PROJECT ARBITER: An Exclusive Interview with Creator Michael Chance

by on April 29, 2010

in Entertainment

Science Fiction Indie Movie Project Arbiter - Arbiter Tank


Project Arbiter is the brainchild of Michael Chance and is at its core a sci fi espionage story that demonstrates how a small victory can tip the balance of power in WWII. The story takes place in 1943, about an O.S.S. unit code named Project Arbiter who infiltrates a mysterious villa on the Polish border and uncovers a secret that will change their prototype battle-suit program.

I had the opportunity to hang out with Michael for a few hours one day and just chat about things. He’s fun to hang out with and we had a lot to talk about. The following is the culmination of our 2-hour interview, where first I talk about the man behind the process and his insights and then the origins and other details of his indie filmProject Arbiter.


Michael Chance

A little bit about Michael: I was first exposed to Michael Chance’s work at the San Jose Metro Movie Premiere Film Festival back in December of 2009. I caught his indie short film titled The Reason, which is a 14 minute character exploration into a veteran police officer’s reaffirmation into why he protects and serves while responding to a deadly 911 call. Michael blended the inevitable events surrounding domestic strife, violent law-breakers and law-enforcement into a believable moment in time. In a mere 14 minutes, I walked away realizing I saw something special, and experienced the work of someone with a keen eye on how to pull a lot together and make a story happen from it. It’s akin to Jon Favreau and his writing teams pulling together so many details from the Iron Man mythos, and doing it seamlessly into a fully entertaining, and fulfilling experience for the fan.

Michael attended Prospect High School (which had a Media Careers pathway) and then attended DeAnza College and has been working as an assistant director & producer for the last 4 years at Design Reactor in Campbell. Along the way, he’s earned a few Media Arts Awards for projects like “No Brainer,” where working in a cubicle, the question arises, does one need a brain to keep going?

A Michael Chance historical note: Michael’s first project was his senior year short titled Day of Remembrance. It was a 10 minute film starring his father, as he finds himself waking up from a nightmare and flashing back to Vietnam.


Project Arbiter: How Did It Come About?

Michael has been pondering the idea of stepping away from independent dramas to possibly make a science fiction movie when the idea for Project Arbiter sparked.

About 2 years ago Michael descried an old 1940’s coal miner’s mask in an antique shop and the idea was sparked. Michael likes the premise of combining science fiction, conspiracy theories and World War II. A piece of his inspiration also comes form The Philadelphia Experiment and Nikola Tesla. Combining this like-material with something historically accurate about the unseen war from World War II, where scientists worked in back rooms trying to create that technological edge over the enemy was something that drew him to expounding his notions of Project Arbiter.

Project Arbiter Concept Art by Robert Simons

As the ideas gelled, Michael started perusing the website to find inspiration for his suit of armor and that’s when he found Robert Simons, a student of the Art School of Pasadena. Michael feels lucky, in that he feels that he found someone light years beyond others in the realm of bringing concepts to life. As far as the suit from Project Arbiter is concerned, he says it “came from combining the mechanics of a suit in an homage where H.G. Wells meets Rocketeer meets grim reaper.” He then came across a talented group of fabricators in Texas by the name of Blue Realm studios. Lead by Devin White the physical suit came to life. Michael noted that the fine detail and craftsmanship that the Blue Realm team put into the suit rivals that of major Hollywood fabricators. The final piece was the introduction of his gifted producer Vicki de Mey. “She is the best – just as driven as me to make this film amazing!

Michael’s first approach to Project Arbiter was going to focus on a coalition of scientists bringing the Arbiter suit to life, but then he realized that he needed to focus on the man in the suit. (Which in my mind is his trademark approach – always being about the character.) In this character-driven focus, the suit has abilities that forces the wearer to confront a moral conflict. It can render the wearer invisible for short periods of time. Michael draws on the nature of the man in the suit with this particular ability. “Will our hero stay on mission or will he do something else?” He has a choice… to be either a moral person or an unjust person while being invisible. The inner conflict we all fight every day when no one is looking. The notion of ending a global conflict like WWII by silent unseen means rather than weapons of mass destruction are always top of mind in the world of Project Arbiter.

– – – – –

The short film is something that Michael is hoping will be the precursor for a feature film. Michael and his team have already been approached by folks in Hollywood that have acknowledged the intriguing concept the trailer presents. Michael says that his initial ideas span a feature film that could open up into the expanses of novels and videos games. He has the entire story of Project Arbiter tuned and a wealth of material that can support this project going in any direction. Michael is prepared and he has a story to tell. A story I want to hear.

Project Arbiter Thompson Railgun

The Thompson Railgun in Project Arbiter

Project Arbiter is a fantastic premise where it takes popular culture and combines, or fuzes it with historical culture. It’s not just drama, it is an adventure film. Yet as some of the physical aspects of the story are based in science it still delivers some great science fiction themes and delivers hints at the present or 10 years out from now, outside of the possible conspiracy theories. Michael also made it a deeper spiritual journey for the man in the suit.

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There are more details to the story than meet the eye in the short film Michael and team are creating and in my opinion they’re doing it just right. They tease you with high quality scenes while leaving out the real meat of the story. And believe you, me, what’s been left out looks intense and will make this a very exciting short film that will both entertain and entice.

For the Technically Inclined:

Red One Digital Cameras used for filming Project Arbiter

This isn’t just a short film that is going to be shot and put to bed. Michael’s eye for detail and understanding the need for a quality presentation ha propelled him to do more than what most short film productions attempt. They’re shooting Project Arbiter with 3 RED One digital cameras. For you techies, RED digital cameras shoot in RAW. This allows the end user / filmmaker to bracket exposures, therein allowing the filmmaker to combine footage to create a near perfectly exposed frame in post production.

In other words, like a few other filmmakers out there (ala James Cameron), Michael and his tech-savvy Director of Photography Jason Beckwith are raising the bar in digital production. It’s people like Michael that will push the envelope of simple projects, creating a superior movie watching experience for all involved, and push the industry down that road of technical excellence. It’s people like Michael that can revolutionize the industry, someone who doesn’t take short cuts to pump a project out. This is one of the reasons I’m excited about this movie.

Michael teased me with some ideas he has in his head for projects beyond Project Arbiter but I think I’ll just leave those alluring thoughts for another day because right now, his focus is on the here and now. And once we catch the full impact of the story that Michael has to tell us with Project Arbiter, I think you’ll understand where I’m coming from. As my readers who know me and have come to trust my judgment calls on movies, you’ll see what I mean when you see this incredible short film, Project Arbiter.

Project Arbiter will come in at around 20 to 25 minutes and they start filming in May at Hans Beerbaum’s ( fully furnished film ranch in Petaluma, CA. After that, the post production process begins and the Project Arbiter team aims to please on their aggressive schedule and release. Then we’ll be able to check out what Michael has done, once again.

But watch out. If you ever see Michael shopping in an antique store, his next idea might be brewing.

Cinema Static on Brusimm - TV and Movie Stuff, Weeding through the Static

Here’s the preview clip for Project Arbiter:


Michael Chance,

Project Arbiter:

Folks, this is going to be an awesome project.  Please share this information with your friends, family and social networks.  Michael & myself would appreciate it!

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