All posts by Karen Gill-Pennington

About Karen Gill-Pennington

Karen Gill-Pennington is the Production Director, Social Media Manager, Editor, and Blogger for DUO Media Productions. When she's not working you might find her practicing her flute, flying like a dragon with her son, or training for another Tough Mudder event. She finds it strange to write about herself in the third person.

Our Favorite Films from West Chester Short Film Festival

Recently, a small team from Star Wipe Films (the indie filmmaking side of DUO), attended the West Chester Short Film Festival in West Chester, Pennsylvania to attend the screening of our short film, Distilled, as well as to take part in a great little festival.

The festival organizers and volunteers were lovely, hard-working folks and the audiences received all of the films very warmly.

We really enjoyed many of the films shown and so I wanted to highlight a few of those, so that maybe you can check them out yourself!

First up is Bis Gleich (Til Then). This film was so heartwarming, it was no surprise that it won the People’s Choice ABisGleichward.  When so many independent films star actors in their 20s and 30s (ourselves included), it’s refreshing to see two superb older actors.

Here’s the write-up that made me want to see it in the first place.

Albert and Marta, both in their late 70s, live across the street from one another in a bustling section of Berlin’s Mitte.
Every day, the two neighbors meet – each in their perspective windows – at nine am to watch the world unfold below them.
One morning, the clock strikes nine but there is no sign of Albert.

Tapping into a well of courage, Marta crosses social and personal boundaries and makes a trip to the other side of the street.
What she finds there, unleashes a youthful energy within herself. With this newfound strength, she comforts and surprises her dear neighbor and friend.

Next is Snow Boat.

This film was a really great submission from some students at Savannah College of Art and Design. It’s an animation and a silent film with a bittersweet flavor to it. We were fortunate enough to have it in our screening group so we got to watch it twice during the weekend. We also got to hang out with one of the filmmakers who had traveled from Austin, Texas to come to the screening.

Watch the trailer here:

Our third highlighted film is a comedy called Somos Amigos (We Are Friends.) This was another film in our screening group, about the difficulties of having friendships in a workplace. The actors had great comedic timing which made this film enjoyable both times we watched it. Here’s the trailer but I think the film is best summed up in the first line of its plot outline. “What would you do if you had to fire your best friend?”

Baghdad Messi is a bittersweet vignette about a boy living just outside Baghdad who even though he is missing a leg, just wants to watch and play football (soccer), and be just like his favorite player, Messi. What I loved about this short film was watching the close relationship between the boy and his father. So many times we see fathers and sons at odds with one another but this father and son have such a sweet relationship in a very rough part of the world. The entire cast did a fantastic job, but the 10 year old boy who starred in the film was especially remarkable.

Here’s the trailer:

Finally, I want to tell you about The Voorman Problem. This short film delighted the audience with its humor and very original story. It’s no wonder it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Live Action Short, especially with the talents of both Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander. I don’t think the trailer quite does it justice, but check it out nonetheless.

The festival screened so many wonderful films, we felt very fortunate to be a part of it. Although you cannot currently view our film Distilled online, you can watch some of our other short films on our Star Wipe Films website.

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DUO Brings Home 4 More Peer Awards

1292974_1537446866471985_7796271075077338792_oPermit me to pat ourselves on the back for a moment. Normally on these blogs, I try to focus on the work of others, but I wanted to share with you some exciting news.  We won four TIVA Peer Awards on Saturday, November 8, 2014, and we couldn’t be more excited!

10649010_1537448056471866_3057171987498440790_oThe Peer Awards are coveted awards in the Greater Washington, DC area, because they’re different than a lot of other awards.  With many organizations you send in your project and your entry fee and then you wait to receive a letter in the mail telling you whether you won or not based on a panel of  judges you know nothing about.

