The Austin Chronicle

RT Extra Life Lives!

By Richard Whittaker, November 12, 2020, 1:51pm, Picture in Picture

"We've got a big weekend ahead of us," said Jack Pattilo. For the last seven years he's helped organize RT Extra Life, Austin online studio Rooster Teeth's massive online fundraiser for children's health charity Extra Life, and coronavirus isn't going to change that.

However, it won't be what he called the "25 hours of chaos and shenanigans" of previous years. "Covid has changed the name of the game for everyone."

Even though Rooster Teeth's staff have all been working from home since March 16, producing massive amount of new content weekly, the in-person on-set shows had to be put on the back burner. When the closures started, Pattilo was out on the road with a live version of the studio's Achievement Hunter show. "We were doing a West Coast tour, and that was the first things that RT canceled," he said. As time went on, they rebuilt what had been in-person events into streaming stand-ins, and that started with turning their annual convention, RTX, into RTX at Home.

The streaming fest was mostly done remotely, but they experimented with a small amount of footage from the RT studios. This was all done in close consultation with on-set health and safety experts Code 4, who walked them through the best ways to stay safe on set. "That was our first foray," Pattilo said. "That was a test bed for Extra Life."

Pattilo and the team were dedicated to making the show happen. Over those seven years, they'd raised nearly $6 million, most of it going to Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas. The fund raised have gone to a wide variety of projects, from mobile gaming carts for kids to helping pay for a MEG (Magnetoencephalography) machine, and the need is still there. "It wasn't a question of 'if,'" he said. "We were going to do it. It was a question of 'how.'"

The historic energy of RT Extra Life has always been about sticking as many RTers and associates as possible on to the stage, and engage in increasingly wild stunts for donations. Consulting with Code 4, it would have been possible to pull off something very similar to previous years: but the decision was made that the team had to do something different. How could they ask their fans to socially distance and wear masks if there were dozens of RTers horsing around on set? "Even if we could do it safely," Pattilo said, "for optics it would be bad."

So the decision was made: a smaller in-studio team - Pattilo, RWBY voice actress Caiti Ward, producer and Dubble Talk cohost Chad James, and Lead Community Manager Chelsea Atkinson - holding down a 12 hour live streaming event. There will also be a small number of guests in limited numbers, and everyone will be tested ahead of heading to the studio: on top of that, there will be guests calling in for their own remote segments. Add that all together, and it's still the same old RT Extra Life at heart. Pattilo grinned. "You can social distance with a paintball gun."

The event technically started last Saturday with the annual community fundraiser, which raised $80,000. The total is already rising: during the daily live broadcasts at Rooster Teeth TV, they've kept taking donations, and have already raised $113,000 (and counting). Before the live show, there will be a 13 hour preshow, with RTers doing an hour each.

One more big difference this year is that they're not setting a target for how much they want raise. Pattilo explained, "Right now it's going to be difficult for some people to give, and we totally get that. [So] we don't want to set an arbitrary goal and go, 'Maybe we can hit it, maybe we can't,' and disappoint people if we don't."

That's why the loyal and social-media-savvy RT community is more important than ever. Any act - giving, just watching, just spreading the word - has real meaning and impact this year. "We've had people just reach out to random celebrities," Pattilo said. If they retweet or share, "that brings in 10,000 people, and some of them make donations."

At the end of the day, Pattilo said he hopes that this year's event will serve two purposed: raise money, and bring the RT community together. "It will be the big bear hug at the end of 2020."

RT Extra Life 2020 runs Nov. 14, 10am-10pm. Donate, buy merch, and watch along at

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