Random thoughts on filmmaking, life and science. Subscribe via email.

The Freedom of Flight. Downtown LA aerials from Compton: The Antwon Ross Story

I can't believe these are images from my film. This is from a test shoot we did over downtown Los Angeles and I couldn't be more happier with the results. This is the mood I'm trying to communicate with the film and so much more. I can't wait to show you what else we have in store. Los Angeles has the most complicated airspace in the entire world and my pilots not only pulled it off but were able to capture the exact mood I was after. This is what it's like to fly and this is the freedom I'd like to share with the world. #‎takeflight

6 step perfectionism recovery plan!

Hello, my name is Arvel Chappell III and I am a perfectionist. I'm not quite sure how I got here and quite simply don't care. All I know is that it stops today and here's how:

6 step perfectionism recovery plan:

Step 1: Admitting you have a problem. Perfectionism is nothing more then over compensation for fear of not being good enough which is bullshit because everyone is good. Actually no... most people suck but that's beside the point. The point is to have the opportunity to suck... to attempt... to try. Perfectionism keeps you in a rut or in analysis paralysis. 

Step 2: Acknowledge your desire to complete whatever your goal is. You have this dream and can't shake it. Acknowledge that and double down because the desire (or task) isn't going anywhere.

Step 3: Accountability. Have a friend or a colleague who you can be accountable to. Someone to share your plan, your fears and insecurities with. If you have no one then write a blog (disable comments) and share it with the world. I'm using this blog for this purpose from now on. 

Step 4: Plan. Make a plan but make it plain. You have something to achieve so create the steps but in a way that you can execute.

Step 5: Dates. Your plan is bullshit without dates. Share your plan and your dates so that you can be held accountable to them.

Step 6: Don't take yourself too seriously. Just get out there and do it already. No one really cares what happens so get over yourself. You're alive and able so just do it already! 

Want to read more? Check out this article on perfectionism

where the Aliens will attack… if they were smart

We've put a bunch of crap in space... Lots of stuff that takes pictures of stuff down on Earth. The photo above shows what's orbiting Earth. We're good at spying down on earthlings but less then one percent of space junk looks out into space. Why? Because we fear {insert your favorite boogeyman... terrorist, communists etc.} ourselves more then we fear anything coming from Space. This says a lot… I'm almost tempted to go there… but you've come to read about Aliens. In the 1960's the Russians put the first satellite into Space and freaked us out. Soon after the Space Surveillance Network was built to keep an eye on Russian space junk in the trunk. Its purpose was to spy on their spy satellites, spot their nuclear ballistic missiles, and as an added bonus, meteors (or Aliens) that can wipe out all life on Earth as we know it. But that was just a bonus. ;-)

Space Surveillance Network radar and telescope sites

Space Surveillance Network radar and telescope sites

Above is a map of the Space Surveillance Network. Do you notice anything wrong with this map? Probably not if you're spying on the boogeyman. But if ET is phoning home and ET's mama thinks you've been hurting her son and sends an army. She can sneak up on us via Antarctica! We have no antenna's looking out to space from the South Pole. We're screwed. Especially South America because that would be their first stop. Someone should tell them, I'd be mad. Someone please translate this post into Spanish and Portuguese.

Filed of view of Space Surveillance Network

Filed of view of Space Surveillance Network

This map shows the field of view of the Space Surveillance Network. A circle is drawn around the area each antenna can "see". Be afraid, very afraid!

how TDRS allows humanity access to the universe


This week I am traveling to cape canaveral to watch a launch of the TDRS satellite. I can't tell you how excited I am to have been selected by NASA to attend. The TDRS satellite system is how we communicate with space vehicles out in space. The system acts as a liaison between earth and virtually every space vehicle (satellite or otherwise). It essentially works by relaying the signals sent by space vehicles back to earth by providing a continuous link for the spacecrafts to use. You can think of it like a space phone operator. No matter where you are in the world, you can always pick up the phone and call "0" and an operator will help you phone home (provided you speak the same language). The TDRS system works the same way but for spacecraft. All a space vehicle has to do is dial TDRS and tell TDRS who it wants to talk to and TDRS does the rest. Or for my more technically inclined readers, what TDRS does is provide "line of sight" for spacecraft.  In order for communication systems to work they must have "line of sight" , meaning that both devices must "see" each other in order to communicate. So because the TDRS systems has multiple satellites in various orbits around the earth, it provides a virtual net that allows any object in space to have "line of sight" with at least one TDRS satellite. I learned about the program during my research on the challenger film. It turns out the Space Shuttle Challenger was chosen to deliver the first two TDRS satellites into orbit. The first satellite was delivered successfully but the second was destroyed in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. More on the TDRS program here. I am honored to have been chosen by NASA to see the launch this week and can't wait to be apart of it. I know it will inform my writing and allow me to check an item off my bucket list.

TDRS ground station: These dishes communicate with the TDRS satellites.

TDRS ground station: These dishes communicate with the TDRS satellites.

inside my head

CT Scan Image 12/4/2013 - Dr. Visit

There are lots of bad ideas but some good ones, useless information, love, self deprecating thoughts, some dental work, passion, and a bit of creativity. All of this encapsulated in a trademarked shaped head. Can you spot the genius? It's located in the upper left hand corner, neatly tucked away at the apex of the hook. I found myself at the Dr's office earlier this month on a get this… neuroscience related health scare. Luckily it was a false alarm but I got some good pictures out of it. 

A Philosophy of Ignorance



Richard Feynman plays a central role in my film "The Challenger" and part of Feynman's philosophy is what's called a philosophy of ignorance. A philosophy of ignorance is something the scientist knows very well and is something he is comfortable with since scientists are always testing new ideas. This idea is a central theme in my Sundance script and Scientific America wrote a piece on it today. Check it out. Following this philosophy also helps when getting input on your creative work. It helps create a barrier between the work and the person. Admitting you don't know or that you were wrong only creates opportunity for better creativity.

Why I feared Science Fiction


I am a helpless romantic and most of my films have been romantic comedies or love stories. This fact has always confused people especially if they know of my Aerospace Engineering background. The truth is that I have always steered clear of science based films because I was afraid my films would suck balls because they overemphasized the science.

But then "The Challenger" has gotten a good response despite my fears. Now don't get me wrong there are still major hurdles for me to overcome with trying to boil the science into something that's brief, actionable, non expositional, connected to emotion and palatable. But now instead of being fearful I accept this as a challenge that my engineering background (not to mention the helpless romanticism) makes me uniquely qualified for. On with scifi.