10620200_1537448609805144_6327962120537911899_oWith the Peer Awards, you don’t wait at home. You get dressed up and head out for a lovely evening at the prestigious National Press Club right in the heart of DC. Not only is it held at a beautiful venue, but the evening contains delicious gourmet food, great networking, entertaining presenters, and of course, lots of awards. But perhaps the most unique thing about this particular awards ceremony, is that you know that each award you receive was judged by your peers, hence the name, The Peer Awards. That means that the certificate or statue you hold in your hand was put there because the people that do the same work you do, in the same part of the world you do it in, thought you deserved it. What could be better than that?

And now, without further ado, here are the awards we won with pictures to boot.
10688318_1537446363138702_1325312414141383250_oBronze Award:  NAE “Engineering for You” Promo 2D/3D Animation (Under $10K)  Photo of Brian at left.

Silver Award:  “Apocalypse Rock” Trailer Program/Series Promo (Under $10K)  Photo of Brian at top of page. Check out our film at www.ApocalypseRock.com

Silver Award:  Fundamentals of SolidWorks Electrical Public Relations/Marketing (Under $10K)  Photo of Karen at bottom.

Gold Award:  NAE “Engineering for You” Public Relations/Marketing (Under $10K)  Photo of Karen at bottom.

1606344_1537446046472067_1738040226215599053_o

 

 

 

 

Not the Sci-Fi Movie You’re Used To: Thoughts on “Interstellar”

If you are unsure about whether or not you should venture out to see Interstellar sometime soon, please read these fairly convincing thoughts on the film by our friend, Jason Hamilton. 

The trailers for Interstellar were just vague enough to cloud the actual plot so that I did not really know what to expect from it. To sum up what I gathered from the trailers: Earth is interstellarPoster1dying, Matthew McConaughey leaves Earth with Anne Hathaway at the request of Michael Caine to find a new home, they visit other planets, things don’t go according to plan.

And so I sat down and prepared to watch a new take on a classic science fiction film. Without getting into spoiler territory, Interstellar was not the movie I thought I was going to be watching. I watched a science fiction movie where the science fiction didn’t out shadow the science fact and real extrapolated theories for the sake of sensationalism. That said, there were sensational scenes both in space and on planets, but the space travel was merely the vehicle for a much more down to earth tale of humanity and family.

In summary, while Interstellar may not have been the science fiction movie most people wanted, it IS the science fiction film we all deserve. One that is close enough to science fact so as to cause you to place yourself in the film and find that you have a personal stake in the outcome, but also asks you suspend belief and take some things on faith.

If you find my ramblings here to be confusing, good! Go see the movie for yourself. I’m not doing this “review” for you, I’m doing it to process my thoughts on the film for myself. I don’t pay any attention to reviews when deciding whether or not to see a movie, and neither should you. Go see movies that strike a chord and resonate within you regardless of what someone else’s opinion is, because ultimately everyone resonates at different frequencies anyway and the only way to know if you like a movie is to watch it yourself.

No offence is meant to those who fancy themselves amateur (or professional) film critics.

Thank you to Jason, who graciously let us repost this from his original facebook page posting.

Yes, I really did just compare Snowpiercer, Interstellar and Sleepless in Seattle

In the past 72 hours, I’ve watched three very different movies, Snowpiercer, Interstellar and Sleepless in Seattle, but was surprised to find similar themes in all three. “How?” you ask. First, let’s look at each one individually.

SnowPiercerPosterAlthough Snowpiercer and Interstellar are both about how to preserve life when the world can no longer support us, they couldn’t be more different in execution, and of course Sleepless in Seattle isn’t about the end of the world as we know it but the restart of one man’s world.

Snowpiercer was a remarkably weird movie that couldn’t seem to settle on a tone. With elements of Hunger Games, Equilibrium and any Terry Gilliam movie you can think of, I know I felt a bit uneasy throughout the story and found myself laughing at moments that I don’t think were intended to be funny. This movie is more about overcoming oppression rather than working together for the good of all.InterstellarPoster

Interstellar was an experience. We managed to get some tickets to the pre-opening night screening at the National Air and Space Museum’s IMAX theater, which was important since Christopher Nolan filmed a majority of Interstellar on IMAX film, and notably without green screen. I felt a tenseness throughout the movie, but not the sort you have when watching a really scary movie that sends you into the shakes. (Does that only happen to me?) Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain were very believable in their roles and Michael Caine brought a great performance slightly outside of his normal stoic roles.

