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Austin-made 'Red vs. Blue' series hits Season 10, nabs Elijah Wood

Omar L. Gallaga
ogallaga@statesman.com
'Red vs. Blue' producers expect about 4,000 people to attend a RTX, a fan event, in July.

They might be the most under-the-radar hit filmmakers in Austin. The crew at Rooster Teeth Productions has been quietly building an online empire since debuting on the Web with "Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles" in 2003.

Using the graphics engines of games in Microsoft's "Halo" series, Rooster Teeth scripts, animates and voice-acts episodes of action comedy that it produces in town in a process called "Machinima." The show is about two warring factions who often aren't even sure why they're fighting.

In addition to various side projects and ads for companies like EA Sports, short films, a comic and podcasts, the crew has maintained a tight focus on its original series, which today will enter its 10th season with a premiere going online on their site, roosterteeth.com.

It'll mark two big events for Rooster Teeth. It's the first episode of the show since the crew hit 1 billion (yes, billion) video views on YouTube for its various projects. And, in a big casting coup, Elijah Wood is joining "Red vs. Blue" as a villain for Season 10. Rooster Teeth will also host a convention for fans, RTX 2012, at the Austin Convention Center July 7-8.

We spoke to Rooster Teeth head honcho Michael "Burnie" Burns, who writes, directs and acts in "Red vs. Blue" (he plays the character Church, among others), about the new season.

American-Statesman: What's changed in 10 seasons of "Red vs. Blue"?

Michael "Burnie" Burns: "Red vs. Blue" has just become bigger and bigger each season. In general, the Internet video revolution has really taken hold while we have been making the show. It's hard to believe, but YouTube didn't even exist when we started the series. Since then, "RvB" has evolved from a few friends working on episodes in a spare bedroom to dozens of artists on three continents creating the best original show on the Internet.

How did Elijah Wood get involved with the show?

Elijah was introduced to us by a friend of a friend a few years ago, and he came by to visit our studio. Then when we were down in New Zealand promoting "RvB" DVDs last fall, we were invited to come visit "The Hobbit" set for a few days. That started the discussion of Elijah performing a cameo in Season 10 and that grew into him playing our villain, Sigma. We are overjoyed to have him join the cast.

What do you attribute to the show's longevity and huge fan base?

The main factor has been consistency of the show. We have become a staple of the Internet video scene. Also, having a young, energetic audience really helps. We have people who discover the show in their teens even now after nine years. And the really scary thing is people who watched "RvB" during Season 1 when they were in high school are now out of college and, in some cases, starting families. It has spanned a huge portion of their lives.

How big has the company gotten?

Right now, our staff is 35 full-time employees. We have come a long way since starting in a spare bedroom in Buda. We are very proud to have grown so much, especially during these past few years when businesses weren't supposed to be growing.

How many people are you expecting at RTX?

RTX, our massive fan event, should have about 4,000 people in attendance this summer at the Austin Convention Center. Next year, we want to have 20,000.

Did you all do anything special to celebrate the 1 billion views milestone?

We celebrated the way any true Texan would — with champagne and brisket. We made a special thank-you video to all our fans who watch the shows we produce. That video hit 1 million views in the first week, which puts us on the way to our next billion views. We're sneaky like that.

Contact Omar L. Gallaga at 445-3672 Twitter: @omarg