Category Archives: Movies

DUO’s #7FavScenes

A couple months back, the Twittersphere (and the internet in general) was abuzz with the hashtag #7FavFilms.  We saw a plethora of variations thereof, including #7FavScenes, which jumped out at us.  What makes a specific scene or sequence memorable, even in an already-memorable film?  Can a single, masterful scene in an otherwise below-average movie still, somehow, stand out?

The DUO Team — Brian, Karen, Jim, and Robin put together individual lists of our seven favorite scenes from films, and here they are… Continue reading DUO’s #7FavScenes

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Jaws: The Perfect Movie?

written by Jim Pennington

It was the summer of ’75.  The term “summer blockbuster” had yet to be uttered.  Single screen theaters were still the norm, each one gambling on which film would be their money maker.  Summers could still be a lazy time where you could actually be bored.  I hooked up with some friends to check out this new film, Jaws.

I look back fondly on that evening and to this day, Jaws remains my favorite film.  Is it perfect?  Probably not, but oh, what a film!   Action.  Adventure.  Thrills,  Laughter.  Suspense.  Horror.  Like an old wooden roller coaster, it continues to please.

This is a film that had numerous chances of being a failure.  Let’s start with a newbie director and a perfectionist at that.  Spielberg felt that the 1974 novel of the same title by Peter Benchley was in need of re-write for the screenplay.  Production began before the script was completed. Casting was not complete until a few days before principal shooting began.  The shark itself was a complex prop that without warning would sink to the bottom of the ocean.  “Bruce,” as the shark was nicknamed (after Spielberg’s lawyer), tested fine in fresh water tanks, but was ravaged by the salty sea water.  The scheduled 55 day shoot ended up taking 159 days.

Continue reading Jaws: The Perfect Movie?

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:

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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.

Awesome Con 2016

written by Robin C. Farrell

My first convention was Baltimore Comic Con in September of 2013.  I knew about cosplay and I marveled (no pun intended) at the skill and detail some folks put into their work.  I have always been very at home in Geek Culture, but privately and had never seen that world up close.  It always seemed somehow out of reach; as a textbook introvert, I couldn’t see how I would be able to participate, but in my experience (both in costume and civvies) there is room for everyone.

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Two Disney Ladies; Rey and Steampunk Ariel.

Some debate still remains in the cosplay community, but it’s my belief that Geek and Con culture as a whole is an outward manifestation of fandom and creativity, no matter the form or skill level.  Halloween was always my favorite holiday growing up.  Tremendous creative opportunity can be found in dressing up for Halloween (or any costume-centered event) if you’re looking for it, but once Trick-Or-Treating fell out of fashion, there was a surprisingly large void that cosplay would one day, not only fill but expand.  Cosplay is more than dressing up, it’s the meeting of worlds; the intersection of multiple fandoms, spectatorship and active creativity.

Continue reading Awesome Con 2016

Top Five Short Films

We hear it all the time: “less is more.”  But how do you accomplish that effectively?  These short films are some of the best examples of how to tell a compelling story in beautifully executed short form.

 

1. George Lucas In Love

Writer’s block is the worst; especially for 1967 USC college student, George Lucas.  When a young woman with an unusual hairstyle becomes his muse, he begins to see that he is surrounded by inspiration.

2. Nuit Blanche

Nuit Blanche explores a fleeting moment between two strangers, revealing their brief connection in a hyper real fantasy.
Watch the “Making of” here.

3. Grandma’s Not A Toaster

Three siblings plot to steal their ailing Grandmother’s fortune, without realizing Grandma has a plot of her own.

4A Cat In Paris

Dino, a precocious pet cat that leads a double life in the shadow-drenched alleyways of Paris. By day he lives with Zoe, a little mute girl whose mother, Jeanne, is a detective in the Parisian police force. But at night, he sneaks out the window to work with Nico, a slinky cat burglar with a big heart.

5. Bis Gleich

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 at 9:00 am, the two neighbors meet – each in their respective windows – to watch the world unfold.

DSLR vs. Mirrorless Cameras

In the ever-changing world of cameras and media production, how do you know what cameras to use?  There is still a general buzz around DSLRs and why they are effective, many of those reasons still being valid.  However, the mirrorless camera models are actually turning the tide and in many areas its still not clear as to why.  There are many similarities between the two, but the differences make quite an impact.  In this recent article, writer Caleb Ward breaks down why DSLRs are not the best way to go for your next video project.  His reasons include:

Overpriced.

