Author Archives: Kai Staats

Production – June 13, 2014

As of last week, all who requested DVDs should have received them by post.

This concludes all physical shipments to Monitor Gray contributors!

I am this weekend submitting Monitor Gray to film festivals.

Stay tuned!


Production – Mar 15, 2014

I am safely arrived and nearly settled into my new home in Cape Town, South Africa. Here I will reside for the coming two years to work on my Masters of Science in Applied Mathematics while continuing to expand my work in documentary film.

Per my note to the contributors via the Kickstarter campaign manager, as of last week, all Monitor Gray books were shipped, and all contributors have been contacted per the contribution category in which they were listed. I have simply not had the time to respond to each, but will do so soon.

The DVDs are my next item to complete. Please grant me your further patience and understanding as I prepare the printing of these, remotely, back in Phoenix.

Thank you!

Production – Feb 24, 2014

I just delivered an update to the Kickstarter Contributors to Monitor Gray, alerting them to shipment of the full colour books and pending delivery of DVDs and desktop art. We are very close to winding down this project, and submitting Monitor Gray to film festivals.

Two years in the making, this short sci-fi has been an incredible challenge, and a valuable learning opportunity. I will provide one or two more public updates over the coming months to this mailing list. I encourage you to visit and for more information as this film project continues to unfold.

Who knows, maybe a feature will unfold in a few years?! –kai

Production – Feb 11, 2014

The draft Monitor Gray book came back from the printing press. It is beautiful! Copies for each Kickstarter recipient will be drop-shipped from the printing press in the coming week. I will also deliver the desktop “wallpaper” (key shots at 1920×1080) before the close of February. The effort to satisfy the contributor rewards is nearly complete.

Follow-up notifications will provide updates for film festival submissions, response, and ultimately, the public release of Monitor Gray.

Cast & Crew party is a week from this Friday, February 21, from 7-9 pm. More information to be provided soon. Thank you for your patience and steadfast dedication to this project. –kai

Release Candidate 20140101a is posted!

I am pleased to have posted the first release candidate for Monitor Gray to the Kickstarter contributors! Next, the cast and crew will receive the URL and password.

Additional release candidates will be uploaded over the coming two weeks, before a final version is completed. Monitor Gray will remain as a private posting until it has run the film festival circuit, likely mid to late 2014. I hope to edit a short trailer for public consumption in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your steadfast enthusiasm and support! -kai

Production – Dec 12, 2013

A quick update to let you know where we stand:

– all primary VFX were completed by the end of November

– we re-engaged Square Pixel to re-work 2 shots, and add 1 more which helps with a transition that never quite felt right

– Joel is wrapping up two VFX shots on his end, fine-tuning the edit, and working with Joe Chilcott, our composer, to fine-tune the score to match the final edit, beat for beat.

We are very, very close to done and will have a digital download for all Kickstarter contributors by the close of December, before the holiday if all goes well. Posters and books are slated for shipment first part of the new year.

Excited to share Monitor Gray with you very soon! 🙂


Production – Nov 6, 2013

A brief update this time:

  • Just 5 VFX shots remaining: 2 are quick updates to earlier renders; 2 are complex shots which have required a great deal of effort, but are now close to completion; 1 we eagerly await our first view of the draft in a day or three.
  • Joel has run the first pass of colour grading. Each segment of the film has a distinct look / feel. Is great to see this for the first time.
  • Joe and I continue to work on the score. Not easy, to get the music just right. We have leaned to the side of less is more, which I believe is the best decision.

We have a our DVD production facility selected. Research into book production has brought us to a preferred vendor.

Stay tuned!

Production – Oct 19, 2013

An update from Phoenix, Arizona.

Since the last update, we have accomplished a great deal. I made Monitor Gray my nearly full-time endeavor when I dove into sound design. While I had worked at fixing and fine tuning audio for various short films, I had never recreated an entire sound stage across multiple audio tracks as is required for some scenes in Monitor Gray.

The result is a carefully crafted auditory awareness of all that is happening on-screen; and for me, a true sense of ownership of this portion of the film. If it works as intended, the audience will never know how much work went into something as simple as three people walking down a hall, each footstep reconstructed with foley, some purchased (footfalls, electric hums, more than two dozen in all), some recorded in-house (hand shake, book drop, clothing ruffle).

We have completely rebuilt the Monitor Gray website (, offering an improved navigation system. Even if you have visited the site before, I encourage you to review its pages again as you may discover some part of the growing Monitor Gray world you had missed before.

The Monitor Gray Facebook page ( offers new behind-the-scenes photos and draft 3D renderings of the nanobots provided by Square Pixel just last week.

