Chappelle burst onto the cinematic scene in 1994 with his debut filmnoir Thieves Quartet, an intimate, characterdriven kidnapping caper he directed from his own screenplay. Shot in and around Chicago, the film marked an auspicious debut for the New Jerseyborn, Northwestern Universityeducated filmmaker.
Of that film, Variety film critic Steven Gaydos wrote: "Add firsttime writer director Joe Chappelle to the list of talented young filmmakers (Quentin Tarantino, Nick Gomez, John Dahl, Whitney Ransick)...'Thieves' makes a fine showcase for Chappelle's directorial chops and is a sturdy crime drama filled with tension and firstrate performances. New York Times film critic Stephen Holden wrote ...(Thieves Quartet) has a conviction that is missing in many of its slicker Hollywood forerunners...(it) sets out with a vengeance to demystify the romance of the caper movie..." San Francisco Chronicle writer Joe Bob Briggs, in a film roundup piece, described Thieves Quartet as better than 'Reservoir Dogs'. And The Hollywood Reporter's reviewer, Frank Schenck, wrote: ...crisply written and directed...
Joe Chappelle has, in fact, been making movies, real or imagined, 35 mm or Super 8, since he was a 12yearold in the suburbs of northern New Jersey. Although the distance between PHANTOMS and his childhood experiments represents many miles and years of growth, his latest challenge represents a continuation of his driving desire to put riveting motion pictures before the public's eye.
To gather the skills he needed, Chappelle completed his Master of Fine Arts in Film from Northwestern University in 1985. The filmmaker's program culminated with his thesis short film, Descent, a gritty drama focusing on a young man's search for his sister in an underworld of radical politics. Criticallyhailed, the film captured numerous awards, including the Golden Athena Award in the Best Short Film category at the 1986 Athens International Film Festival. Ian Christie of the British Film Institute called Descent a "serious and substantial work that does not hide behind its visual sophistication...a powerful fantasy."
Since leaving school, Chappelle has divided his time between the artistic and commercial filmmaking communities. In 1987, for example, he was selected to direct a 15minute film for use in Sam Shepard's Suicide in BFlat, produced by Chicago's Open City Theater Company, an effort which was lauded by Chicago Tribune drama critic Richard Christiansen, among others. To put bread on the table, and to continue to work in the film medium he loves, Chappelle became a successful director of television commercials. His work in the commercial arena has won him numerous awards, including a gold Hugo Best of Show at the 1990 Chicago International Film Festival.
Joe Chappelle Facts