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


Family home Compton Ca

Family home Compton Ca

In the past three years I've called a lot of places home but what is home really? Home is a place for nourishment. A place to relax. A place where you can let your guard down. A place for security, a place where you're always welcomed. Although I've lived in many places… large homes, small homes, homes I've owned, homes I've lost… gentrified homes… suburb homes…  the house above is where I'll always call home. It has been in my family nearly 60 years and has seen the best and worst of times. It was partially built by my grandfather and is where my 92 year old grandmother lives today. I've eaten many meals in this home, learned many lessons and received many whoopins. Although it's been said many times, home is about the people and I'm grateful to my grandparents for making a sanctuary for my family to call home.

by: Arvel Chappell III

managing mumbo jumbo


Definitions first:

Mumbo jumbo in a screenplay is the magic that enables the protagonist to kick ass and do the impossible. It's the magic trait, skill, genetics or invention that's imperative and unique to the protagonist. It's what makes him or her special; BUT a little goes a long way and it's very easy to pour on the mumbo jumbo sauce too thick. In Mira Bane, part of the struggle has been defining what mumbo jumbo to run with. Can't have two mumbo jumbos. Double mumbo jumbo is no good. That's too much mumbo on your jumbo and it's a recipe for unrealistic super protagonists that no one can relate to.  And that's the point right? Having relatable characters?

Another epiphany I had while working on this screenplay is to have screenplay requirements. Specifically what I mean is relationship requirements, mumbo jumbo requirements etc. We were struggling with what our mumbo jumbo would be, but after writing down what the mumbo jumbo had to have (it's requirements) we were able to clearly develop it.

Enough writing about writing… time to do work!

how to pitch a sci-fi film in 3 minutes

Pitching is hard. Sci-fi pitching is even harder. Here is what I learned from my pitching experience at HBFF.

Just like your screenplay your pitch has to have a structure. Here are the most common pitching types and their structures.

1. Chronological Storytelling

2. Personal Narrative

3. Concentric Circles

 I went with the personal and circular structure. I lead with a personal story/postulation of what future technology will be like. Then I posed a scientific question of the type… What would the world be like if pigs could fly? Then I go on to say "well in my film pigs can in fact fly". Then I went on to describe the film in an abbreviated fashion after which I discussed the a few of the key moments (read act breakpoints including midpoint) in greater detail all the while resisting the urge to go into too much detail on any of the major story elements. KISS applies here. 

By: Arvel Chappell III

HBFF Project Stargazer Finalist Award

My sci-fi project Mira Bane that I cowrote with Mike J. Martinez has been awarded the HBFF Project Stargazer Finalist Award. This was a contest sponsored by NASA. I am looking forward to working together with our NASA and Hollywood mentors on producing a great film. It was nerve racking pitching but it was a great experience. More to come stay tuned!!!!

by: Arvel Chappell IIII


Motorcycles, love and cinema...

You can't get more romantic than riding on motorcycle at night. There is just something intimate about racing down the road in an insanely dangerous machine that is "conditionally stable" at best. Here are the top 5 reasons riding two up is sexy. 5. Riding is just sexy in general 4. It looks bad ASS (especially from behind) to everyone else on the road 3. Riding two up is more technically challenging especially at night 2. She has to hold onto you closely 1. She trusts you enough to put her life in your hands

There are two obvious places to film in LA that would be way off the charts romantically. An obvious choice is the much overused (for car commercials) third street tunnel.

And the second is Vincent Thomas Bridge.



Below are two are my favorite motorcycle scenes from Fallen Angel and Love Jones (first 10 seconds).

Legalize Me... moves on to the final round.

My project 'Legalize Me' is a finalist in BVEW's National Film Pitch Competition so our chances are 1 of 4 (there was a tie so accepted an additional entry). Mike and I are polishing the script and budget for submittal by April. I'm excited about the momentum a win could do for this project. They announce the winner in May so I'm going to try and forget about it till then. Fingers and toes crossed. Stay tuned and please vote.

Who got the props?

Sony pictures that's who. I haven't been to the prop house in forever. The current project I'm working on doesn't have a production designer yet (and may not have one at all) so I got my hands dirty over at Sony today.

The prop house has everything you need and a universe of things you don't need. I don't need chairs so I keep moving.

I put a prop shotgun on hold for a pawn shop scene that's mad funny. Gotta go back for more! Stay tuned!

Directing the trailer

An integral part of pitching new projects these days is the pre-film trailer. Making a trailer for a movie or show that has not been shot yet is an interesting challenge because trailers are mini stories in and of themselves and choosing what to shoot is paramount. For me this is challenging because as a director I get caught up on telling the story of the film as opposed to telling the story of the trailer which are two different things. Fortunately the producers from one of the projects I'm working on hooked me up with Jason Richter yesterday and his experience as a trailer editor for numerous feature films helped demystify how trailers are made. Like the films they are designed to sell trailers have beginnings, middles and ends but not in the same fashion as the film. They don't have a traditional 3 act structure but more like a 2.5 act structure as you shouldn't give away a resolution (gotta leave the audience with some anticipation). The acts are set up in the same way (but obviously much faster) and most often do not consists of the same story elements. i.e Your inciting incident of the trailer may be different than what it is in the film etc. Like a film it should depict the hero's journey in a concise way that makes people want to see the film, but the challenge is selecting which scenes to shoot? Do you create scenes that are not even in the film? Or do you pick the gold scenes from the script assuming there is one? What do you do if there is no script? Well if your film is character driven and I hope to god it is then picking the scenes should be quite simple. The following is a brief excerpt from my notes. Thanks again Jason.

Directing the trailer 1) Pick three tensions that pertain to the protagonist to show 2) Set up the major tension in the first trailer act 3) Introduce the other tensions in the second act (most often one of them is a love interest) 4) In act 2.5 show how he copes with all of the tensions (NOT A RESOLUTION) It shows how he tries to deal with the tensions we introduced. 5) End with a button: Comedic moment (or scary depending on film) that occurs after title card 6) Have a short log line for the trailer that you can eventually use as VO or title cards 7) Shoot more than you need for every scene and have actors improve around the lines