Category Archives: Film Festivals

A Winning Team

Vision, execution and reception are all on equal footing here at DUO.  It’s about the journey and the outcome.  As stated on our website:

Our video production services span all phases of a project; from concept development through distribution, and any part thereof…we look for ways to make your project unique, and speak specifically to your needs…We provide high quality results at highly competitive rates.

As a result of our blend of creativity and professionalism, we have accumulated a collection of awards, a large portion of which comes from the Television, Internet and Video Association (TIVA) of DC.  TIVA is a non-profit association of media professionals (companies and individuals) in the National Capital region. The mission of TIVA-DC is to connect the media production community to jobs, resources and educational opportunities. The Peer Awards, sponsored by TIVA, is the largest film/video competition in the Mid-Atlantic region and culminates in a gala at the National Press Club and other prestigious venues with an average of 300 attendees.  As DUO and our independent film channel Star Wipe Films, we have acquired the following awards since as early as 2009:

  • 9 Gold Peer Awards
  • 11 Silver Peer Awards
  • 3 Bronze Peer Awards

Among the winning projects that earned these awards include our 48Hour Film, Welcome to the Neighborhood (which also won us a few awards at Filmapalooza 2013 and a Selection in the Short Film Corner for Festival de Cannes 2013) and our own short film, Apocalypse Rock, which TIVA-DC awarded us specifically for Program/Series Promo Under $10k for the film trailer, Independent Short, Acting, Editing: Fiction, Production Design, and Sound Design.

We’ve also received awards almost every year that we have participated in the 48 Hour Film Project and 29 Days Later competitions.

***Update: as of November 2016, Game of CAD and Once Upon A Bedroom have also earned Peer Awards; Gold and Silver, respectively.

Continue reading A Winning Team


Cinematic Summer Revivals

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As media and filmmaking professionals, we have particular admiration for movie houses and cinemas and we are fortunate to live close to quite a few.  There is a particularly special place in our hearts for The Charles Theatre, which is located in downtown Baltimore.  This particular theatre screens both independent and mainstream films much like other local cinemas (i.e. The Uptown in DC, The Weinberg in Frederick, or The Senator, also in Baltimore), The Charles has multiple screening rooms.  The structure itself has retained much of its original design and style over its one hundred year history of standing and still seats 485 (without all being in one room).

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We have seen many films on its screens, both classic and modern alike, which includes many of our own films as part of the 48 Hour Film Screenings.  In fact, we have screened over six films there; Welcome to the NeighborhoodDistilledDenouement, Rare FindsQ, Like It’s Your Last, Kill The MonstersLife Lessons, and more.

The Baltimore 48 has come and gone (in which we unfortunately were unable to participate this year) but the summer continues at The Charles as they continue with a Revival Series of landmark films this summer season.  The event started back in June with Eva Hesse (Marcie Begleiter), Kings of the Road (Wim Wenders), and Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica).  The bulk of the films ran in July but there are more still to come in the series, including the Hitchcock classic Rear Window, Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch), The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola) and Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly).  

Don’t miss the remaining films!

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The Senator has been running a series of revivals as well:


The variety in the lineups at each theatre is refreshing. There are a number of titles that appeal to us and we consider ourselves fortunate that such art and variety thereof is so readily available. We certainly appreciate such revivals and will be visiting The Charles for this series and doubtlessly others into the autumn, winter and after.

Recap: May 2016

In spite of fourteen straight days of rain last month, we kept busy and motivated by staying on the move.  We went on location to the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, one of our long-standing clients for a video shoot in honor of Vivian Bass, current CEO set to retire this year.  We shot and edited two videos for the Church of Christ at Manor Woods, both of which were used for a big successes at t in the words of senior pastor Dyke McCord, “the event was a huge success and the videos went over great – having the desired effect!”

We recorded a second round of testimonial videos at Arachnid Works, which happened to be on one of the few bright and sunny days of the month, which gave us a few challenges for lighting.  Towards the end of the month, we attended the Best Of the Washington, DC 48 Hour Film Project at the AFI Silver Theatre (where we also screened Apocalypse Rock last March).  Check out our film, Once Upon A Bedroom below!

We were in great company this year; many congratulations to Crash of Rhinos for multiple wins on their film, Rabbit Hole!

Regarding Apocalypse Rock, Brian attended the End of Days Film Festival, where the film picked up another award for Best Comedy!  Watch the video of Brian winning and answering audience questions.

EoD Photo

Even better, Apocalypse Rock DVD and Blu-Rays are nearly ready!  Final audio finishes have been sent to and returned from Studio Unknown and menus are being finessed.

We’re so looking forward to finishing the project and finally being able to share it with everyone.  Stay tuned!

