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Filmmaker Arvel Chappell III Challenges New Anti-Drone City Ordinance

A press release was sent out yesterday involving my case. Now that it's out there I am releasing it here for you all to see. I'm fighting these charges because they are patently against the spirit of everything I am, everything I believe in and also against the very theme of what I'm communicating in my film. More to come... #Takeflight


Alison Webster (714) 345-6975

Filmmaker Arvel Chappell III Challenges New Anti-Drone City Ordinance

Chappell’s Attorney States Anti-Drone Ordinance Is Unconstitutional Under Federal Law

Los Angeles, CA (March 16, 2016) -- Filmmaker Arvel Chappell III, represented by Terrence Jones at Ballard Spahr LLP, filed a constitutional challenge to the City of Los Angeles’ new anti-drone ordinance in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, March 10.

According to Chappell’s attorney, Chappell represents every constituency interested in the safe and reasonable regulation of drone use.

“My entire life's work throughout my career as a filmmaker, aerospace engineer and pilot has been in promotion and support of aviation and aviators,” said Chappell. “The pilots flying in the skies above us are not only my peers but also my friends.”

Given the rapidly emerging drone technologies and their increasing popularity, Chappell’s challenge to the ordinance has gained significant support from groups, including film, retail and shipping industries, that want to continue to safely incorporate these technologies into people’s day-to-day existence.

During Chappell’s hearing on March 10, Jones challenged that the City’s ordinance is pre-empted by federal law which has the sole governing authority to regulate aviation, including unmanned drone aviation. At the time, the City Attorney’s Office stated it was not prepared to defend the ordinance, and therefore sought and received a continuance of the hearing until March 28.

Chappell is the first person to be charged in a three-count criminal complaint by the City Attorney’s Office for violating the City’s municipal ordinance (enacted in December 2015), which attempts to impose flight restrictions on individuals operating “unmanned aircraft” within City limits.

Chappell is a film director who has been using his registered drone since 2014, and more recently for his current project, “Compton: The Antwon Ross Story,” which ironically, tells the story of a young African American male who turns to aviation as an escape from the harsh reality of his daily life in Compton. For more information about Arvel Chappell III and the film, visit For any legal questions contact Terrence Jones (424) 204-4386

Compton aviation and personal history: Why I chose to make the Antwon Ross Story

There are many reasons why I wrote this film and set it in Compton.

  1. The first is my strong family history and connection to the city.
  2. The second is the fact that Compton has a strong aviation legacy going back to the 1950s that includes TWO AIRPORTS.
  3. And lastly, and this is something you wouldn't know unless you've read the script, growing up I got tired of seeing good people get criminal records that ultimately ruined their lives.

Ironically life is imitating art right now with the City of Los Angeles but I'm fighting the charges for the multitude of people all across the America who cannot. My good friend Michael Martinez directed this video for me where I discuss these things.

Unproductive? Naw.

Last week felt unproductive. There was little movement on casting and none with any of the management/production companies I've been talking with. All of that made me forget about the work that did get done. Mike and I shot some behind the scenes footage about the inspiration of the film in Compton and I also worked on PR.

I started with a PR plan that in the end was totally off base. A good friend who does PR rewrote it for me. And although I've read many things on branding for filmmakers it was always something I avoided. Perhaps it was my arrogance or naivety but for the longest I just thought people would just figure it out. 

But that's just flat out wrong. No one has time to figure you out... especially when we (as artists) are struggling to figure out ourselves. The solution is a strong stance!

So I thought about the type of films I'll be doing in the future... what's important to me and how I want people to think about me etc. The truth is I've been running from the personal branding thing for a long time.... running from who I am... which is just a mashup of a lot of disparate things that only I can make sense of. So taking what I've been learning from this process.... getting the word about "Compton: The Antwon Ross Story" and why I'm making it. I'm finally ready to make a public stand about who I am and the type of films I will make for the rest of my career. 

"I make authentic, scientific cinema!"

