Chris Staehler

Since 7 years old, I wanted to be involved with film and use visual effects to help tell larger than life stories. My experience in the entertainment industry has taken me through 60+ projects across film, tv and commercials across multiple disciplines.

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Dust Films

Q & A

If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?

Despite really loving the world I built for The Beacon, I would not want to live there. Life there is difficult and reflective of a far from ideal future society, much like Altered Carbon or Blade Runner. If I could choose a universe to be in though, I may have to go with Star Wars. Full of mystery and fascinating characters and places, it would be an amazing to explore. However I understand that world is seemingly constantly at war so maybe picking it is a dangerous option!

Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?

Sam Bell from Moon. The exploration he has with purpose and personal growth are something I think I can relate to. So I don’t think my “spirit” animal fits any normal category, but it has to be Benny the spaceman from The Lego Movie. Space and spaceships are my thing and I never tire of them. Endlessly joyful and energetic about the things he loves the most and always there to help his friends.

Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?

Funny enough, we hint at this in The Beacon. In our world, androids have gained sentience and are now a persecuted race. The Beacon actually takes place during a major civil rights war, though we don’t touch on it much. Going really far out there, if robots start making their own scifi films, I don’t think we would ever fully understand them due to our different perspectives. It would be a whole new genre and why not bring more unique voices to the medium!

In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?

Taking a few liberties with the question, and not sticking to the WB universe, my SciFi Squad would be: Alien Xenomorph, Luke Skywalker, Rita Vrataski (Exo Suit included), Iron Man, Neo

You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?

If I get stuck with a bad idea or am trying to work through one, I tend to keep trying to write out over and over again and every time I hit a spot that doesn’t naturally flow, I come up with something crazy or different. The change in perspective can unravel things. If I can’t ever get it to flow, I shelve it. Maybe it’s a bad idea or maybe it’s an idea that’s just not ready to be told.

Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?

I work professionally in visual effects on film and TV shows and regularly work on science fiction content. Naturally the people around me tend to enjoy the genre as well so I have always felt I am with a community of similarly minded individuals. However it is a bit more rare to find someone who is willing to go down all the rabbit holes that you are, so at times it can be isolating. However, those moments of isolation lead to some of the most interesting and profound ideas.

Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?

I weirdly fit in the generation that grew up without a lot of tech and am now suddenly surrounded by it everywhere. I remember before there was much of an internet, cell phones or personal computers (capable of doing much that is). Now I work on them every day creating entirely new worlds; even I my living room. I have always had one foot planted in the analog world. As much as I believe in the digital tech and how it breaks down so many barriers, there are tactile real things that just can’t be replicated. The irony is that 90% of The Beacon is CGI, which was purely for budget reasons. We could not have made the film a decade ago, but now we did the graphics on a single machine in our apartment. It would be my hope to blend more of the analog and digital techniques in the future.

When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?

I always start with somewhere I know, a visual language I understand and speaks to me. For The Beacon, we looked at Alien, Star Wars and Bladerunner. There was a visual language we wanted to tap into to help tell our story in a short amount of time. You want it to be familiar but also new at the same time. By nature of their art direction, those three films are very “junky” when it comes to their aesthetic. So personally, I love hitting up hardware stores and thrift stores. Finding old electronics or appliances that have shapes that when painted and detailed, you would never know what they once were.

Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?

Star Wars. Philip K Dick. Practical. Post Apocalypse. Additional shout out to Frank Herbert’s Dune – one of my favorites stories ever!