Why We Do The 48 Hour Film Project

Among our many specialities and adventures, the DUO Team produces short films by participating in 48 Hour Film Festivals on a very regular basis; in particular, the Washington DC and Baltimore 48 Hour Film Projects under Star Wipe Films,our subsidiary company.  We have been doing so since 2003 in Atlanta, GA and, as such, have accumulated quite the collection of films, with a reputable stack of awards under our belt, including Best Film for Welcome to the Neighborhood, three for Best Cinematography, two for Best Editing, two for Best Special Effects, and two for Audience Favorite.  When Welcome to the Neighborhood won best film in the 2012 Baltimore 48, the team went on to screen at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.

The way DUO sees it, a 48 Hour Project is a great exercise in active filmmaking participation, by being forced to create in a specific, condensed time frame, with elements shared by all participants (namely a genre, drawn at random, a character, prop and line of dialogue).  At first glance, such an endeavor seems all too limiting and an unnecessary increase to one’s stress level.  Why do it?

Because it inevitably leaves you with a finished product.  In the filmmaking, completing a film can be more than half the battle.   It is all too easy to get swamped and smothered by editing or throw in the towel before getting out of pre-production, but a 48 Hour Film Project, you are forced to finish what you start and you learn a great deal about how to doing so.  Furthermore, such an exercise demands resourcefulness and improvisation, as well as the implicitness of thinking ahead.  Despite having the specific elements to work into your story, you are left with a great deal of work to do to make the film whole and cohesive around those elements.  It can often bring out skills you didn’t even know you have; skills that are vital to filmmaking on a larger scale.

There is a built-in showcase for your completed film, through which there is always audience feedback and the opportunity for prizes and awards to the networking before and after the screenings.   When the Baltimore 48 instated a “Best Of The Fest” Screening as part of their award-giving ceremony, Star Wipe’s films have never failed to make the cut.  In 2013, however, Brian announced that we would not be returning to the Baltimore 48 the following year due to the upcoming production of Apocalypse Rock, for which we needed to devote all our time and resources.

That said, after a swift production phase of “ARock,” a successful IndieGogo “Finishing Funds” Campaign and premiere, the film has been making the rounds at multiple festivals and competitions, winning several awards and garnering lots of positive feedback.  In the interim and new phase of waiting for results, however, it happened to be time, once again, for the Baltimore 48 and the team realized that they did miss participating.  There is a draw to produce a project on your own terms, without any forced framework—to just “get out there and do it”—but there is also a uniqueness to the 48 that facilitates content to be generated in such a way that doesn’t happen under any other circumstances.  So, in a last-minute decision, we rallied a team together—though a much smaller team than in previous years—and tossed our hat back into the ring.

Last year, we were given a roll of tape, the character Q. Treller, a secret society member,  and the line, “sometimes the best answer is no answer.”  We drew Thriller/Suspense as our genre and we were off.  This was also the first project we took on with Robin Farrell as part of our team; she has since become DUO Media’s first full-time employee.

And thus lies another benefit of the 48 Hour Project; networking.  It’s a cliche, but an honest one.  The 48 is a great opportunity for meeting other local filmmakers and creative people, as well as making new connections that can grow beyond that initial forum.

The resulting film of 2015, simply titled “Q,” earned us two more awards for our collection: Best Sound Design and Best Directing.  As in previous years, the experience was a good one.  As Karen says, whether you can participate each year “depends on…life,” but the desire to make films in this way was definitely reinstated.  So much so that we participated in the Washington, DC 48 at the end of April 2016 and it was just as much fun as the last.  Even more so, as we were able to choose between two categories and we challenged ourselves by going with the less-familiar option of COMEDY.  We learned a lot and that, too, is one of the most significant parts of why we do this at all; to learn, grow and allow ourselves the chance to become better filmmakers.  It only takes one weekend and a few willing volunteers.

What have you got to lose?

Dining in West Chester

While on the road this month, we got the chance to experience the best of downtown West Chester, Pennsylvania.  Here are our top five dining spots from the weekend:

1. Gemelli Dessert Cafe
This delectable little shop was located right across from the festival venue and, as such, we stopped in multiple times between film blocks.  Gelato and expresso; what’s not to love?

2. The Classic Diner (pictured below)
An upscale diner with all the staples of American dining, plus a plethora of modern dishes for the vegetarians in our group.  Our waiter also happened to look like a young Sean Astin.

3. Jaco Juice and Taco Bar
Brian was in the mood for tacos while Robin was a craving a fruit and veggie smoothie.  We found both at Jaco’s.  Organic ingredients, plentiful portions at reasonable prices and lots of flavor.  Definitely stop in if you’re in the area.