Boom. There I said it. It's taking me years to figure that out. That's the stance I never wanted to admit because I don't want people to think I only do scifi. But the reality is that I've spent most of my life studying and practicing rocket science so it's just a part of who I am. 

I love science so I make films that involve and celebrate science. Even this one has a lot of science in it that you wouldn't have guessed.... flight equations and mentions of the physicists responsible for the theory of flight etc... This would've never been there had I given the idea to a writer. I see the science in everything and it makes its way into my work. Even the doc I'm doing about Sarah Obama celebrates the science she used to create a new way to farm.

So last week turned out to be a very successful week. I've made the brand clearer and given everyone a glimpse into what to expect in the future... Authentic, scientific cinema that may not appear as such at face value. Including more science just makes life more interesting. Let's go!


Remembering the Challenger

Today is the 30th anniversary of my first aeronautical experience. I remember it like it was yesterday, January 28th, 1986. I was in kindergarten listening to Teddy Ruxpin when my teacher turned on the TV for us to watch Christa McAuliffe blast off into space. After the Challenger Space shuttle blew up, my teacher started crying and we cried with her, though I don’t remember us really knowing what had just happened.

This experience and films like the last Starfighter ignited my interest in space which led to an electrical engineering degree, a job in the space industry, writing scripts about space, and now applying to be an Astronaut. I’ve always been a person with high ambitions and going to the stars is the highest of them all.

So today on the 30th anniversary of the Challenger incident, let us reflect on the sacrifices made in the name of science and continue to be brave and look toward the sky.

Below is a video I made for #NASASocial a few years back about my first aeronautical experience.

Sundance 2016

My first Sundance tour is over and man was it fun. It was much better than I expected... The parties were amazing, the food was good and I got a chance to reconnect with friends in the industry who I didn't even know would be there. It felt like a reunion on so many levels.

why I went 

You won't believe this... A publicist found me online and thought that I should go to Sundance to tell people about my film.... So I decided to go on Friday and I was there on Sunday.

Front of postcard I made for the festival

Front of postcard I made for the festival

Back of postcard I made for the festival

Back of postcard I made for the festival

what I did there

I basically jumped from party to party and just told people of my love for flying and aviators. That's the whole reason I'm on this journey with the film. I hate to "network" so I was just there meeting people and talking about aviation and flying. Flying is something that just resonates with everyone so many people were on board with the film . It's always good to have people respond positively to your work/passion so it was a good experience. I also ran into a fellow pilot and filmmaker who's a captain for American Airlines... a representative from Aerial Mob which does drone cinematography for the studios, and a Delta flight attendant who loves cinema... We had a blast talking about flying and cinema!


I ran into so many familiar faces at Sundance. I've been on the periphery of the film industry since I made my first short film back in 2004, and I saw people from all over that journey at Sundance. Filmmaker friends I knew while I was in Project Involve, Alumni from USC.... I even ran into a engineer I used to work with at Hughes Aircraft in the aerospace/defense industry. He was mechanical and I was electrical so we'd often had to work together on products for our troops. All in all it was sooooo good to see familiar faces meeting up over our common interest in cinema. 

USC Alumni

USC Alumni

Former coworker at Hughes Aircraft

Former coworker at Hughes Aircraft

The takeaway

I'm so glad I went. I had a chance to share my love of flying and my film. People seem to be responding well to it and that makes me happy :-) I'll definitely be back. I know it's just a matter of time before the project finds the right champion. Fingers crossed. Thanks for coming on this journey with me. 


Going back to Kogelo Kenya

Dani (Grandma in the local dialect) and I in 2013

Dani (Grandma in the local dialect) and I in 2013

Back in 2013 I went to Kogelo Kenya to make a fundraising video and documentary for the first grandma, Mama Sarah Obama. She has dedicated her life to helping AIDS orphans and widows in Kogelo Kenya. Now her vision is coming to fruition and I've been invited back to continue the documentary and shoot more footage of the construction of the early childhood development school. I am honored to be asked to go back and I can't wait to see Dani again.