Rancho Bernardo 12-year-old seeks to help the homeless with his own documentary

While many people look away from the homeless population in San Diego, Arden Pala looks right at them.

Although he’s just 12 years old, Arden wanted to do something to help. The result is a documentary, “A Second Chance,” which he wrote and directed.

Arden Pala

(Zeynep Ilgaz)

San Diego has the fifth largest homeless population in the nation, Arden said. And during the pandemic, the number of homeless people has doubled, he said.

Poster for “A Second Chance” directed by Arden Pala.

“I think that most people think homelessness is because of one thing, such as someone losing their job. I would like to make people think and have a different idea of how people really become homeless,” Arden said.

The son of Serhat Pala and Zeynep Ilgaz Pala of Rancho Bernardo, Arden is a 7th grader at Francis Parker School. His parents, who immigrated from Turkey, are co-founders of a biotech company, Confirm BioSciences, which was acquired last year by Clinical Reference Laboratory.

Arden was already familiar with the homeless issue, in part because of his brother Kenan Pala, five years his senior, who started the Kids4Community nonprofit. With the goal of helping families give back to their communities, the group works with charitable organizations to engage kids as young as 5 years with the concept of charitable work, so that families with can contribute together.

Seeing the increase in homelessness during the pandemic while driving around with his family gave Arden the idea for the documentary.

“A Second Chance” is a 10-minute video of interviews with several formerly homeless individuals, including Sgt. Hugh Pettigrew, a U.S. Army veteran, and the leaders of organizations that have helped them get back on their feet.

Arden Pala interviewed Sgt. Hugh Pettigrew, a formerly homeless U.S. Army veteran, for his documentary “A Second Chance.”

(Zeynep Ilgaz)

Arden’s hope is that the documentary will help change people’s attitudes toward the homeless.

“Hearing all these stories has changed the way I think of homelessness, and I hope it changes the way you think, too,” he said. “After watching, I hope maybe someone will volunteer at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. And to give the homeless an opportunity — a second chance.”

Arden is busy entering his documentary in numerous film festivals. The strategy is already paying off — he’s been notified he won Best Young Male Filmmaker in the Los Angeles International Film Festival/Indie Shot Fest, and has been picked as a finalist at the New Filmmakers NY and Oniros Film Awards NY. The video is also an official selection in the New York Movie Awards and the LA Live Film Fest.

The awards should get the attention of even more viewers for his documentary, he said.

Once the film is made public, it is no longer eligible for competitions. However, the trailer can be seen here:

Arden said his parents have been “super supportive,” and even gave him the funding to make his documentary happen.

“I’m so proud of Arden and the passion he has for our homeless population and our community,” said his mother, Zeynep Pala. “He has been volunteering at soup kitchens since he was little. And seeing him address some of the important issues in our society makes me very proud and hopeful for the future.”

Arden’s family are also animal lovers. They have have four dogs — LuLu the Maltese, Wally the corgi, Tootsi the Chihuahua and Peanut, a terrier mix. Three of the four dogs are rescues.

His future ambitions include becoming a filmmaker. He is already an award-winning actor, has appeared in two films and has written three children’s fantasy books.

“The documentary is my first actual film to write and direct,” he said.

He has produced at least 60 YouTube videos for his YouTube channel, The New Comers.

Arden also volunteers at Interfaith Community Services in Escondido, where he works in the soup kitchen and participates in many of their special fundraising events.

“I love to write; it’s one of my hobbies,” he said. “When I was 8 years old, I was interested in flying cars.”

In his fantasy books, the main character, Noah, travels by flying car on overseas trips.

“I use flying cars to show readers foreign counties in a fun way with real facts and figures,” he said. “So far, I’ve written about China, Turkey and Mexico.”

His books — “The Adventures of Noah’s Flying Car Through China,” “The Adventures of Noah’s Flying Car Through Turkey” and “The Adventures of Noah’s Flying Car Through Mexico” —can be found on He donates the proceeds from his books to charity.

Once Arden receives the final results from the film festivals he has entered, he said he plans to release “A Second Chance” on his YouTube channel.

I want to help out the homeless community and see them decrease,” he said.