All VFX shots and the score are slated to be delivered in draft or final form this weekend. Once integrated, an up-to-date Premiere project will handed back to Joel for colouring.

I am beginning to design the book, poster, and DVD cover for the Kickstarter contributors, but first and foremost, we remain focused on the film, to make certain we are able to provide the digital download by the close of this calendar year.

Excited to share more, soon! –kai

Production – Sep 19, 2013

We worked through the first 24 or so VFX shots in a relatively serial fashion, June through August, making certain the groundwork was laid for the desired quality. The final 50% have been given to our VFX team Square Pixel in at one time, allowing them to focus entirely on Monitor Gray until it is complete.

Joel rendered and uploaded all remaining shots in the past two days. He is now labouring to provide updated notes in the form of audio narratives over low-res versions of the shots themselves. All narratives are associated with a screen grab which sometimes includes hand-drawn sketches on top

I provided a sketch for a key scene in which a helicopter lands on a pad cut into the side of the massive Pyramid. Of course, neither the Pyramid nor the landing pad exist, but the final scene must be flawless, believable such that the audience does not think twice.

Yesterday I downloaded over 50 stock photos, two dozen of which will be used for a relatively short scene in which the recruits to Sorin Biotech are given a virtual tour of their new home inside the Pyramid.

Joel and I are tenacious with detail. Even now, a year and a half into this project, we remain dedicated to the storyline, making certain that every second is true to the backstory and script. Again, I am fortunate to have Joel to guide this level of detail, for he simply never gives up (even when I would likely say, “It’s close enough!”).

I will this week return to the effort of sound design. I love working with audio–fine tuning, moving fragments just one frame to the left or one frame to the right to achieve the perfect timing. Some of our audio was clean and immediately usable, some of it has a high-pitch whine, an apparent electrical issue which requires cleaning. There is no such thing as a perfect shoot, I keep reminding myself.

I am eager to apply the many layers required to provide the full depth to each of the environments, from ambient hums to the on-screen action. A lot to learn and many, many hours to burn.

More to come …

A Production Story

I have wanted, for some time, to provide a project summary, the “Monitor Gray” story to date. Not the script itself, but how this all came to fruition and where we now stand. I offer this as an aspiring film maker who works hard to learn from his mistakes and success. I hope what I offer in the following reaches you as assurance that we are on track, but also as a reflection for what I, as the Producer, have learned.

A year ago March I rented an office in the Arts District of Downtown Phoenix. My intent was to produce a short film version of 3 short stories written some twenty years prior when I was in my final year of high school and first years of college.

I had, in the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011 attempted a feature version, but the then Director and I did not share the same vision and we parted ways. I was fortunate to be introduced to Joel Kaye in early 2012. His tenacity for detail (while sometimes overwhelming 🙂 was the kind of focus required to get the job done.

Joel and I met regularly during March and April. I worked to keep the story as close to my originals while Joel prepared a script, what will play well on screen. Six weeks spent, and surely we could have spent six weeks more. Joe’s passion for fine-tuning every phrase was a welcomed burden relieved for that is not where I am experienced nor do I desire to learn. A short story is one thing, but a screenplay is something entirely different.

Joel wrote while I worked on the organization of the cast & crew with help from Joel, Steve Briscoe, my brother Jae, and friends of friends in the relatively small, Phoenix film community. The team came together relatively smoothly, even with some down-to-the-wire casting calls.

We shot over the course of the subsequent six weeks (mid April through May), finding evenings and weekends when the cast & crew were available after work, and away from their families. Of course, it is always best to shoot an entire film consecutively, but without the ability to reimburse lost hours in the work place, we did well with an entirely volunteer cast & crew.

I edited the Kickstarter promo in June and July, and in August we raised $9500–some two thousand more than intended. After Kickstarter and Amazon’s margins, money set aside for the public screening, DVD production, and script printing–we had roughly $6000 to work with. Clearly, this is not the level of funding required for the time of all those involved in post-production. Our fund raising was intended to provide a base of engagement, a means by which we could entice those skilled in the arts to come on-board at a reduced rate.

In mid-August, I was given an incredible opportunity to move to East Jerusalem for five months, to work as a photo-journalist and film maker in Palestine. I sold my house, gave away much of what I owned, the remaining things yet in storage in Loveland.

My work in Palestine was overwhelming, emotionally, logistically. It consumed me in a way I was not expecting. What free time I had was simply not available for Monitor Gray, but for me to process what I was witnessing. What’s more, the teams who had engaged us during the summer were not available as they had intended. As you are aware, the project came to a grinding halt.

Joel was able to complete three VFX shots to a very high degree of quality. But it was clear, despite his good intentions, that it would take a long, long time for him to finish the film, single-handedly, even at the rate he was learning the tricks of the trade.

