We’re looking back at some of the BUTCHER BIRD STUDIOS highlights of 2017, and one that really pops out is when we worked with director GIL KENAN (Monster House, Poltergeist) and producer VICE COOLER to create a strange virtual reality trip through LA’s iconic indie punk club The Smell, featuring noise rockers NO AGE, punk outfit CLIT KAT, DAVID SCOTT STONE, CELEBRITY CRUSH, and VERBS and ALPHA MC. We were even featured in Vice Magazine.
Executive Producer Kat Urban (TBWA\Chiat\Day) challenged us to take our Facebook Live game to the next level by shooting a project for National Geographic and Airbnb in the field out in Roswell, New Mexico at the International UFO Festival. We also shot a short companion documentary at the same time–just to make sure we never stopped moving!
Hosted by National Geographic Explorer Asher Jay, the live streams presented an insider’s perspective on the unique story of Roswell and its environs. We began at sunrise with an alien diorama behind us, grabbed a behind-the-scenes perspective in the afternoon at an alien costume contest, and then featured Roswell’s UFO parade that night. Along the way, we filmed Asher’s experience throughout Roswell as she sought answers, adventure, and excitement.
Butcher Bird crew included Steven Calcote on direction and streaming tech, Buff Brothers Jason Milligan and Jarrod Wendler on camera, and Todd Steinhauer on sound. Back at BB HQ, Lillian Diaz-Przybyl produced and Adam Fair edited.
While we went in expecting to uncover the secrets of the Roswell aliens, what we found was a wonderful community of positive people united by one of the best kept secrets to living well: the capacity to entertain curiosity. We discovered that a warm, enchanting bunch of curious people might just be more amazing than definitive proof of life in outer space.
Our friend Reggie Watts stopped by the studio in September to create some PSAs about a very serious issue: LIFE. From greek desserts to the principles of America (even the vice-principals) Reggie Watts shows you how to navigate the ups and downs of that roller coaster we all ride. What is the secret to love? What’s the proper way to interpret the “box of chocolates” metaphor? How does one face death? And why is Barbara Streisand crucial to it all? As Reggie reminds us, Life… it just keep happening.
We shot Reggie with two Canon C300 Mark 2’s, one tripod, a shoulder mount, a lav microphone, and no script. We ran around our stage following Reggie and his extemporaneous mind as he filled our space with creativity and wonder. He fiddled with our Russian G suits, spun magic onto our green screens, and unzipped several bags. And we got it all on tape.
Our small crew included Steven Calcote directing, Luis Reyes producing, Lillian Diaz Przybyl and Griffin Davis running sound, and Travis Stevens and Jason Milligan operating cameras. By the end of it, we had 10 PSAs that could help anyone who is stuck in the mud of the mysteries of life.
Influential playwright and actor Sam Shepard passed away this past July. In celebration of his life and his work, Padua Playwrights (an organization Sam started with fellow playwrights Murray Mednick and Maria Irene Fornes) hosted a star-studded night of performance and remembrances, including Ed Harris, Bill Pullman, and John Densmore, among many others.
Padua approached Butcher Bird Studios to LIVE-STREAM the event on Facebook after seeing our work on Butcher Bird Presents, our very own Facebook Live stream show where we interview creators in the digital space. This was an effort we were privileged to take part in. We switched between three live cameras, streaming a three hour extravaganza that truly was a night to remember.
Here at Butcher Bird Studios, we are fascinated by the digital realm. During our professional and personal time spent in the digital space, we’ve come across countless innovative creators and technical wizards who fill our brains with electric ideas and share amazing stories. We decided to broadcast this experience out to the rest of the world–by creating an online platform that would give our audience a chance to get as close as possible without having to leave their homes.
“Butcher Bird Presents” is our very own weekly multi-cam real-time talk show hosted on Facebook Live. We feature special guest filmmakers, writers, musicians and other artists who innovate and create in the digital space.
Over our first 19 episodes we’ve hosted the likes of Reggie Watts, Margaret Dunlap, Charles Babb, Michaella Vu, and Felipe Smith. Each guest has shared their own unique perspective about what the digital space means to them, what challenges they’ve faced inside of it, and ultimately, how they’ve used the latest tools to launch and grow their creative works.
Check out the complete playlist here!
We’re excited to announce completion of principal photography on IN A FOREIGN TOWN, a short film based on the works of acclaimed horror author Thomas Ligotti. Adapted and directed by Michael Shlain, the short is a proof-of-concept for a television series currently in development. Shot over 5 days at the Butcher Bird soundstage, the Universal Studios backlot and on location in Hollywood and Downtown LA, we assembled a first-class cast and creative team to bring Ligotti’s surreal, disturbing dreamscapes to life. More to come as the horror unfolds.
