FINDING KAI - A US Marine's Service Dog Vanishes
Kai, Alex's beautiful German Shepherd disappears. Nine months pass. Is he dead or alive? How long will she search for her best friend?
MESSAGE TO BACKERS - THANK YOU
Pledges having been flowing in the last few hours. With your help, even though we know it's a long shot - this IMPORTANT story can be made. Happy Holidays to everyone who is trying to get us across the finish line in these final hours ;-)
FINDING KAI is a story of rescue and redemption, for both a dog and its owner. It is the true tale of a former Marine who lived a nightmare in the military, returned home to heal, only to experience a whole different nightmare: the sudden disappearance of the service dog that had become her emotional lifeline.
From 2009 to 2013, Alexandra Melnick was a U.S. Marine. After an eight month deployment in Afghanistan, she returned home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Alex’s healing began after she adopted Kai, a German Shepherd puppy that would become her service dog. From the first moment Alex held Kai, they formed a strong, loving and mutual bond. Alex vowed to love and protect Kai the rest of her life.
Over the next 15 months, as she trained Kai to be her service dog, they became inseparable. Through Kai, Alex regained her ability to trust and feel secure, which had been shattered during her military service. Alex felt Kai saved her life.
But on Thanksgiving 2014, Kai suddenly went missing, without a trace. In an instant, Alex’s life shattered again. She was devastated. She vowed to search for Kai -- forever -- whatever it took, dead or alive, to the ends of the Earth.
With the help of a group of passionate women from across the U.S. whom Alex met through social media, it took 10 agonizing months, searching for a needle in a haystack, to finally locate Kai 1400 miles away. Our documentary chronicles Alex's unrelenting resolve to find her beloved German Shepherd with the help of “Team Kai” as she come to terms with abuse, cover-ups and trauma.
We have been making FINDING KAI over the last 18 months, across several thousand miles, and we’re halfway there. We launched this funding campaign to cover the expenses required to complete the film. That work involves filming key interviews and additional footage, editing, music scoring, visual fx, color correction and a final sound mix. If we meet our fundraising goal, the film will be released by the end of 2018.
Alex’s story is one that deserves to be told on film. It's an enduring tale of love and friendship with enough twists and turns to keep you engaged and on the edge of your seat. It's powerful and important for pet lovers and non-pet lovers alike. This story will capture your heart and never let it go.
FINDING KAI is about the unconditional love for a dog, the power of strong women banding together, and how social media can be harnessed towards a noble cause.
We are an indie film -- in every sense. Thank you for considering your support for our cause.
NOTE: As part of this campaign we are creating a companion piece to the film - a beautiful coffee table book, also entitled FINDING KAI. The book contain scenes and stories from the film, but in addition we’re asking you to submit your own photos/stories. It is a collaboration between the film and its backers (and of course, their pets). This book will be OF dog people, BY dog people, and FOR dog people. After reading about the film, please visit the section entitled About The Rewards for details (and images) of the book and how you can participate.
ABOUT THE FILM
FINDING KAI is a documentary feature based on a true story. It will run approx. 90 minutes. The filmmakers have been amassing materials, and conducting interviews for over a year. They have more interviews they wish to conduct.
STORY: Alexandra (Alex) was a U.S. Marine who served 4 years of active duty. The final 8 months of her deployment was spent in Afghanistan.
Alex's unit was attached to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, nicknamed the “Magnificent Bastards.” (You can see the word "Bastard" on her name tag in the image below, right.) They delivered supplies to small combat Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) in an area that was historically a Taliban stronghold. For eight months - among other things, Alex drove a 7-ton truck in convoys on open roads that were vulnerable to IED's and Taliban ambushes. She was also one of a handful of females among 500 males.
Alex returned home, had difficulty adjusting, and was diagnosed by the Marine Corps with adjustment disorder and anxiety/operational stress reaction. After a period of continued anxiety, frequent nightmares and fear of public places, her Marine Corps doctors recommended an emotional support animal. She purchased a German Shepherd puppy in June, 2013 and named him Kai.
Kai was registered as an emotional support animal. Alex started training him, which in and of itself proved therapeutic. Kai was helping her adjust. They became inseparable.
Kai was a happy and attentive boy. His most defining unique physical characteristic was that one ear was slightly bent toward the other.
On Thanksgiving, 2014 Kai went missing. Without a trace. Alex was devastated.
Said Alex: "My goal was to reach out to everyone I possibly could to say - 'he is missing, he is loved, he is chipped, he is well-groomed, he is cared for - and he is everything to me.' ” "Each time the leads didn’t pan out, it was devastating.” “I thought I might to be searching for him the rest of my life because I wasn’t going to stop, I was never going to give up.“ “I felt that Kai saved my life - and now I need to save his.”
The search began locally involving neighbors, friends, families, communities, and the authorities. In time, the search expanded geographically. Thousands of posters were printed and placed, in multiple languages. The media caught wind of the story. A Facebook page was created and its membership grew. Leads came in, several of which had images that looked enough like Kai for Alex to make a visit. But it was not to be. Yet.
