beyond our local entertainment scene today, I ventured forth to do an
interview with Rooster Teeth Productions, the creators behind the
popular internet machinima series Red vs. Blue!
--- Using the
gaming engine of the incredibly successful Halo video game series,
Rooster Teeth has managed to take both film making and fan
appreciation to new levels. All while doing nothing more than making
jokes over a shoot-em-up. The company has done several series,
commercials, become integrated in gaming culture, and even paid a
visit to Sundance back in 2005 for a machinima panel. Not to mention
bringing back Red vs. Blue for a brand new series this past May.
Because of their busy schedules (and location factoring in just a
bit), we had to do the whole interview via email. And after a heavy
drinking contest over the holiday weekend, Jason Saldana (the first
to pass out) was “chosen” to chat with me. Why he did it wearing
a saddle on his back is a question I decided to pass on. Or as Tucker
would say, “It looked like they rode him pretty hard. Bow Chicka
Hey Jason, thanks for chatting with me. First off, tell everyone who
you are a little about yourself.
Jason: My name is
Jason Saldana and I'm one of the producers of Red vs. Blue, as well
as the voice of the character Tucker.
Gavin: To start
things off, for people who don't know, tell us about Rooster
Jason: We are a small video production company
in Austin, TX. We accidentally started the company 5 years ago in a
spare bedroom, and now I'm typing this from the cockpit of my very
own Boeing 737.
Gavin: Before Rooster Teeth even began,
Matt and Burnie and Joel were all independent filmmakers and even
made a film to take around to festivals. What got them started into
doing that, and what would you say were the highs and lows during
Jason: I speak for all three of them when I
say there were only lows. The few "high" moments would have
come from actually getting high. You should try to watch their movie
The Schedule. You'd have to smoke something to get through that.
Gavin: A couple of them went to Los Angeles after
that. What was that experience like trying to break into acting and
film making professionally?
Jason: The fact that they
both moved back to Austin to work in a spare bedroom should speak
volumes about their Hollywood experiences. I'm half joking. Matt did
visual effects for a bunch of blockbusters such as Driven and Scooby
Doo, and Joel almost won an Emmy for his work as a body double on
Gavin: I read Bernie stayed behind and became a
part of the old DrunkGamers website. How did that come about and what
was some of the material he wrote for the site?
Geoff and Gus started Drunkgamers after their prior web venture,
had them deluged with death threats. Geoff and Gus are both
hilarious, but they write like children and that's where Burnie comes
into the picture. My favorite Burnie-scribed article is the
with his wife, but his most popular contribution had to have been the
What lead to the website's demise?
Gavin: Fair enough. So,
there's not really a lot written about how Rooster Teeth started,
other than an extensive description behind the meaning of the name.
When did you decide to start a production company and what was the
process like to getting it up and running?
Burnie came up with the idea to make the first Red vs. Blue videos,
he needed help and enlisted a few of us. We would go over to his
house on Wednesday and Thursday nights after work and stay up until
five in the morning. When it got to the point where we were doing
this full-time, Burnie's wife kicked us out of the house and that's
when we started operating like a more traditional company.
Was it easy considering the films you intended to make, or was it
difficult since it didn't fall under the standard idea of a
Jason: I think it would have been
much more difficult without the internet - if we were relying on
someone else for distribution. Since we produce, release and sell it
all ourselves, there's not really a facet of our business model that
is out of our control.
Gavin: What was it like in the
early days of writing and production for Red vs. Blue?
It was kind of like summer vacation. Late nights. Lots of soda, pizza
and candy. Fart jokes.
Gavin: When it was finally out,
what was the initial reception (both good and bad) from early fans of
it, and what were your thoughts on the final product during Season
Jason: We were shocked by how quickly people saw it.
It was linked on Fark and Slashdot, and that was a huge boost. The
reaction was almost entirely positive, which definitely helped
convince us to keep working those late nights. We were a little
scared of Microsoft and Bungie seeing it, but they've both been
really great since day one. I think we were all really excited about
the final product at the end of Season 1. It was a good feeling to
get that first DVD back from the manufacturer and hold the physical
evidence in our hands. It was an even better feeling when people
started buying it.
Gavin: Was the reasoning behind
having all of you do the voices because you all wanted in on it, or
because you didn't want to go through the process of hiring voice
Jason: A little of both. Any filmmaker on a
budget will tell you that you have to use whets accessible to you,
and that's what we did.
Gavin: Did the decision to
bring others in for more characters come out of necessity for story,
or because you had more people you wanted to include?
Mostly out of necessity for the story, but there are a few small
roles that we filled with friends just for fun.
