Lazer Team is a rollicking sci-fi adventure that manages to translate Rooster Teeth’s signature charm into a feature film format. The film is much more than a fun viewing experience, it’s also a bit of a film industry anomaly! What did Rooster Teeth do differently to market their movie? HOW THE HELL did they secure a $2.4 million budget?! In what ways was this project different than your typical indie film? These are the questions we’re answering today!
Lazer Team marked Rooster Teeth’s first feature length film endeavor, and the project was almost entirely funded by crowdsourcing. The campaign managed to raise, as stated above, a staggering $2.4 million, shattering the initial goal of $650,000!
With production costs covered by their IndieGoGo campaign, Rooster Teeth were free to create the exact movie they wanted to. The lack of external stakeholders gave the team full creative freedom! When it came to marketing and screening the movie, Rooster Teeth employed some fascinating, innovative tactics.
Almost completely eschewing large scale paid advertising campaigns, Rooster Teeth focused on the power of word of mouth. Thanks to an existing and robust social media relationship with their fans, Rooster Teeth was able to leverage the goodwill between it and its users to generate low-cost, high-impact buzz surrounding the film. Rooster Teeth hyped up the production on its 20 million subscriber YouTube channel with behind the scenes featurettes and trailers, supplemented this with coverage on their social media channels, and distributed free-to-watch links to anyone with a notable following so they could watch the film and spread the word to their own followers.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t any traditional advertisement done for Lazer Team—most of it just wasn’t done by Rooster Teeth. The movie was one of the first to be picked up by YouTube’s then fledgeling premium platform YouTube Red. This deal not only gave the film a huge avenue for distribution outside of theaters and Rooster Teeth’s own streaming site (within the first week of its release, the film was available to watch in more than 100 global markets through a mix of YouTube Red and Google VOD), but it resulted in A LOT of free advertisement. It was in YouTube Red’s best interest to promote the film as much as possible to drive Rooster Teeth fans to the service, so we saw everything from preroll ads on YouTube videos to giant billboards in LA, all paid for by YouTube.
The screening of the film in theaters was done via a novel cinema-on-demand model: if enough people in a certain area showed interest in a screening, Rooster Teeth would pursue showing Lazer Team at a theater in that area. The results were 480 one-night-only screenings across the world that netted $1.2 million. Minus distribution fees, that’s a whole loft of money that goes straight back to Rooster Teeth with no middle men, all for a single night of screenings!
Coupled with the YouTube Red deal, this meant that an independent film funded almost entirely by IndieGoGo completely outside of the studio system had global distribution, a robust marketing campaign, and a theatrical run. Through a creative blend of word-of-mouth marketing, distribution deals, crowdfunding, and a novel theatrical release, Rooster Teeth managed to build success for their first film without compromising any of the creativity that made it so special in the first place.