4. Lorenzo & Sons Pizza
Hands down, the largest pizza slices and pies we have ever seen.  And tasty, too!

5. Calios – The Calzone King
Our hours were crazy with the road trip down and staying out later than normal to catch as many of the films at the fest as possible.  Most places were closed down, but Calios was open until 4am!  While we weren’t up quite that late, it was a great discovery for us when we were craving a midnight snack.


April Showers Bring Adventure

April 2016 was a big month for DUO!  We hired our first full-time employee, received the green light on a series of marketing videos for one of our most valued clients, hit the road for a local film festival, made great new connections, launched a new collaboration with marketing firm ArachnidWorks, competed in and completed the 48 Hour Film Project for Washington, DC.


At the end of March, Robin Farrell joined our team as editor and writer – our first full-time employee.  We couldn’t be happier to see our company growing.

We started the “Floyd Series” for our client, SOLIDWORKS, at the end of 2015 with It’s No Secret and the main character of that video, Floyd (played by Kevin Brennan), became the new face for SOLIDWORKS World promos.  SOLIDWORKS gave us the chance to stretch our creative muscles by making an Epic Fantasy Trailer and Mockumentary, both of which were big hits.  Check them out below!

Presently, we’re moving forward with another series of videos for SOLIDWORKS, which will also star Floyd.  We’re excited to keep promoting SOLIDWORKS in such a unique way.

Mid-month, we headed north for the West Chester Film Festival, where our short film Apocalypse Rock was nominated – and won! – Best Comedy.  We also nearly snagged the H. Paul Fitzpatrick People’s Choice Award as runner-up by the closest margin of votes in the entire twelve-year history of the festival.
Check out the other award winners here.


We received so much positive feedback from the film and made great new contacts.  In particular, Vishwas (The Visit) and Connor Gabe (Snap Shot), both of whom joined us the following weekend for the DC 48 Hour Film Project.  We were delighted, as well, to be joined by Allie McFadden (Distilled, Welcome to the Neighborhood, Denouement).  We came in with a small, but strong team this year; wish us luck in making “The Best of the Fest”!

Also returning from West Chester, we teamed up with ArachnidWorks, a local marketing firm here in Frederick, MD, to produce testimonial videos for local businesses.  Round one was a big success and we’re looking forward to taking on more clients in this endeavor this month and into the rest of the year.  If you’re interested in having a testimonial video made for your company, contact us for more details:

Arachnid Background Options
Backdrop options for testimonial interviews.

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.

DUO Film to Screen at the Cannes International Film Fest

So, it seems like we are blowing the DUO horn a lot lately, but hey, we’re screening at the Cannes International Film Fest!  Here is the press release:


“Welcome to the Neighborhood” by Star Wipe Films
selected for the Cannes International Film Festival

Washington, DC (April 23, 2013) | “Welcome to the Neighborhood”, the entry by Star Wipe Films representing the city of Baltimore at the Filmapalooza Film Festival in Hollywood, was selected as one of the top 15 films for submission to the Cannes International Film Festival.

“Welcome to the Neighborhood” won several awards at the 2012 Baltimore 48 Hour Film Project including top honors as “Best Film”. With top honors came the opportunity to screen as part of the Filmapalooza Film Fest 2013.  The film received honors at Filmapalooza for “Best Actor” and “Best Use of Character”.  Selected in the top 15 of the 115 city winners at Filmapalooza, the film will represent the 48 Hour Film Project at the Short Film Corner of the Cannes International Film Festival.

Brian Pennington, director of Star Wipe Films, will be attending Cannes. Says Brian, “This is every filmmaker’s dream; to be screened at Cannes and to mingle with filmmakers from around the world.”  “Welcome to the Neighborhood” will be included in the screening of the 48HFP selections on May 22 as part of the Short Film Corner.

“Welcome to the Neighborhood”, was created in only 48 hours by Star Wipe Films, the independent film channel of DUO Media Productions headquartered in Brookeville, Maryland.  Star Wipe Films has participated in ten 48 Hour Film Projects over the last ten years in the cities of Baltimore, D.C., and Atlanta. The team has won many awards over the years for cinematography, directing, writing, acting, costume, graphics, special effects, audience favorite, and runner up for “Best Film”, but this was the first time winning top honors. This film is one of over 4,000 films from 115 cities around the world that competed in 2012.

“Welcome to the Neighborhood” is available for viewing at

So what is the team working on now? In addition to preparing for the 2013 48HFP for D.C. and Baltimore, they are in pre-production on a new independent short film, “Apocalypse Rock”. Visit for details, and to follow the production.

DUO Honored at Filmapalooza in Hollywood

by Jim Pennington

Under our “fun” moniker, Star Wipe Films, our film “Welcome to the Neighborhood” was honored with two awards at the Filmapalooza Film Fest in Hollywood.  Here is the press release.