The break came through social networking - Facebook and then Twitter. A photo and message posted to Kai’s Facebook post taunted Alex: "I am in a better home now. You will never find me." It was ominous, but only deepened Alex' resolve as she knew Kai was alive. Finally, a Twitter post revealed the clue that would save the day.
Though Kai was abducted in California, he was finally found in Texas, 1400 miles away from home. Alex and Kai were reunited in September, 2015.
There were bittersweet elements to the story. Kai was not treated so well in Texas, and he could no longer be a service dog.
See the section below, entitled More About The Film.
FINDING KAI is the first documentary feature film by Molly Dog Films. Molly Dog Films was established by industry veterans Michael Buday and Oreet Rees to produce documentary and narrative films that focus on the emotional connections we share with our dogs and on social issues that affect humans and dogs alike.
Says Michael: "Canine love is real. It is valid. In fact, in many ways, it is more stable, more empathetic, and more forgiving than love between two humans."
Adds Oreet: "When bonding with a dog, our mood instantly changes for the better. We become more patient, we relax, and we get playful, so we laugh more."
Adds Michael: "Dogs live in the now. They don't lament the past nor forebode the future at the level that humans do. I think this added to the anguish Alex must have felt when Kai was gone."
Scientists once believed that a dog's love was primarily behavioral conditioning. It’s true that dogs learn by observing us, and we’ve all caught our dogs staring intently at us, anticipating our next action. But recent studies using MRI data have proven that a dog reacts very differently when it is given treats by a stranger versus the same treats from someone with whom they have a strong bond. It's love -- beautiful and unconditional love.
The Love Foundation says that Unconditional Love is "the greatest power known to living things."
MORE ABOUT THE FILM
FINDING KAI explains that Alexandra (Alex) served 4 years of active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps. After boot camp she deployed to Japan, where she participated in disaster relief and was awarded a Humanitarian Service Medal. She then received orders to deploy to Afghanistan, attached to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines nicknamed the "Magnificent Bastards". She served 8 months in Afghanistan. By the time she returned home, she had been awarded 9 medals.
FINDING KAI touches on the difficulty of being smart, attractive, and female in a military unit where 99% of the troops are male.
When Kai first vanished, Alex frantically searched day and night, and was in touch with every animal shelter within 100 miles. She plastered flyers on telephone poles and storefront windows, and notices on local bulletin boards. She enlisted the help of neighbors. She questioned several people she considered potential suspects if there was foul play. All had plausible denials. Besides, it was hard to fathom foul play at this level, and there were reports of other dogs missing as well.
She started a Facebook page to Bring Kai Home. She reached out to the local news who were sympathetic and covered the story.
Through Facebook and other social media, she found a few particularly dedicated souls. They became known as Team Kai.
One day, an ominous post appeared and told Alex she'll never see Kai again. As scary at that sounds, for Alex it meant Kai was alive and that meant everything.
Facebook, Instagram, and finally Twitter helped unveil the clues that led to finding Kai. Because Kai was chipped, once he was found a test affirmed his identity, and that he was owned by Alex.
Alex knew the person who had taken Kai. Criminal charges were filed. What followed next was what some would refer to as the downside of a legal system in which everyone is entitled to representation. The attorney for the man facing charges generated his own publicity and believe it or not, his own allegations and spin. While the joy of finding Kai was awesome, the rest of the experience was incredibly difficult for Alex. The film goes into greater detail. The person who took Kai pled guilty, but it was to a lesser charge. In the film, we explain why Alex agreed to this.
When Kai was found, he had fleas, some facial swelling, thinned hair and bald spots, and anxiety. When Kai saw Alex he was ecstatic - overjoyed. This scene is on video, it will be in the film, and if it doesn't make you teary-eyed, you might not be human.
Kai could no longer be a service dog because he was traumatized by his abduction, but he remains an awesome, passionately loved pet. The bond between Alex and Kai is stronger than ever.
The story might not have ended as well without the dedication, true commitment, and steadfast resolve of Alex and the community of friends she picked up along the way. This resolve and teamwork will resonate throughout the film FINDING KAI, once it is made.
ABOUT THE REWARDS
CAN YOU MIX AND MATCH? Yes, you can. If there are Rewards you'd like in a certain combination or quantity that are not offered that way, no problem. But you have to send a message to us. Click the small round photo of Kai at the top left of the page, and then "CONTACT ME". Glad to work it out.
INTERNATIONAL PLEDGES: Reward levels of $70 and above show as "U.S, only". The reason for that is the high cost of shipping the Book outside the U.S. We need to know the country you reside in and what Reward level you would like and then send us a Message by clicking the little round photo of Kai (top left of page) and then "CONTACT ME". We will get back to you with a quote, and will activate the Reward you seek from your country.