I saw Sleepless in Seattle a long time ago, but it was a comfy movie to watch again on a night when I was feeling especially tired (probably because I didn’t get home from Interstellar until after 4am that morning.) It’s the classic romantic comedy of the nineties that pays homage to an even older classic, An Affair to Remember. This film certainly helped secure Tom Hanks as a leading man with a role slightly more serious than some of his previous characters in Joe Vs. the Volcano, Turner and Hooch and The Money Pit, but without being entirely a chick flick.

You’re probably wondering what the heck these three movies actually have in common, so let’s break them down a bit (and I’ll try not spoil anything about Interstellar, especially since it doesn’t officially open everywhere until tomorrow.) Here are three of the themes I saw prevailing throughout each film.

Family and Sacrifice – When there’s family and love, there’s going to be sacrifice. In each of these films we see strong connections between parents and their children, and the lengths to which each one will go to protect as well as ensure the happiness of the other. In Snowpiercer, we see a number of parents fight for their children as well as incur much suffering even when they know it’s pointless to even try.

With Interstellar, we have parents leaving children behind and children leaving their parents to go on an incredibly uncertain journey, all for the sake of preserving the human race.

SleeplessInSeattlePosterIn Sleepless in Seattle, we get a bit of the reverse. It’s the son that goes through so much of the trouble to try and find his dad not only a new love, but one that could somehow measure up to the magic bond his dad had with his now deceased wife.

Time – Time is so important in all three of these films.  The entire timeline of Snowpiercer is based on the fact that this train containing the last remnant of the human race is barreling around the world taking exactly one year to complete a full circle. There’s also the timing of the revolt, which must happen at just the right moment so that they can pass through several gates during the four measly seconds they’re open.

I loved the way that the film Interstellar handled time. There’s the simple problem that earth and its inhabitants are out of time and won’t live past the next generation, but there’s also the very complex time problems they face when flying too close to black holes or needing to hibernate while traveling long distances to conserve resources.

With Sleepless in Seattle, the characters face the very real time problems of “When is it okay to start dating after your wife dies?” and “Should I wait for the one whose very touch feels like magic, or stay with the one who is reliable and loves me, but doesn’t inspire me?”

Moving forward – Each of these films has their own tragedy (or tragedies) to deal with which leads to feelings of hopelessness and paralyzing fear.

In Snowpiercer, there are so many atrocities the people from the rear of the train have had to face and continue to face on a daily basis, that the fact they’re able to raise enough spirit to revolt against the people from the front of the train is quite a feat in itself. At each new obstacle they press on, even when things seem quite grim indeed. Perhaps what this movie really exhibits is the human spirit when you have nothing else to lose.

The film Interstellar is a perpetual illustration of having to move forward in the most difficult situations. It is a film about trying to find another planet as our own planet dies from under us, so I’m sure you can imagine the difficulties that will ensue. There are so many examples I’d love to share, but I really don’t want to spoil anything for you, so just go watch the movie.

With Sleepless in Seattle, is there anything more difficult to recover from than losing the love of your life? I think the main character, Sam Baldwin, sums it up perfectly when he talks about how he’s handling the loss of his wife and mother of his child. “Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.” Good advice for all of us.

So, while I hope there were some interesting bits here for you to consider, I more so hope that you’ll seek out a real IMAX theater to watch Interstellar in, you’ll RedBox Snowpiercer and take it with a grain of salt, and keep Sleepless in Seattle in queue for a great date night movie.

