Better Off Zed Begins Shooting

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.

By |2017-08-08T11:55:36-07:00June 15th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Gotta Get Back in Time


Butcher Bird’s mostly glabrous Michael Shlain brings you a touching tale of nature vs. nurture and scientist vs. baby just in time for Memorial Day. Penned by (and starring) Chris Pearson, Back to the Fuhrer finally answers the question of how time travel should best be utilized to deal with the Hitler Problem.

Also starring Joe Smith. Cinematographic stylings by Nick Novotny. Production design wizardry by Morgan McShea. Sound Design funk-overload by Ben Chan. Visual FX-citement by Jason Milligan. End Credits Music by Max Raabe & Palast Orchester. Shot at Monkey Kingdom Productions with huge thanks to Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt. Produced by Butcher Bird Studios.

By |2018-12-12T16:18:32-08:00May 25th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Stand Up Guy


That show-off Travis Stevens keeps directing cool stuff. We’ve been working on a sketch comedy TV pilot for comedian Brian Regan since last summer, handling production and post. The last bit of principal photography wrapped recently and we are chugging through editorial now. Scenes were shot in many locations throughout Los Angeles and feature guest stars such as Tim Bagley and Tara O-Brien. To tackle the challenges of the shoots, we embraced various shooting formats and approaches ranging from GH4s paired with Atomos Shoguns for multi-cam setups to RED Epic Dragon single-cam rigs. We are happy to help fill the world with more narrative funny entertainment. If you get the chance, see Brian live, it’s a good time.

By |2018-12-12T16:27:20-08:00April 15th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Complete Package

Remember that show we made with Monkey Kingdom Productions about toys doing inappropriate things to each other? You know, the one with the weird baby-faced zombies? The one with the talking snake with samurai swords? The one with the superhero who keeps trying to bang his sister? The one where the Bambi doll gets run down by her own pink remote control toy car? The one where you get to see Yuri Lowenthal’s bare ass? Right, that one: Shelf Life.

Now you can own it on your mobile device: all episodes (even the unreleased bonus episodes) and a bunch of bonus materials. Get it on the Apple Store.

By |2018-12-12T16:28:25-08:00April 8th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

BBird Produces DeStorm Video for Ubisoft


If you haven’t heard of DeStorm Power yet, you will. He is one of the most talented rappers on YouTube and a talented guy. Above is a video we produced for Bigframe and Ubisoft featuring DeStorm and Ubisoft’s new game, the Hip Hop Dance Experience.

Starring – DeStorm Power and Andrew Bachelor
Dancers – Monica Ramirez and Carly Anderson
Beat by – Owen Hill Jr.
Executive Producer – Mike Rotman
Director/Editor/VFX – Jason Milligan
Producer/Assistant Director – Michael Shlain
Producer – JJ Mayes 
Director of Photography – Steven Moreno
Production Sound/Sound Mix – Benjamin Chan
Assistant Camera – Nick Novotny
Gaffer – Daniel Gomez
Makeup – Kady Alatriste
Production Assistant – Mike Cordaro

By |2016-03-29T09:45:52-07:00November 13th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Shelf Life Web Series Concludes Third Season


Phil Morris (Smallville’s Martian Manhunter) totally kicked ass as Black Velvet in the two-part season finale of Shelf Life Season 3. At least, until Hero Lass showed up. And then he was properly scared like the rest of us.

There’s nothing like entering the world of six-inch tall action figures and bringing their (often psychotic) antics to life in a live-action romp. Often, overcoming the challenges of creating a story at that scale results in unexpected creativity. I will always treasure the image of Yuri and Tara chasing after tumbleweeds and then covering them with Halloween cobwebbing to create giant dust bunnnies for the under-bed set.

Starring Tara Platt, Yuri Lowenthal,Travis Willingham, Bran Enk
Directed by Steven Calcote
Produced by Monkey Kingdom Productions, Butcher Birds Studios, Ultimatum Entertainment

By |2016-03-29T09:57:14-07:00August 21st, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Mad Cow and BBird Together Again



There’s nothing like working with creative people you love! We reunited with the incredibly talented Mad Cow team on a brand new television pilot for Nickelodeon called “The 5th Hour.”

The approach was brilliantly simple but hilarious: add a “Daily Show” take to the ubiquitous morning talk show format. We took over a studio familiar with daytime television sets, rocked four cameras and a Technocrane for a multi cam shoot, and then unleashed the comedic talents of Lauren Weedman and Molly Erdman on a host of real world guests.

Produced by Madeleine Smithberg and Sarah North
Execution by Mad Cow Productions and Butcher Bird Studios
Directed and Edited by Steven Calcote
Motion Graphics and Visual Effects by Jason Milligan

By |2016-03-29T09:34:30-07:00March 29th, 2012|Uncategorized|0 Comments

More Combat Arms Shorts


Back in June, it was my turn to direct the newest Combat Arms shorts. We shot three over the weekend. The First, “Name Callin'” is embedded above. The other two should release in the future (initiially within episodes of Blabberbox). These were fun to do and I look forward to seeing them hit the internet. Below are some production stills care of Kirill Popov. (or you can look through more photos on Facebook).


By |2016-03-29T09:19:59-07:00October 20th, 2011|Uncategorized|0 Comments

More Good Stuff From Nexon


We’ve been keeping busy helping Nexon bring their various game characters into the “real” world. Blabberbox continues to move ahead, the fourth half-hour episode should release soon. Included in this post are a small sample of the videos we’ve been producing for Nexon.


By |2016-03-29T09:05:56-07:00July 1st, 2011|Uncategorized|0 Comments