DELIVERY DATES: The Rewards deliveries show a delivery date which reflects the very outside date for the film's completion; we will fulfill many of the Rewards quite a bit earlier.
MAKING YOUR "CHOICES": All "options" involved in any Reward tier (t-shirt size, for example) will be made AFTER the campaign; Kickstarter has a survey form for these selections, which works quite well.
THE BOOK: this is a museum quality coffee table book, full of photographs and stories relating to the film. But that's just the half of it! The other half is that we are commissioning you to send us photos and stories about your pet experience. It should - in some way - be consistent with the themes in “Finding Kai”. It does not need to involve a lost dog, but it should be a story of you or your pet going above and beyond for each other. If you have questions, send us a message.
These images are mock-ups. We don't know the number of pages, so we don't know how many guest entries we can accept. Anyone who backs this campaign at the book level ($70) or above, automatically gets in. For all others, it depends on your story and photos. Of course, we reserve the right to correct grammar, and to reject any images that are too low in resolution, or any stories that don't fit the theme. Approximate number of words - between 150 and 200. Do NOT send images or stories until the end of this campaign, please.
DAVID ROSENFELT: David is a popular author who has written 19 books. He also has 27 dogs. The main character in many of his books is Andy Carpenter, a dog-loving attorney. David has graciously signed copies of two books, and offered to put a backer/dog's name in a future book as a character. See the Rewards.
MEET THE TEAM
Michael Buday - Co-Director, Executive Producer
Michael Buday spent 25 years in the film industry as an editor and technology consultant. His work has appeared on all major networks, including the BBC, PBS, HBO, MTV, CBS, NBC, etc. In 2006 he co-founded a high-tech startup that landed him in Silicon Valley for eight years, but when he lost his best buddy - a 75 lb. Chocolate Labrador named Molly, he vowed he would dedicate the next chapter of his career toward bringing stories about people and their beloved dogs to the screen. In 2015, he started Molly Dog Films with Finding Kai as it's debut film.
Oreet Rees - Co-Director, Producer, Editor
Oreet Rees is an award-winning documentary and trailer editor with 25 years’ experience producing, co-directing and editing trailers for major motion pictures including “Fight Club,” “Moulin Rouge,” “The Notebook,” “Unfaithful” and many more. Oreet recently completed editing an episode of a 4-part documentary special "1968," executive produced by Tom Hanks that will air on CNN in 2018. She has a PhD in Depth Psychology and a deep love for our canine friends.
TIMELINE, BUDGET, & USE OF PROCEEDS
BUDGET: the film has been financed to date from private investment and the limited personal funds of the producers. What’s left from this initial funding constitutes 40% of what we need to finish the film.
TIMELINE: upon success of this funding campaign (knock on wood), efforts to complete production will commence immediately. These efforts should conclude by late Spring, 2018. Post-production activities will immediately follow.
USE OF PROCEEDS: Production includes additional interviews, travel, cinematography, and miscellaneous (legal, accounting, permits, insurance). Post Production includes editing, sound mixing, color correction, visual effects, and original music score.
We came to Kickstarter for three reasons: Independence, Community, and Collaboration. We have been working on this film for close to two years, since the final events unfolded. We feel it is necessary to remain independent to best tell the Finding Kai story truthfully, creatively and completely.
We also want to reach the community that will appreciate Alex as a Marine, woman, and person, and Kai as her beautiful, loving and loyal companion.
Finally we want to collaborate with other like-minded people, lovers of dogs, people who "get it" and as part of that collaboration, create a very special book as a companion piece to this film.
What better place for us than Kickstarter - where indie films are welcome and supported, where communities form, thrive and interact every day, and collaboration is a way of life?
If you've got questions, we've got answers. We are pleased to engage and respond. At the top of the page on the left there is a small round photo - click that, then click CONTACT ME to send a message.
Risks and challenges
Making a full length feature documentary is a challenge for anyone, even for a major studio. It is a substantial endeavor, with many moving parts. Independent film producers have to especially be able to roll with the punches.
We have done our best to minimize risk and maximize use of funds without the slightest compromise to the message, the story, and the quality of this film. We’ve completed most of the research, shot more than half of the film, retained an award winning composer, and edited a good portion of what has been shot. It's taken close to two years to get it to this point, and along the way we've raised and financed the film from private and personal funds, thus reducing what is needed for this campaign.
The funds from KS will allow us to shoot additional essential interviews across the country, complete the editing, music and news clip clearances, and will allow us to cover costs of color correction, visual effects, sound mixing and other post-production elements that can really make a film special.
Our scope of work, time frames, and budgets are reasonable. This is a team that has the experience it takes and a passion for filmmaking, and for this subject matter in particular. Our determination to create a great film takes its cue and energy from Alex (and Team Kai's) determination to find Kai.
In summary, we say with total confidence - when the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, the film will be made; and all rewards - including a wonderful book of our story, and YOUR stories too - will be delivered fully and on a timely basis.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (43 days)