Will Bostwick — Technical Director, Web Developer
In this series, we celebrate the exceptional team members that make up Butcher Bird Studios. Today, we’re sitting down with Will Bostwick about his role and how it has since evolved at Butcher Bird.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and what led you to a career in technical direction?
Well, I started doing technical things when I was a kid. I hand-coded my first website when I was ten. Two friends and I got a domain name together and an IT guy I knew let us use some of his server space for free and showed me how to upload files (thanks Seth!), which was just the coolest thing ever. It was an ugly website that I loved very much. I was hooked.
At the same time, I was doing plays in any theater I could find and starting bands to play music with my friends. I loved being live, and I still do.
Technical direction, for me, is where live work like playing music or doing a play meets tech. It’s a distinct feeling from doing tech for a concert or a theater production. You get to explore, test, and implement creative solutions that potentially nobody else in the business has ever tried.
Can you describe your role in the team, and how it has evolved since you joined Butcher Bird Studios?
The people on the leadership team at Butcher Bird Studios are world-class masters of cultivating talent. I started here as a “Zoom Operator” (like a Camera Operator for Zoom, get it?) for the live script reading fundraisers we did in 2020. I had never seen a production like that, so obviously I geeked out and tried to learn everything, to the point where I could onboard new Zoom Operators as the shows grew and required larger crews. BBS noticed my extreme enthusiasm and asked me if I had any interest in doing other technical jobs, and of course, I said yes.
I started learning everything I could, working on more shows, and eventually had the chance to step up as a Technical Director on “Hit the Lab” for Twitch. While I was learning, I started writing technical documentation for our technology to standardize processes and onboard folks stepping into technical roles at Butcher Bird for the first time. In between shows, I cataloged and organized the archives at the studio, though that’s an always-going task since we’re shooting and producing so much footage and content all of the time. And since I’m a geek for web technology, I also jumped at the chance to be Webmaster for butcherbirdstudios.com.
I wear a lot of hats in my day-to-day at BBS, taking on roles such as archivist, data manager, and web developer. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to learn about the many facets of the tech-forward creative work that we do here.
What would you say is the most challenging part of your role, and how do you usually overcome these challenges?
The most challenging aspect of technical direction for me is the pre-planning design before you put your hands on anything with a power cable. Often, the constraints of the project aren’t fully known, so you need to design the show to be flexible for changing demands while making sure there are fallback solutions for every technical element.
The systems design challenge carries over to technical writing, archival, and website management too, so I feel that the process of building a show has carried over into other elements of my work and made me more successful.
What makes Butcher Bird Studios unique?
I saw a lot of BBS work before I joined, and two big elements of this studio stand out when you look from the outside and hold up on the inside: creativity and technical skill. This place brings off-the-wall ideas to the land of the familiar and then executes them in a clean, effortless way by maximizing the impact of every single technology in the chain. There’s something one-of-a-kind about the way BBS can bring people together to find a common creative ground that still feels fresh and exciting.
What has been your favorite project? What project are you most proud of since working at Butcher Bird Studios?
There are a lot of favorite projects, but I think I’m most proud of the work I did for our “Without Remorse” Twitch activation for Amazon Prime. Griffin Davis (my technical director guru) was out of town on a different Butcher Bird project, supporting me remotely, but nothing was going to happen if I didn’t do it or plan it. It was the first time where I felt that I was designing and building a show from the ground up with the training wheels off. My proud moment was when I realized I could interact with every part of our system and understand what was going on and why, and incorporate them successfully.
What do you predict to be the next big thing in the industry?
I have to say virtual reality. I’m not an early adopter by any means, but the latest rush by massive corporations to the VR space is going to demand content that isn’t user-created. The professional know-how and polish that studios like Butcher Bird bring to VR are what will give competing VR platforms the reputation for excellence that prestige shows did for certain TV networks or streaming services. As we saw with TV, that rising tide of quality can lift all boats. I hope we’ll see that happen with VR in a way that’s accessible and open to all.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a career in tech/production?
I would tell them to learn what interests them, do it well and a lot, and get to know the people at Butcher Bird Studios.