“Welcome to the Neighborhood”  by Star Wipe Films
honored at the Filmapalooza Film Festival

Hollywood, California (March 10, 2013) | “Welcome to the Neighborhood”, the entry by Star Wipe Films representing the city of Baltimore at the Filmapalooza Film Festival in Hollywood, was honored with two awards. Doug Powell, who portrayed Louis Ledbetter, a busybody, was awarded “Best Actor”. Star Wipe Films was also awarded “Best Use of Character”.  The winners were announced at a red carpet screening on March 10 at the historic Chinese Theatre, the former Grauman’s Theatre Complex.

“Welcome to the Neighborhood” won several awards at the 2012 Baltimore 48 Hour Film contest including top honors as “Best Film”. With top honors came the opportunity to screen as part of the Filmapalooza Film Fest 2013.

“Welcome to the Neighborhood”, was created in only 48 hours by Star Wipe Films, a team of filmmakers who have participated in ten 48 Hour Film Projects over the last ten years in the cities of Baltimore, D.C., and Atlanta. The team has won many awards over the years (including runner up as “Best Film”), but this was the first time winning top honors. This film is one of over 4,000 films from 115 cities around the world that competed in 2012.

David Garner, executive producer, attended Filmapalooza and joined filmmakers from around the world including Cape Town, Hong Kong, Prague, Osaka and Dubai.

“Welcome to the Neighborhood” is available for viewing at

2012 – A great year for DUO

by Karen Gill-Pennington

Wow!  What a year!  As we close out 2012, I wanted to take a look at the past year and highlight some of our successes and who made each one possible.  I don’t mean to toot our own horn, but it’s just too exciting not to share some of the great things (and some of the not so great things) that happened this year.

To begin, we were very excited to find we had won two of the prestigious Telly Awards.  For the Public Relations category we entered our PSA “Rockin’ The Rage,” and won a silver, which is actually the top prize, not a gold!  For our animation, “Fundamentals of Solidworks EPDM,” we won a bronze, the first of many awards for this project.  (See the section on the TIVA Peer Awards below for more on this.)

Our indie film side of things, Star Wipe Films, participated in the DC 48 Hour Film Project, in which we got to work with two amazing new actors, Doug Powell and Allie Heidel.  Unfortunately, due to some perfectionist issues, we were about 25 seconds late turning in the final product which left us ineligible to win anything besides the Audience Favorite Award.  Our holiday film, “Last Friday in April,” did indeed win the coveted Audience Favorite Award and land a spot in the Best of DC screening, largely due to excellent writing by Eric Nolle, a show stealing performance by Doug Powell and a very dedicated crew.

After the excitement and disappointment of not making it in on time, we decided to redeem ourselves by participating in the Baltimore 48 Hour Film Project just a few weeks later.  And redeem ourselves, we did!  After working with another great crew and stellar cast, including Doug Powell and Allie Heidel again, as well as a favorite from years past, Claire Bowerman, the night of the awards ceremony we took home many awards.  With our comedy, “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” we won Best Use of Character, Best Actor, Best Editing, Best Writing, Runner-Up Best Directing, Audience Favorite and Best Film which also won us $1000 worth of gear from CPM Camera Rigs!

Just a month later we decided to try out a fairly new film race in town called The 29 Days Later Film Project.  Our director/DP, Brian Pennington, wanted to try out some different filmmaking techniques with this one, including relying heavily on GoPro HD cameras.  After some glitches in casting, our stunt coordinator, Jason Krznarich, helped us find some awesome female stunt actors to fill the roles of the attacked runners.  Hannah Scott, Jenna Hellmuth and Jason as the attacker really brought some great performances on two miserably hot days.  The final film, a thriller called“Yellow Jacket,” landed us third place and many other awards including Best Directing, Best Editing, Best Acting, and Best Cinematography.

Rounding out the year was the TIVA-DC Peer Awards Gala, where hundreds of DC’s best video professionals gathered at the National Press Club for an evening of awards, delicious food and knee-slapping jokes served up by local movie reviewer and celebrity, Arch Campbell.  DUO Media Productions accepted five awards that evening, all voted on by the best judges anyone could ask for, our fellow peers.  A Silver Award for “Fundamentals of SolidWorks EPDM” in the category Public Relations/Marketing (under $25K). Another Silver in the Independent Short category for“Rare Finds.”  In the category Motion Graphics – 2D/3D Animation (under $10K), we took home a Silver (thanks in part to Chris Pennington) for “SOPA/PIPA Saving Innovation” and a Bronze for“Fundamentals of SolidWorks EPDM.”  Finally, we were glad to accept a well deserved Gold Award on behalf of Doug Powell for his exceptional performance in our 48 Hour Film Project, “Last Friday in April.”

As we move on to 2013, we can look behind and say, “That was our best year yet!” but we are also looking forward with anticipation of the things yet to come.

Happy New Year!