For anyone of a certain age (or mindset), there’s probably no doubt that linear television is creeping toward extinction. But some of us got the memo earlier than others.
For Mike Rotman, that would have been sometime in the late nineties, when his career as a television writer and performer was just starting to throttle up.
Back then, when the Internet was a baby and AOL disks were still arriving in your mailbox every other day, Mike became one of the first creatives to start producing video content exclusively for online distribution. We’re talking way, way before YouTube or Vimeo or, for that matter, even decent email.
Mike’s work became viral at a time when nobody even knew what viral meant, other than disease-wise.
As a grad student at Emerson, Mike earned an internship at The Chevy Chase Show, only to discover, a mere three weeks after arriving in L.A., that the show had been cancelled. Turned out to be fortuitous, because Mike ended up interning for Jay Leno. It was there Mike began writing jokes and appearing in sketches. His gig at Leno led to a full-time writing job for Later and its host Greg Kinnear. Mike tells us, “And then Greg decided to do movies. It sort of changed my entire career path because otherwise, we probably would have had The Tonight Show … if Greg just stayed with it.”
The big career leap was when Mike landed a writing job at Politically Incorrect. “I was a young 27, very green and didn’t even do any stand up, surrounded by brilliant people.” Mike says reflectively. “It was a really tough gig,” says Mike, “but it was the best job I’ve ever had in terms of learning and smart writing.”
It was 1999 when Mike had his first Internet hit: a spoof of The Blair Witch Project, called The Oz Witch Project. Mike explains, “It was shot in a week, edited in 22-hours and two days later it was on Entertainment Tonight.” In 2002, Mike created Star Wait, the first ever doc to be filmed one night and released on the web the next, about the people waiting in line for Star Wars on Hollywood Blvd. It was later distributed by Target across North America as a DVD, becoming one of the first crossover Internet shows.
In the ensuing years, Mike has produced and written hundreds of hours of television including The Simple Life, Strip Poker, South Park, and Nanny 911, earning an Emmy Nomination and a loyal fan base along the way. But all the while, Mike continued to produce for the web, defying conventions, twisting forms and basically having a blast.
For three years, Mike was Co-Executive Producer and Director for the popular live web show, Kevin Pollack’s Chat Show. Realizing he was on to something, Mike then started his production company, Streamin’ Garage, and his plans were big.
“It was 2009,” Mike recalls, “and I set up a meeting with NewTek, who makes this thing called the TriCaster — a multi-camera switcher to go live on the internet. Remember, nobody was doing anything like it at the time. So I built my own 5-camera HD studio in my garage, and we’ve been rolling ever since.”
After completing the build out of his studio early in 2010, Mike’s next hit was the popular Stupid for Movies, starring two members of the L.A. Critics Association. This was quickly followed by a string of online successes: Stripped Down Live, Super Scary Horror Theater, and Stupid For Dexter.
Meanwhile, Mike and his team are constantly producing other productions, some one-off, some episodic. And Mike continues to pitch ideas and scripts for new shows.
Most recently, Mike sold a show to Nerdist called Kids Court, and he’s streaming the first-ever, live, worldwide game show on the web, called Take My Bitcoins.
In fact, now, traditional media companies are coming to Mike and his team for help with their digital presence.
“Our goal was the same when we started as it is today,” Mike explains. “To create content that we love doing, and then find a way to monetize it.”
How’s it going so far? Mike smiles, and says, “We can’t even keep up with who to pitch to anymore.”
As a First Entertainment member since 2008, Mike was referred to us by a friend, and the bond has grown strong. “I got a 1.9% Auto Loan from First Entertainment. It was amazing. They treat you better. It’s more human, more down to earth, more personal than a bank.”
Mike even sees a similarity between the credit union and his own Streamin’ Garage. “The Credit Union almost has a home town feel to it, as funny as that might sound. We’re a lot like that too. We try to do great work in the most welcoming, unassuming studio possible. Our clients and talent love it.”
Thanks, Mike. We can’t wait to see where you take Streamin’ Garage in the years (Days? Hours? Hey, things move fast on the Interwebs.) to come.