing a high-tech battle suit meant to protect humanity from alien invaders. The suit is meant for only one person, but as they're bickering over it they each manage to get a different component of the suit genetically fused onto them - so when Earth is threatened, it's up to them to save the world.
The movie stars Burnie Burns, Gavin Free, Michael Jones, Colton Dunn, Allie Deberry and featuring Alan Ritchson. (Watch out for a cameo from yours truly!)
Releasing the movie in theaters as well as putting it on YouTube Red was an important part of Rooster Teeth's strategy. "We recognize that the whole world is kind of moving in this direction to digital distribution, but at the same time there are still people who only watch movies in a movie theater, and there are some people who only watch certain programs on television, or certain things on Netflix," Burnie said. "People watch content however they watch content, and we wanted to make it available to everybody in every format."
They also made a point of continuing to put out YouTube content and maintain their fanbase while the movie was in production, rather than putting everything else on hold. It's part of their long-term strategy to keep the brand growing in an industry that's very different than when they started. As Burnie put it:
"I think ultimately the story of Rooster Teeth is going to be one of longevity. In the entertainment industry, careers don't last very long - and online, careers last an even shorter amount of time. We've been doing this for 13 years, but if you look at it as a company, decisions that we make as a business are really measured."
Navigating the evolution of YouTube is no easy task, even for the largest channels. A joke about Gavin copyrighting the phrase "slow mo" for his popular Slow Mo Guys channel led to a discussion about the recent internet outrage over the Fine Brothers' React World project. Gavin remembered watching the scandal blow up in real time as it went viral on Reddit. "We did a podcast the other day, and during the time that we started and ended the podcast, they lost like 20,000 subscribers."
Burnie said the whole thing was frustrating for him to watch, because it combined three of the most unpleasant aspects of YouTube culture: trademark issues, internet mobs, and automated programs that go after copyrighted content.
"The moment the Fine Brothers thing came up, people started making videos reacting to the Fine Brothers stuff, and to do that they included the Fine Brothers in their video. YouTube's algorithm doesn't know what's going on in the world. It recognizes it as somebody trying to repost that thing and takes it down - but to everyone else in the world, it's like 'Oh, the Fine Brothers are trying to censor us from saying bad things about them!'"