7 Must-See Movies to Prepare for the Apocalypse

Over the past year and a half we’ve been working on a fairly in depth short film entitled Apocalypse Rock. During pre-production, production and now as we’re in post-production, the idea of an apocalypse is ever on our minds. We’ve been watching more post-apocalyptic movies, reading more books and blogs, and scouring the internet for how to survive an apocalypse. So as I sat down to write this blog, I realized that although I am no expert when it comes to movies that fall into the Apocalyptic/Post-Apocalyptic realm, I am a fan and becoming a bigger fan by the day. With that being said, I came up with a list of my own Must-See movies to prepare for the Apocalypse. Here they are in no particular order. Oh and there are a few spoilers below, but nothing too dramatic.

ZombieLand

#1 Zombieland

Whether or not a zombie apocalypse takes place, the many rules set out in the movie are great guidelines to survive in any post-apocalyptic world. Such as #1 Cardio, #18 Limber Up – It’s important to stay in shape and not get hurt. #3 Beware of Bathrooms, #22 When in Doubt, Know your Way Out, #31 Check the Back Seat, #29 The Buddy System – In any post-apocalyptic society, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. #7 Travel Light – You’ll have to learn quickly what’s useful and what’s best to leave behind, because in a post-apocalyptic world, there’s a good chance you’ll be on the move a lot.

bookofeli

#2 The Book of Eli

How else would you know that cat oil is good for dry lips? In addition to the cat oil, the movie shows some good ideas for camouflaging yourself while hunting, why it’s important to retain your intelligence in addition to being a kick-butt killing machine, and it also teaches you to not trust anyone, and to be wary of anyone that has the shakes.

castaway

#3 Castaway

Although not an apocalyptic movie, it does have some great survival tips. Like how to build a fire without matches, how to crack open a coconut and the many versatile uses for their shells, how to make a friend out of a volleyball, how to fish with a spear, how to make a sea-worthy raft, and how to make a loin cloth out of khakis.

hungergames

# 4 The Hunger Games

Sometimes surviving in a post-apocalyptic world means putting up with a horribly oppressive government. These movies (and even more so the books) give some ideas about how to outwit the government, how love and compassion can be more deadly than hatred, and it even has some decent wilderness survival tips.

#5 Tomorrow When the War Began tomorrowwhenthewarbegan

This is also not an apocalyptic movie, but darn close to it. When the teenagers in this film find that their city/country has been taken over by an angry, foreign army, they band together to do what they can to not just survive, but to fight back. The smartest thing they do is set up camp in a very secluded part of the Australian wilderness with fresh running water. That’s where I’m going, if things here ever go awry. Although probably not Australia, but somewhere a little closer to where I am now, like West Virginia.

dawnofthedead

#6 Dawn of the Dead

Some of the places they hole up in are places of great resources, like a shopping mall. I imagine you could live in an indoor mall for weeks. With all the food vendors, clothing shops, mattress stores, department stores, game shops and more, you could not only survive but do so in a fairly comfortable way.  And just like in the movie, if things became too dangerous there and you can always head for a secluded island and hope that it works out better for you than it did for those in the movie.

#7 The Lord of the Rings (all three movies)lotr

I know these movies really have nothing to do with the apocalypse, and that much of what they do to survive is to rely on things that don’t exist in this world, such as lembas bread, elven cloaks and kingsfoil. But the characters in these films are very inspiring as they continue to move forward even in the bleakest of moments. There are also so many quotable lines that I have personally already used in my daily struggles, and I’m sure I’ll continue to use when faced with a post-apocalyptic wasteland. “Now for wrath! Now for ruin! And a red dawn!”

I know I’ve probably missed some of your favorite films, so if you’d like to get some extra credit here’s a good watch list in addition to the above films: Terminator 2, I Am Legend, Serenity, The Road, The Postman, Red Dawn, 28 Days Later (Darn, now I kinda wish I had included this one in the list above), How I Live Now, Water World, Mad Max, Life of Pi, and so many more. Feel free to tell us what you’re watching to prepare for the Apocalypse.

Did we tell you we won some more Telly Awards?

