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McClatchy-Tribune  06/10/2014 12:01 AM ET
Austin's Rooster Teeth crowd-funds its way into the movies [Austin American-Statesman :: ]

June 10--

Austin-based Rooster Teeth Productions is shifting its attention to a much-larger screen.

The purveyors of web video series such as "Red vs. Blue" and "Immersion," which have collectively earned more than 3 billion YouTube views, are planning their first feature-length film. And the company's fans are already footing the bill.

On Friday afternoon, Rooster Teeth launched a crowd-funding campaign for its first movie, "Lazer Team" on the website Indiegogo with a goal of $650,000 to cover costs. By that evening, the goal had been surpassed and within two days, the campaign had topped $1 million. By Monday afternoon, $1,079,890 was raised with 27 days left to go.

Michael "Burnie" Burns, a Rooster Teeth co-founder who introduces the movie concept in the Indiegogo campaign video, said the response to "Lazer Team" follows a pattern of support from the company's gigantic online following.

"As they always have, our community has surpassed our expectations in very short order," Burns said Monday from Los Angeles. Burns and other members of the Rooster Teeth team are at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this week, rubbing shoulders with a video game industry that helped fuel the company's growth. The company will try to keep interest in the Indiegogo campaign going in hopes of attracting supporters beyond its fan base and scaling the production with more special effects and scenes it couldn't do on a lower budget.

Rooster Teeth, which has built a commercial production and online video empire since its start in 2003, recently moved its 80 employees to a larger space, Stage 5 at Austin Studios, from its former South Austin headquarters.

Burns said that move and the success of other crowd-funding projects, helped set the timing for the "Lazer Team" campaign. Last year, Austin filmmaker Rob Thomas raised $5.7 million for a movie adaptation of the TV series "Veronica Mars" and video game designer Chris Roberts has raised $45.7 million and counting for his upcoming "Star Citizen."

"We're in (Stage 5) to make bigger productions. We wanted to clear the decks and hit the ground running," Burns said.

Burns said the live-action sci-fi comedy, which Rooster Teeth has been working on for three years, is in keeping with its history of making videos about ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances. It takes place several decades after a message from outer space has been received.

More details will be revealed next Tuesday in a conference call with backers of the project, Burns said. On July 4-6, the company expects 30,000 fans to gather in Austin for its annual RTX conference.


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