To the Rescue

Local film medic Kris Butler’s holistic bug spray has taken off in Hollywood South and word is spreading fast.
Cheryl Gerber
A one woman operation (plus a bird) Kris Butler makes Medic Murder Mix, her all-essential-oilw bug spray, out of her 350-square-foot home in the Marigny.

Who is Kris Butler? That’s not a simple question to answer.

She’s a professional sports photographer, a professional film medic, a former firefighter, a Teamster and an amateur surfer.

But most recently, Butler has dove into the world of entrepreneurism with the creation of a product that could be considered a sort of holy grail here in the subtropics: a chemical-free bug spray that actually works.

In just over three years, Butler has sold more than 2,500 bottles of her Medic Murder Mix through her company, Reel Rescue. Her product is on the shelves of five local businesses, but sales are really dominated by the film industry. On every set she works she brings her mix, and word has spread fast, with a top executive from MGM even expressing interest. Counted among the fans of Medic Murder Mix are film stars John Cusack and Will Ferrell.  

The Making of the Mix

It all started a few years ago when Butler was working in one of her roles — as a film medic — on the site of the filming of “The Bag Man,” a thriller starring Robert De Niro and John Cusack.

“We were out on locations in LaPlace and Mandeville in the dead of summer with 100 percent humidity,” she says. “The movie took place at night so we would have a call time of 11 a.m. and wouldn’t wrap until 7 a.m. the next day. We would be filming with swamps on either side of us, and I would just be hosing myself, the crew, and the actors down with DEET. Nothing was working. The mosquitoes were even biting through our pants. I was desperate to find relief for everyone. I tried Skin So Soft and Amber Romance, even dryer sheets in our pockets. Nothing was working.”

One day someone on the set came to her with a little vial he had bought at Earthsavers.

“It was a natural deterrent that really seemed to work, but it was $17 for just that small vial,” she says. “So I took a trip to Whole Foods and asked them for their top-selling natural bug spray. Turns out it had the same three main ingredients as the vial. At that point I said to myself, ‘I can do this. I’m going to make my own.’ So I started with those ingredients and then just started grabbing other essential oils that smelled good to me and picked up an empty spray bottle.”

After multiple attempts, Medic Murder Mix was born — a bug spray composed of 17 essential oils that includes vitamins A and E, and castor, apricot and almond oil, that promises to not only protect your skin, but keep it soft and smelling good.

But Does it Work?

Once Butler had a concoction she was happy with, she took it back to work with her.

“I had the DEET in one pocket and my bottle in the other,” she says. “And as it turns out, the first person to come to me that day was John Cusack. I gave him the option and he chose my bottle. I have to tell you, I was so nervous. There he was, dressed all in black and I was giving him this oil spray. I was just freaking out that it would stain his clothes. Luckily, it came out as such a fine mist that that wasn’t a problem. We sprayed him down once and he never came back to me that day, and he didn’t get any bites.”

“I had the DEET in one pocket and my bottle in the other. And as it turns out, the first person to come to me that day was John Cusack.”

Word naturally started to spread around the site and soon it was clear that Butler had a hit. She sold her first 8-ounce bottle for $20 on the set of “The Butler.”

“The thing about the film industry is that people are constantly moving around,” she says. “So the hair and makeup artists — who all tend to be huge proponents of Medic Murder Mix — will leave a show here and travel to another state for another gig and they’ll spread the word there. I’ve ended up shipping cases all over, both domestically and abroad. Now, as of a few months ago, people can order off the website too, which is really nice.”
Simple Ambitions

Butler is clear that she never intended to be a bug spray entrepreneur.

“When I created the mix, all I was trying to do was create something that would set me apart from the other medics and help me get more gigs,” she says. “The film medic field is incredibly competitive and cutthroat, especially if you aren’t from here” [Butler came to New Orleans from Northern California].

She says she had already become a medic known for pushing natural solutions on set in the form of apple cider vinegar.

