By Kevin Ulrich of Brotherhood Workshop, for Edwardsturm.com.
I started doing animation when I was 11-years-old.
My imagination was captivated by movies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and I wanted to make these sorts of films myself.
However, I lacked resources, and didn’t want to shoot videos with my brothers running around the back yard. What I wanted was to create and build other worlds that I could explore and have adventures in. LEGO bricks gave me the medium to build these worlds, and stop-motion allowed me to create my adventures.
A video Kevin directed and animated in collaboration with LEGO.
When I went to college, I originally expected that I would be giving up stop-motion in order to focus on live action filmmaking. This was not the case. I quickly discovered that, even though I was at film school, I again did not have the resources I needed in order to make the movies I wanted to make.
I spent my time at school working on a single large project: a half-hour claymation fantasy adventure. Many of my professors and classmates were very impressed, and I had high hopes that the film would launch my career. After a year of running it in the festival circuit, however, I still had no funding for a feature and no job offers.
How My First Job out of College Led to Me Discovering My Passion
Discouraged and convinced that my stop-motion days were over, I stopped pursuing this dream of having an award winning indie film and got myself a job as a video editor. The job was fun at first, but after two years I found myself feeling creatively stifled and fed up.
I was bored. I knew that I needed to make a change. At this time, LEGO released their Lord of the Rings products. Perhaps it was the boredom that I felt, but my inner 12-year-old couldn’t control himself. I wanted an excuse to go purchase a few of these sets.
One day while commuting to my home, the thought popped into my head, “Why don’t you try making some parody videos, using LEGOs?” So I swung by the LEGO store, bought a few sets, and put together my first film over the weekend.
Brotherhood Workshop Begins
While I had my job, I would still make time for my passion. I started working on brickfilms in the evenings and weekends, and began building my YouTube channel. I was inspired by other YouTubers, such as “How it Should Have Ended,” and I had noticed a while back that short, funny, parodies seemed very likely to go viral. As a result of this observation, my videos have been mainly humorous ones based on my favorite franchises.
One of the more popular videos from “How It Should Have Ended.”
Another one of my inspirations was my old classmate, Zach King, who, with his channel, “FinalCutKing,” had done exceedingly well as a YouTuber. I was just starting, and I needed advice, so I called him up and he gave me some really great words of wisdom.
A very fun video with 21mm views from “FinalCutKing.”
Crucially, once my first video was finished, Zach helped me promote it with his fanbase. He really liked it and shared it on his social media, giving me the kick-start I needed to get my channel going. Within 2 weeks of its release, the video had gotten over 100,000 views, and I had an immediate fanbase asking for more.
BrotherhoodWorkshop’s first LEGO film, all the way back in August of 2012.
I’m usually a lone wolf with my productions. I occasionally bring in friends to do VFX, LEGO building, or music, but I primarily work alone.
A BTS video showing the stunning amount of work that goes into a Brotherhood Workshop film.
In order to have a ton of relevance, I start by finding a film that’s currently super mainstream. In the past, these films have included The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic World, and the Marvel movies.
I look for logical inconsistencies, or imagine different ways that a scene could play out. Once I develop an idea, I’ll typically begin animating immediately. The key is to get the video finished while the film is still popular, and hopefully before someone else makes the same joke.
I make an effort to think of jokes that my viewers will connect with. I want to relate to them. I want them to say, “Oh my gosh, I should have thought of that!” or, “Yes, I so agree!” or, “That’s a really good point.”
A great example of all this would be my video, “Star-Lord’s Mix Tape.” When watching Guardians of the Galaxy, I kept thinking, “Wouldn’t that tape have worn out after 20 years?” And that became the premise for the video.
Because so many viewers also grew up with cassette tapes and could personally relate to the frustrations of a tape wearing out or jamming, the video went viral, receiving over 215,000 views in a single day.
I personally am a big fan of humor that pokes fun at movies. I like twisting expectations, making bad guys cute, good guys mean, or simply having something completely random happen out of nowhere. Very thankfully, I’ve been able to find an audience who enjoys my sense of humor.
Do you have any questions for me? Let me know in the comments below!