Do not avert your eyes. This is no dream. You’re all going to see everything…
Butcher Bird Studios created 2 branded content web-series (16 episodes) for portable power company TYLT that are currently releasing at TYLT.com/untethered and on their Facebook page. Untethered: My Passion introduces us to 9 unique people actively living their passions and covers a wide range of interests spanning music to fashion to comic books to photography to BASE jumping. Untethered: On the Road follows Erika Terriquez and Butcher Bird’s Jason Milligan on a 55 day road trip across 42 U.S. states as they live out of a coupe, document their travels, experience new things, and meet their work-related deadlines.
Butcher Bird Studios announces the start of principal photography for its zombie-themed dark comedy BETTER OFF ZED. Helmed by director Travis Stevens (Linked; Shelf Life) and with a script penned by 2015 Nicholl Fellowship-winner Amy Tofte, Better Off Zed stars Graham Sibley (Sully; Nanking; Zombie Honeymoon) and Christine Woods (Hello Ladies; The Walking Dead; About a Boy). The film is being produced by Linda Morel (Key & Peele; Teachers).
For the last decade, Guy (Sibley) has worked a mentally and physically demanding 80-hour week, a daily grind that has slowly crushed his soul; while his wife Paige (Woods), a free-spirit with multiple fine arts degrees to her name, has spent their marriage chasing artistic inspiration. When the zombie apocalypse comes, Guy is ecstatic: no more grueling work, no more monotony, no more hopeless future. He spends his day in idyllic splendor, living life in the moment… while Paige snaps into survival mode, taking on the role of pragmatist, figuring out how to secure their perimeter, stretch out their food supply, and following news reports for any glimmer of hope that they might be able to escape. They have, in essence, switched places. And with this new dynamic, all of the small fissures pressured beneath the surface of their relationship finally crack open, forcing them to deal not only with Armageddon, but with a potentially far more insidious threat… each other.
BETTER OFF ZED serves as a metaphor for the claustrophobia of modern living and modern relationships, as well as the struggle for the inner artist in all of us. Director Stevens says that, “Everyone who wants to be an artist is just crushed by making a living, finding inspiration, even just getting people to notice. In a way Zed is giving a voice to that frustration… with zombies.”
Butcher Bird Studios is a creative studio and production company founded by director-producers Steven Calcote, Jason Milligan, Luis Reyes, Michael Shlain and Travis Stevens. Butcher Bird Studios creates cutting-edge branded and narrative content across mediums including digital, television, interactive and virtual reality. BETTER OFF ZED is the company’s first feature film.
Travis Stevens is an award-winning director and writer (Slamdance, NYCIFF) working in Hollywood, CA. Grounding his work in real life experiences, Travis’ past jobs have included time in the Army, working as an EMT, harvesting tissue for an eye organ donor clinic, as well as in the entertainment industry for companies in roles that span from production to post production. BETTER OFF ZED is his second feature film.
Amy Tofte won a 2015 Nicholl Fellowship for her feature script Addis Abeka. A graduate of the prestigious CalArts MFA writing program, her films and plays have garnered accolades across the country and internationally. Her short film Other Side won Best Independent Short at the 2016 IFS Film Festival in Los Angeles. And, most recently, her play FleshEatingTiger premiered in Melbourne, Australia.
Graham Sibley began his career starring in the highly-lauded cult classic Zombie Honeymoon, executive produced by John Landis. From there, he appeared in the Emmy-Award winning film Nanking, directed by two-time Academy Award Winner Bill Guttentag and starring Woody Harrelson. Other credits include television roles on The OC, Grey’s Anatomy, Unforgettable, Aquarius, How to Get Away with Murder, and The Newsroom; as well as in the film Before the Sun Explodes, alongside fellow Better Off Zed co-star Christine Woods; and in the upcoming Clint Eastwood film Sully, starring Tom Hanks. Graham is also a co-founder of Los Angeles-based IAMA Theater Company.
Christine Woods starred opposite Stephen Merchant on HBO’s Hello Ladies, as well as in an impressive array of television shows and films, such as The Walking Dead, About a Boy, and Perfect Couples; and she has recently wrapped the Netflix film Handsome with Jeff Garlin, Natasha Lyonne and Amy Sedaris; and Unt. Macon Blair Project starring Elijah Wood and Melanie Lynskey. She has also garnered accolades for her stage roles. As a member of the prestigious IAMA Theater Company, Christine earned a Stage Raw Award nomination for her role in A Dog’s House. Other credits include the television shows Flash Forward and Go On, and the films Dean—from writer/director Demetri Martin and winner of the Tribeca Film Festival—and Wild Man, where she starred alongside Mike Vogel and Kate Upton.
Linda Morel is a producer best known for her work on Key & Peele and Teachers. She began her career in the music industry with Warner Music as an International Artist Development Manager for artists such as The Deftones, Bette Midler and Chaka Khan. Morel made the leap into television as the Production Coordinator on Nickelodeon’s The Brothers Garcia. Since then she has worked in production for such outlets as USA, Comedy Central, TV Land, and NBC, as well as working on several critically acclaimed films.