Kai Staats, Producer

Kai Staats is a filmmaker, lecturer, writer, and researcher whose lifelong passion for science fiction and real-world space exploration has brought him to this unique opportunity, to bring Ben Bova’s Mars trilogy to life.

Kai’s work in film includes more than two dozen shorts and features, with subjects including wildlife conservation, human interest, science fiction, and science outreach and education. He has produced three National Science Foundation funded short documentaries for LIGO, the astronomical observatory which on September 14, 2015 revolutionized astronomy with the direct observation of two merging black holes. LIGO Detection is about that historic event in which Einstein’s theory of general relativity was confirmed. In collaboration with Dr. Paul Sutter, Kai produced the feature length film Song of the Stars which in the summer of 2017 aired across 20% of the United States on PBS member stations. In 2012-14 Kai produced Monitor Gray, a sci-fi short based on three short stories of this own writing.

Kai is a researcher at the Arizona State University, School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE), where he is leading development of a model of an isolated human community on Mars. He serves as a Visiting Scientist at LIGO where he applies evolutionary computation to an improved understanding of noise in detector data and at the Square Kilometre Array, South Africa where he continues his MSc-based research in the application of machine learning to the mitigation of human-generated noise in radio astronomy data.

Kai was a member of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) crew 134 and was a final-round candidate for the 2018-19, NASA funded HI-SEAS Mars analog on the Big Island, Hawaii. In the summer of 2017 Kai completed the International Space University Space Studies Program in Cork, Ireland.

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Christopher Leps, Director

For over 25 years, Christopher Leps has played an active role in cinema. His diverse career started at the Walt Disney Company in 1989, but his zeal for motion pictures began long before then; sparked by the movies of his childhood.

His passion for film, combined with his athletic background, led Chris to stunt performances in over 150 episodes of television and more than 40 feature films, including projects such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Alias, CSI, Ray Donovan, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Pirates of the Caribbean saga, Avatar, Transformers, The Adventures of Tintin, and Transcendence. As a stuntman, Chris has doubled for many of the top names in Hollywood, such as Casper Van Dien, Kiefer Sutherland, Jeremy Piven, Colin Farrell, Ewan McGregor, Justin Bartha, Matt Damon, Aaron Eckhart, and most notably, Johnny Depp.

A member of SAG-AFTRA and the AFI, Chris is a Screen Actors Guild Award nominee and winner, in recognition of his performances in both television and film.

As a filmmaker, Chris has written, produced, directed, and edited a variety of projects, including Golden Trailer Awards nominee – Shadow, Best Documentary winners – Ed & Vern’s Rock Store and Century of Light, and award-winning short films – Amy & Elliot, Wholehearted, Muse, and Testing. With an array of projects at the forefront, Chris continues to work and create in the motion picture and television industry.

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Jason Surrell, Screenwriter

Jason Surrell is an author, screenwriter and Creative Director at Universal Creative, with over 25 years experience as a writer, producer and director in the entertainment industry. For fifteen years, Jason was a Senior Show Writer, Show Producer and Creative Director at Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative design division of the Walt Disney Company.

Jason’s major theme park credits include Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon, New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow starring Johnny Depp, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, Raiders of the Lost Jedi Temple of DoomStar Wars Weekends, The Great Movie Ride, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, The American Idol Experience, Jurassic Park River Adventure, The Magic of Disney Animation and the recent enhancements to Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Jason is the author of The Art of Marvel’s The Avengers, The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic, screenplay by Disney: Tips and Techniques to Bring Magic to Your Moviemaking, Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies and The Art of the Haunted Mansion. He contributed essays and feature articles to The Imagineering Way, The Disney Insider Yearbook, and Disney Twenty-three magazine. Jason wrote for Walt Disney Television’s internationally syndicated television series, Secrets of the Animal Kingdom.

Jason wrote and directed the independent feature film, Characters. In April 2017 he served as the Creative Director for Race Through New York at Universal Orlando Resort and for the Universal Beijing theme park, the company’s first destination resort in China.

Leonardo Buono, Director of Photography

A native of Argentina with a decorated 25 year resume in production, animation and design, Leonardo’s work has been demonstrated in countless ads and promos for notable brands throughout the years. With a versatile and accomplished skill set, he has travelled the world creating highly recognized visual media in the industries of Music, Sports, Medicine, Broadcast TV, Film, Education and has played a key role in various Documentaries. Leonardo’s passion for creativity comes through in his work whether creating promos for Fortune 500 companies, on location with Playing for Change, or in the studio producing, editing and animating for the likes of Spartan Race and NBC Telemundo. Leonardo has worked closely with renowned journalists and filmmakers for more than a decade on award winning film projects such as 7 Soles and The Beast. Leonardo is greatly inspired by his work with Playing for Change as it merges several of his passions: music, film, story and cultures of the world.

Leo had been instrumental in the success of the three films about LIGO produced by Over the Sun Productions, providing his services and skills as Director of Photography and visual effects animator and artist.

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Joe Chilcott, Composer

Joe Chilcott is an experienced audio engineer and a musical composer of multiple styles. As a musician he has performed in and written original music for groups ranging from heavy metal bands to acoustic folk duos and concert choral ensembles.

Since graduating Summa Cum Laude from Duquesne University’s Mary Pappert School of Music, Joe has worked in nearly every corner of the audio world; running sound for live music and corporate events, engineering and mixing studio recording sessions, and composing original musical scores.

As a composer and sound designer Joe has crafted original sounds for various documentaries, video games, and short films, and has worked on projects for Schell Games, PBS Kids, and Mars One, among others. Joe has worked with Over the Sun Productions for Monitor Gray, LIGO Generations, and Song of the Stars, a feature-length film of a one-time theatrical dance production that brought the story behind the birth of our universe to PBS member stations across the nation.

The original music soundtrack for Song of the Stars can be heard in its entirety on Spotify.

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