I departed the Middle East in February and established myself in Spain in March (having been robbed of all that I carried, save my camera bag, while switching trains in Paris). With a new computer, new clothes, a friend’s apartment rented, I was finally able to focus on Monitor Gray and search for a new VFX team.

Through the suggestion of my friend Josh Dean, who has worked with me as a VFX advisor and concept artist from the start, I posted our project on We chose Square Pixel, lead by the very capable Manish Kakkar. He is patient, responsive, and honest in his business dealings, and what’s more, willing to work within the tight confines of our budget, to help us see fruition to our dream. We could not ask for a better partner in this project.

Finally! A year and a half after I rented that office in Phoenix, and nearly three years into Monitor Gray (for me), we are seeing light at the end of the lens, and feeling confident we will finish in 2013.


So, you may ask, why does a ten minute film take so damn long? What were the lessons learned? What could we have done to improve?

Ah! Good questions. Thank you for asking. I am eager to share.

As with most Kickstarter projects, we are pressing the boundaries of what we have done as individuals and as a team. I am a former CEO, entrepreneur, and writer who has spent the last two years in self-guided film school. Joel is a veteran DP of eight years who has always wanted to be a part of something “done right” from start to finish; Steve Briscoe is a seasoned actor and associate of nearly the entire cast & crew; Jarrod Wilson is perhaps the South West’s most talented lighting designer; the actors (from Phoenix and L.A.) and their performances were outstanding.

The composer Joe Chilcott was welcomed just recently. Joe is highly talented and like Manish, Joel, and myself, in this to be a part of a high quality, independent production. The list goes on …

So much talent behind this film, and yet we are a year over-due. Why?

As one who never gives up, who sleeps poorly when I have not met my own expectations nor those of my investors, this is a question I have asked myself many times.

The answer is … 80%.

80% of Kickstarter projects run over. 80% of a well managed project is planning, not execution. 80% of the time required to produce a film is in post. And 80% of the stats you read are bullshit 🙂

Truly, given the hundreds of hours we have into this ten minute treatment of Monitor Gray, I recognize now, in retrospect, that unless we had a dedicated, full-time team paid industry standard wages for four months straight (estimated at a minimum of $50,000 total expense), we could have never completed the edit, VFX, score, sound design and colour correction for this film in the fall 2012.

It was, quite frankly, an incorrect estimate. I offer my sincere apology, for I have learned a great deal.

It is not about the length. Yes, a 120 minute film has more parts than a 10 minute film, but the team work, the systems that must be in place are similar. Like backpacking for a weekend or for a full week, you need the same gear, just more food, water, and time.

It is only now, in the middle of September, that I have come to understand all that is required to manage a film laden with computer generated art. It is not an easy endeavour, compounded by the distance from the U.S. to our Indian VFX team, and the time delay which limits the waking hours we share.

We have 48 VFX shots in a ten minute film. That is, on average, one computer enhanced scene every 12.5 seconds, and yet, the film is not an over-the-top, eye candy production. Not even close. Every use of computer generated art is tastefully blended, fully integrated such that it just feels like part of the story. The VFX is not its own character as far too many modern films have made this mistake.

But most of all, we now have systems of communication in place, fine-tuned over the course of June, July, and August. We maintain a detailed shot spreadsheet, timed to the latest edit. We maintain both Google Drive and local repositories which match the nomenclature and order of the spreadsheet. And the Adobe Premier project has an identical layout in the File Manager, granting us a 1:1:1 correlation for all shot data. If something changes in one place, it is updated in all three within 24 hrs.


And this brings me to the final part of this story (I appreciate your patience)—the Team.

In the movie industry, perhaps more than any else, there are strong opinions about how it should all come together. There are not necessarily rights and wrongs, just as there are not, despite the titles, ultimate boundaries for who does what at this independent film production level.

Joel and I have certainly had our moments of harmony … and those in which we were far from harmonious. We have, it seems, needed a year to learn how to work together such that we better know our roles and best applied responsibilities.

When do you let go? When do you take charge? When do you trust and when do you micromanage?

Therein lies the real test of a movie production team. The hardest part is not the manipulation of the software to product the best, photo-real image, but the careful movement through relationships such that everyone on-board remains on-board, and an important, engaging part of the game.


Monitor Gray is not coming from Hollywood (thank goodness!), nor is it a home movie. It is a project which continues to grow and evolve and improve as it (fingers crossed!) comes to a close in 2013.

I do appreciate your patience. I appreciate your steadfast enthusiasm. I appreciate your making the time to read this l-o-n-g message and do hope that you have learned from what I have shared, or at least, enjoyed this story.

Thank you! —kai