I’ve been reading several tweets and blogs about the various Telly Awards being handed out, when I realized, “Hey, we won some Telly Awards, too! Maybe I should tell someone about them…” So without further ado, I’m pleased to announce that this year we won a Silver Award (which is actually the highest honor), for our film “Welcome to the Neighborhood.” This now makes “Welcome to the Neighborhood” our most award winning film, so far. Watch the hilarious Doug Powell, and the uber talented Claire Hadley and Allie Heidel as they show you that even the strangest people have something to offer.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/57568923″>Welcome to the Neighborhood</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/duomediaproductions”>DUO Media Productions</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

In addition to our Silver Award, we won a Bronze Telly Award for our documentary called “Making the Ordinary Extraordinary” for the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes. Watch JFGH resident, Jeremy Wittes, as he tells the story of the JFGH and their last thirty years.

Here we are presenting the award to the JFGH team. JFGHaward

We are so proud of our team that works hard to make these award winning, engaging films. We hope you enjoy them!

Quick Crowdfunding Tips for Those Who Don’t Have Time to Read a Book

After participating in two crowdfunding campaigns and a crowdfunding panel, I felt it would be a good idea to post some of my thoughts on successful and not-so-successful crowdfunding campaigns. Most of what I’m discussing here regards filmmaking campaigns, although most of these tips can be used for any type of campaign. So here are my numbered tips, in no particular order, because I find it so much easier to read things that are numbered.

1. Okay, I know the title of this blog is “Quick Crowdfunding Tips for those who don’t have time to read a book,” but seriously, you should read John Trigonis’s “Crowdfunding for Filmmakers.”  I wish I had read this before doing our campaign. Granted, it wasn’t out yet, but he still gave a lot of great info on his blog, some of which we followed, some of which we, regrettably, did not.

2. Tweet, Facebook and use your other social media sites often. Throughout our campaign I posted on our 3 different accounts multiple times a day. Using an app like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, I would schedule at least one post per hour, so I didn’t always have to be sitting at the computer (even though I still sat there a lot.) Make your posts unique or else you risk being labeled as a spammer. Anytime you post, use relevant hashtags. If your film is a horror film use tags like #horror #indiefilm #SupportIndieFilm and be sure to use tags such as #gogofilm (if you’re on IndieGogo), #kickstarter (if you’re on Kickstarter), and so on. Direct your tweets to various crowdfunding groups. We directed many of ours to @IndieGogoFilm and @IndieReign that got retweeted because they thought what we said was funny. There are plenty of crowdfunding promoters out there such as @icrowdfundbuzz, @crowdhelps and more. Most importantly, build and engage your audience WELL before you launch your campaign. We learned that one the hard way.

3. Offer incentives for getting followers and likers. We released the poster after we reached 100 likes on Facebook, which really got people to push their friends to like our film. Don’t pay for Facebook likes. I could go into all the details, but basically paying for likes can actually lower the amount of interaction you have with your “fans.” Here’s a fantastic video explaining it all.

4. Don’t do it all yourself. Find others who are good at the social media stuff and have an online presence and recruit them to promote your film and campaign. Our biggest promoter was a lady who was unable to leave her house for a few months so she spent a lot of time blogging and on facebook. She blogged about us and “liked” EVERY SINGLE POST we ever put out there regarding our film. Her family also gave 6 different times to claim various levels of perks.

5. Know where your first 30-40% of funding is coming from and get it early. We got that 30-40%, but it came too late in the campaign. We should have pushed for that first portion much earlier on.

6. Encourage others to just visit your page even if they can’t give, have given already or plan to give later on. Having many visitors, shares, and whatnot helps push you higher in the ranking on the crowdfunding platform’s page.

7. Consider “Bonus Perks.” We had a Bonus Perk week where every day we had a bonus perk for anyone that gave at or over a certain amount for that day. (Mug Monday, T-shirt Tuesday, etc.) Our most popular bonus perk was a compilation of 12 of our short films we’ve done in the past decade. You can see the videos we created for the bonus perks at our film’s website apocalypserock.com.