When RVB finally came to an end (or at least the end of that series),
did you feel like it had run its course at that point, or were you
simply looking for a decent way to have it come to an end?
It was approaching 11 hours in length, and Episode 100 seemed like a
nice number for a stopping point.
Gavin: Around the
beginning of Season 3 you started The Strangerhood. Where did the
idea for that series come from?
Jason: Electronic Arts
asked us if we'd be interested in making a show using The Sims and it
seemed like a good idea. We came up with a bunch of storylines, and
picked the one that best lent itself to the game.
Was it harder or easier for you to adapt The Sims engine compared to
what you did with the Halo series?
Jason: The Sims was
much more challenging to use. With Halo, you have absolute control of
the characters. In The Sims, you have to tell the characters what to
do and hope they do it. Sometimes if you make them do the same task
over and over, they will actually go crazy and just go sit in the
corner. You'd have to kill them, remake them, and then move them back
into the house.
Gavin: That one only went seventeen
episodes over a period of eighteen months. Why the long pauses
between episodes, and why such an abrupt end?
were still making Red vs. Blue episodes the entire time, so the
challenges with the engine and limited resources put us at about an
episode a month. Our plan was always just to do one season.
Do you ever wish you could go back and do more with Strangerhood, or
are you good with the way it ended?
Jason: I'm good
with the way it ended. The Sims is a really fun game to play, but
it’s fairly hard to use for machinima - at least at the pace we
like to work at.
Gavin: Some fans have complained that
short series like P.A.N.I.C.S. and 1-800-MAGIC are great concepts
that still have some life in them. Were they simply meant to be
short-live shows, or was it more that you had a good idea at the time
but didn't have enough material to keep it going?
Both of them were commissioned pieces and were always meant to be
Gavin: Would you ever consider going back
and doing more with either one, or do you feel it's best to leave
them as they are?
Jason: We are all big fans of
P.A.N.I.C.S. and 1-800-MAGIC, but I'm not sure that either of them
will ever come back.
Going back to RVB, you started up a new series for it called
Reconstruction. Was there a formal decision to come back and do a new
series, or was it based out of fan pressure asking for more?
It was a very formal decision, but that doesn't mean the fan pressure
didn't exist. Some of these kids have gotten really attached to the
show over the past five years and were very adamant about its return.
Gavin: You almost start from scratch with all the
characters separated, and the Recovery One spinoff brought into the
mix. Do you feel like you might alienate newer fans who aren't aware
of all the back story, or do you think they'll be able to enjoy it on
their own without seeing any of the previous work?
One of our goals with this series is to make it accessible to new
fans. So far we've had a pretty good response.
The storyline seems more planned out and focused than the original.
Was that a conscientious choice, or did the time off give you more
opportunity to put planning into it?
pretty deliberate and intentional.
Gavin: Do you
intend to make this a long-running series like RVB was before; is
this a one-time season, or do you just not know yet?
I think the plan right now is just to keep it at one season, but I
almost don't want to say that. The Blood Gulch Chronicles was
supposed to be six episodes, and it went 100.
So what's your opinion on machinima as an art form and how it's grown
to what it is today?
Jason: I am a fan of any tool that
allows you to work quickly and with a small group of people.
Gavin: Anything about it you don't like or wish would
Jason: Having more camera tools built into the
game would be the biggest help.
Gavin: What do you
feel could be done to make machinima as a whole bigger or better than
what it is now?
Jason: Explosions, fireworks, chase
scenes and nudity.
Gavin: In your opinion if you had
to pick (besides your own work), what's some of the best machinima
series out there right now?
Jason: My favorite thing
recently has to be the Portal machinima, A Day in the Life of a
Turret, by Smooth Few Films -- the guys who make Leet World, which is
also really good.
Gavin: Now that you've become
a success with all these series and have built that reputation for
putting out a good product, have you ever thought of getting into
traditional film making or acting, or do you prefer sticking with
machinima because it's brought you so far?
don't have any plans to abandon machinima, but we do have a few ideas
for some live action pieces that I think we'll attempt to produce in
the near future.
Gavin: Just offhand, have you thought
about doing any other commercials, or did the Madden 07' experience
ruin that idea for you?
Jason: We did a whole slew of
commercials for EA's '07 and '08 sports titles, and just last week we
wrapped up two Gamestop spots. The commercial work is pretty fun, and
we don't have any plans to stop.
Gavin: Are there any
new projects on the way from Rooster Teeth, or is the main focus
Reconstruction right now?
Jason: Reconstruction is
definitely the main focus right now. There are a few new things in
the works, but nothing I can speak too specifically about right now.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug?
Yes. Christmas in July. Its all the rage right now. The Red vs. Blue
box set just happens to make the perfect gift.