When Michael Shlain was a kid, his dad bought one of the first VHS camcorders that came onto the market. “That became my first high-tech toy,” Michael remembers, and he quickly went down the rabbit hole of making stop-motion animated movies with his friends. Later, he would foray into the literary world as an agent, and then start his own representation business.
Jason Milligan had a later start, but only slightly. When he finally got a camera in high school, he was “all about making bad movies all the time.” Eventually, he found himself doing TV news in Louisiana, but within two years, he’d moved to LA to pursue animation, and his passion for storytelling. There were a few rough years, but eventually, he managed to find work in comics and video production.
Fast forward some years, and the two of them started Butcher Bird Studios with partners Steven Calcote and Travis Stevens, leveraging what had become somewhat diversified talents into a space that they’ve found to be ripe with opportunity. Together, their skill sets are complimentary and comprehensive. They can cover the spectrum of production, business, and special effects all within the confines of their independent company.
Asked what a typical day at Butcher Bird looks like, Michael says:
“Right now, we’re doing a lot of reaching out to businesses and other potential clients. We’re working on cutting a new reel, updating our site, and so on. We spend a lot of time doing the work to find the work.”
Jason adds that the “Studio” is very much a virtual office right now. Most of them work from home offices, which they share when they need to. There are advantages and disadvantages, of course, but for now, it helps them stay flexible, and keeps the cost of their operations to a minimum.
Michael and Jason’s company has attracted a wide diversity of clients, but their bread and butter is short-form branded content. Their biggest client recently is Nexon, the Korean company behind the game Maple Story, “which has been going for a decade.” They’ve also been working with Ubisoft and Mad Cow, which was responsible for The Daily Show.
Michael says that most of their work has come as a result of significant changes that are happening in the industry.
“It seems like there’s a very interesting world emerging–one that ZoomTilt is clearly aware of–as advertising leaves the traditional model and goes online, becoming more personalized. We’re trying to succeed in this new space.”
So what is the best route to success?
“Keep producing, keep producing, keep producing. That’s the advice we’ve been giving ourselves. No amount of contact is going to be worth anything if you don’t have something valuable to show and offer.”
Check out the following projects to see how diligently they’ve been following their own advice.
The Many Maladies of Marty Mitchell is a short, 13-minute pilot about a live action kid in an animated world.
The Butcher Bird team is no stranger to branded entertainment either, with an Ubisoft Hip-Hop Dance game video that’s already topped 115,000 views.
A third Butcher Bird project is Silver Moon , a werewolf western. What more do you need to know?
“We’re also in early production on our first feature,” Jason confesses. “And now that I’ve said it, we have to do it.”
Well, guys, get to it. And we wish you the best of luck, because in addition to talent and hard work, we all know that filmmaking takes a generous helping of good fortune.