“My mother and sister have always been into essential oils and natural remedies, and they turned me on to the benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar,” she says. “It helps regulate blood sugar, keeps your energy up and I’ve found it keeps you just generally healthier, so I just started carrying a bottle of it around sets and encouraging people to do shots with me. That became kind of my thing — the apple cider vinegar girl. Actually I was on set on ‘The Campaign’ with Will Ferrell and he got really sick. I talked to my sister and she told me to tell him to make a bowl of it and heat it and get him to breathe it in. Surprisingly, he went for it and it really helped him feel better.' After that, she says, Ferrell starting doing vinegar shots with her.

The Lagniappe

It was also on the set of a film where Butler learned that her formula had an added bonus — something particularly attractive to the film industry.

“I was talking with a makeup artist about a year and a half after making the product, and she mentioned to me that she loves it because it’s the only bug spray that doesn’t disintegrate fake tattoos and blood. I couldn’t believe it! I asked her how long she had known this and she said about a year. I said, ‘You have to tell me these things!’”

Medic Murder Mix is available in 8-ounce and 4-ounce sizes that sell for $25 and $15. The company has sold approximately 2,500 bottles in just a few years.

While Butler can not legally make any health claims, testimonials on her website claim Medic Murder Mix works on fleas and hot spots on dogs and cats, soothes existing bites and sunburns, and one even claimed it stopped an allergic reaction to a bug bite. Comments on the pleasant smell of the spray have included people using it as a linen spray and perfume.

A One Woman Show

Butler’s business remains a one-person operation. “I make everything out of my 350-square-foot place in the Marigny,” she says. “I do the mixing, the bottling, I order the labels, I sell to stores, I check stock — everything.” She says she’s assembled about 172 bottles a day on her own. “Comfortably, I can do about 100 a day.”

Butler still buys all of her ingredients retail at Whole Foods.

“I know that needs to stop, but it’s just been so convenient to be able to run down the street and grab something I’m low on,” she says. “Plus, I’m really picky about my ingredients so I like being able to see, touch and smell them before I buy. You can’t do that when you buy online.”

Death by Research

Butler admits that she is a very particular person who tends to “research things to death.” “I took a solid week just to perfect the smell,” she says. “And the color of the bottle — oh my gosh, I was stuck on that forever. I just couldn’t decide between blue or green and it was killing me. Finally my mom called and said, ‘Go for blue. Guys always pick blue.’ I have to say, she was right.”

No Bugs Here

Butler admits that the name and the labeling are far from conventional.

The name, Medic Murder Mix, doesn’t even hint at it being a bug spray, and the bottle has a spooky mummy scene on it. There’s no bug in sight.

Dispensed in a fine mist, the all-essential-oils product protects from bugs while hydrating skin — all with a pleasant smell.

“I had someone tell me I should have at least put a bug on the label, but I asked them, “Did you see the bottle and become curious about what it was? Did you then go over and read it? Did you finally try it out?’ They answered yes to every question. I don’t think any of that would have happened if they could look at it and immediately know what it was.”

Not a Hard Sell

The first store to carry Medic Murder Mix was local natural parenting boutique, Zuka Baby.

“I was honestly kind of shocked because I thought they’d see the spooky label and be turned off, but they were all for it,” she says. “They said yes immediately.” She says the store has since found it to be a popular seller. “It’s great because it’s so safe for little ones,” she says.

Future Plans

Butler is currently busy with the creation of a second product, “Silence of Pestilence,” an equally creepy-looking all-natural bug spray, this one created not from essential oils, but from fermented herbs.

“Back in the 1600s there were these four thieves during the Black Plague that were managing to steal from the dead bodies but never caught the plague,” she says. “I found out about them and I was totally intrigued. It turns out that they had created this mixture of sage, clove, lavender and garlic that was protecting them. I figured, ‘Hey, if it protected against the plague, maybe it would work on bugs.’ So that’s what I’m doing now.”

Butler says she’s ready to take her company to the next level.

“I’m really thinking big,” she says. “I’d like to see my products in stores like REI and Bass Pro Shop and Petco. I’ve got everything in place. I’ve got plans, and they’re all big.”