8. Utilize your resources. If you’ve got a celebrity on board (even if just a local celeb), get them to tweet and post often! Our lead actor had a connection with a local rock station, so he got to go on the radio and talk about our campaign and film. Think about who you know, and who might be able to help you.

How to be a Good Production Assistant; Part 9

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a tip on How to be a Good Production Assistant, but if you remember from last time, I gave a long list of useful set terms. This next section is all about the very necessary function of Craft Services.  I’ve always said that a well fed crew is a happy crew, and it continues to be true.  Learn more in Part 9.

As a Production Assistant, you will often have the job of not only buying, but setting up and maintaining the craft services for the duration of the shoot.  Many times, you’ll have a table that you’ll set up and tend to periodically throughout the day, although I’ve seen craft services being toted around in coolers, in plastic drawered towers, and even just in plastic bags. Although that last scenario isn’t ideal, there are some things you can do to ensure everyone’s happy with the crafty.

But first let me tell you a story. I was on a month long shoot as a Production Manager, where my Production Assistants were apparently incapable of setting up a craft service table. I mean it was one of the first things we did every single day, and yet every single day after I would remind them once again that it needed to be done, 45 minutes later I’d be lucky if they had even set up a table already.  If they did have a table up, it would only contain about half of the items it was supposed to have with no coffee brewing yet, no hot water, nothing.  And what was set up was very shabby indeed. 

So with that in mind, I urge you to learn how to set up a craft service table.  And quickly.  Unless you’ve been hired as the dedicated Craft Service person, you’ve got other jobs to get onto.  Every craft service table will be different, but what never changes, is the importance of keeping it organized and clean.  That means individual snacks are in baskets or lined up neatly.  Keep snacks fairly segregated.  You can have a variety of chips and granola bars, but generally speaking keep the chips with the chips, the fruit with the fruit and the granola bars with the granola bars.  Coffee should be located directly next to the coffee cups, sweeteners, creamers and stirrers, not halfway across the table. The cooler(s) should be stocked and filled with ice.  A trash can is near by.  There are napkins and they are weighted down if you’re outside.  Also, if you’re outside, be sure any open items are covered, yet still accessible.  Make sure you check back periodically to see if anything needs to be restocked, any trash needs to be thrown away and to just tidy up.

Once in a while, you may be given the unhappy duty of buying craft services for the cast and crew without a shopping list.  Such pressure!  You want to do a good job and stay within budget but you may have no idea where to start.  Let me give you a sample shopping list.  This list is not comprehensive and every crew and set is different, so remember that this is just a starting point for those without a clue.

First, see if you can find out any dietary restrictions or preferences.  I’ve had such specific requests as gluten free diets, non-sugar-free gum (harder to find than you might think), lots of Diet Dr. Pepper, no yogurt with refined sugars, Starbucks coffee only, and the list goes on.  Also, determine what kind of set you’ll be on.  Inside or outside?  One location or multiple?  Constantly on the move or not?  Grocery stores nearby?  After that, here’s where you should start.  Remember that unless otherwise stated, everything should be individually wrapped.  Nobody wants to reach into a chip bag that every other person on set has reached into with their dirty fingers.

Your Basics

Fruit (something that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and easy to eat like bananas, apples and oranges)

Chips

Granola bars 

Cookies

Trail Mix

Gum and/or Mints

Sodas (Regular, Diet and Caffeine Free)

Bottled water

Sports drinks

Hand sanitizer

Napkins

Trash bags

If you want to get a little fancy

Veggie tray with dip

Grapes

Bagels and cream cheese

Yogurt

Plasticware

Small plates

Sliced bread (for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches)

Peanut butter

Jelly

Fruit Tray

I could go on and on about this subject, but I’ll leave it with saying that you really don’t want to ignore the craft service table.  Even if you’re not asked to take care of it, it’s always a good idea to tidy up around it any time you make a visit.  There is one positive, however, to doing a bad job at Craft Services.  You’ll probably never get asked to do it again.  Well that’s all for now.  Stay tuned for Part 10, coming soon!