Nov 29, 2021
Meet the Butcher Birds – Vanessa Cate
Vanessa Cate – Creative Producer
In this series, we showcase our exceptional team members that make up Butcher Bird Studios.
Can you tell us about your background, and why you decided to go into broadcast or media?
I stumbled into this career almost by accident. After a chaotic youth as an artistic gun-for-hire, I found my footing with live theatre. I ran a theatre company, worked as Managing Editor for Stage Raw, and was Editor-in-Chief for LAStage Alliance’s publication. 2017 was a great year, producing or performing in 40 different shows, before travelling in 2018 to performing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Exciting, yet exhausting times, and still the reality is… theatre just doesn’t pay. However, in Los Angeles, theatre, film and television are all connected. I felt a freedom to pivot in new directions, led purely by creative curiosity.
How did you end up joining Butcher Bird Studios?
I met Butcher Bird co-founder Luis Reyes through a playwriting group before co-producing a live theatre show called “True Crime in Los Angeles” starting in 2019. That same year, Butcher Bird took on the ambitious “Twitch Sells Out” project. It was a 36-hour straight livestream for Amazon Prime Day, and it was all hands on deck. I got a call from Luis saying, “Hey, have you thought about getting into video production?” That was my first project with Butcher Bird.
Can you describe your role in the team, and has it evolved since you first joined?
A good question! Is Jack of All Trades a title? I started out as a Production Coordinator, and since have worked as producer, writer, and director within the team. I’ve also done a tremendous amount of odd jobs, from HMU to prompter operator, featured chat moderator to casting and talent wrangler. Recently, I designed puzzles for Samsung’s unboxing puzzle streams. Most recently, I was serving as a Creative Producer for a live venue in DTLA. Otherwise, I have been working quite a bit as 1st Assistant Director. As I train up on more technical elements, I hope to transition more to directing.
What is the most challenging part of your job at the moment?
Each project has its own set of unique challenges, but the biggest is that of the unknown – jumping into what’s next and being prepared to tackle anything. No matter what project, the greatest challenge is to make sure everything is run as efficiently as possible. Projects can get derailed in a thousand different ways – no matter what, my role is to make sure that doesn’t happen.
How has Butcher Bird changed since you joined?
“Twitch Sells Out” was a big step for Butcher Bird Studios. Since then, the company has grown so much, not only in terms of who we work with, but also in mastery of the tools we use and the vision for how to implement them. There is always so much happening, and each new project has something unique that has never been done before. It’s been awesome to see the people of Butcher Bird get stronger as individuals, and as a group. It’s really a family of truly rad and talented individuals.
What’s your favorite Butcher Bird project and why?
Three live horror streams we did for Twitch at the end of 2019. We did one for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the New Year. Each one started seemingly as an ordinary gaming stream, but slowly creepy things would happen until it turned into a full-blown choose-your-own-adventure horror show. They were such creative projects, and because we really got to test out innovative ways to incorporate audience choices in real-time around a horror script. Admittedly, I also love the macabre, and I got to do so much on those projects, from helping design the set and props, to writing, to casting, and directing! It was awesome to really helm something in such a unique style.
What do you think makes Butcher Bird unique?
Butcher Bird only works with great people. The people that stick around are like family. I’ve never experienced another studio like it.
What do you think is the next big thing in streaming, broadcast, or TV technology, and how could this change the creative process?
Technology is evolving so quickly and constantly. Augmented reality, for instance, is only starting to fully break waves in a broadly consumable sense. Personally, I’m most interested in exploring everything possible in live streaming. Immersive theatre is having a renaissance right now, so I think approaching live stream projects with a theatre mindset opens up so many possibilities. Viewers now are hungry to be an active part of something, so how can we support that?
What do you wish you knew before starting your career?
Most of my wisdom was hard won over the course of so many projects, adventures, mistakes, and victories. Telling a younger me lessons that could only be imparted over experience probably would not have been successful. My advice at this time in my life: Take care of your body. Never say no out of fear. Never say yes out of pressure. Don’t get distracted by set-backs. Cultivate good working relationships. Value yourself. Do what you must for money, as long as it doesn’t sap you dry, but remember to follow your passion.