DSLRs used to be the top of the line and their prices are expensive, but those prices made sense.  Now, they’ve become “incredibly overpriced.”  In fact, mirrorless cameras are about half the cost, according to Ward.  The reason for this can be explained by nothing more than brand name recognition; Canon and Nikon bring significantly more impressive face value than the mirrorless cameras, which are being manufactured by companies like Panasonic and Sony, which are “not quite as accepted in the pro photography community.”  The advantages of the Canon cameras and hacks, however, short-change production, but lead to a great deal more work in post, which creates a much longer delay in getting the final product finished and available to clients.

DSLRs are bulky.

The camera size doesn’t typically matter, but a highly portable camera, especially at weddings and other live events, can make a BIG difference.  One of the biggest selling points of DSLRs in their initial release was their compact size; but why?  What were some of those original selling points?

  • Allows for more coverage; to move more quickly between cuts.
  • Less attention is drawn to the camera operator, which is especially advantageous for guerrilla style narrative filmmaking, documentary shooting and, most of all, commercial video.
  • Comfort.  As Ward points out, “if you’re going to be shooting all day on a shoulder rig, Glidecam, or Steadicam, you probably don’t want to be using a gigantic camera like the URSA mini or even a larger DSLR.”  Comfort, too, is not strictly a matter of personal endurance.  If the camera operator does not tire as fast, he or she will be able to keep the camera rolling longer and capture more footage under less strain and, as a result, the footage itself will maintain the same level of quality from the start of the day.

So what separates the Mirrorless cameras from the DSLRs?  They’re not THAT different in size are they?  Actually, yes: because mirrorless cameras don’t have a mirror-box mechanism, they’re smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts.  This, again, brings us back to comfort, which, in turn, means overall quality of the work.

Mirrorless Cameras Are More Revolutionary.

There was a time when DSLR cameras were at the cutting edge of camera technology — but that’s no longer the case. Mirrorless camera manufacturers are capable of updating their cameras much quicker than DSLR camera manufacturers.  Just look at the Sony a7S series of cameras. In a little over a year, Sony was able to create the a7S, a truly revolutionary low-light camera, and create a second version that added 4k recording and increased frame rates. Canon and Nikon, on the other hand, have been very slow to update their cameras. For example, the Canon 5D Mark III hasn’t been updated in over four years.

Mirrorless Cameras Are Faster.

The interface and start up, especially.  Mostly comes into play for guerrilla style shooting; the difference between getting that perfect shot or missing it completely.  Lenses are a big part of the shot as well, and usually the lenses you’d prefer for DSLRs can be used for the Mirrorless cameras too.

Continue reading DSLR vs. Mirrorless Cameras

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?

Top Ten Summer Movies

Summer is almost here and while we’ve been experiencing some dreary days recently, it puts us in mind of films that highlight the summer season.  Here are our Top Ten films about and/or for summer (in no particular order).  What are yours?
  1. The Sandlot.
    “You’re killing me, smalls!”
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    The Sandlot is both a fun romp and surprisingly intelligent.  It’s a classic for a reason and definitely belongs at the top of your summer movie list.


  2. Jurassic Park.
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    T
    his is the quintessential summer blockbuster and continues to be a favorite flick for many, us included.


  3. Jaws.
    jaws
    Summer vacation at the beach gone wrong.  We definitely thought twice about getting into the water at the beach again after seeing this.


  4. American Graffiti.
    American Graffiti
    A film that doesn’t necessarily leap out as a summer classic, but captures that brief time in the adolescent experience between your teenage years and taking the first steps into the rest of your life.


  5. Rear Window.
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    Poster artwork by Kevin Tong; http://tragicsunshine.com

    A Hitchcock classic!  Stuck at home recovering from an injury during a summer heat wave, what else are you going to do but spy on your neighbor across the courtyard?  And then get sucked into a crazy murder plot?


  6. Field of Dreams.
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    This film encapsulates the spirit of America’s favorite pastime in a beautiful and eloquent story.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out.  It’s a classic for a reason and the perfect summer movie.


  7. The Parent Trap.
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    Both versions — the 1961 original and the 1998 remake — are well worth the watch.  The story extends well beyond summer, but the magic that happens at the start propels the rest of the movie and would not have do so nearly as well if not for the summer setting.


  8. Independence Day.
    IndependenceDay-Poster.jpg
    “We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive!”  Especially with Resurgence set to be released next month, a re-watch of the original this summer feels more fitting than ever.


  9. The Man In The Moon.
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    Fairly unknown, this film, released in 1991, was Reese Witherspoon’s first leading role. Set in rural Louisiana during the summer of 1957, the handsome 17-year-old Court Foster moves in next door to Dani and her older sister Maureen. It’s part coming of age story, romance and tragedy.  Check it out if you haven’t already.


  10. Stand By Me.
    stand by me 2
    Poster design by Dani Blázquez, daniblazquez.com/stand-by-me/

    Summer vacation is here, perfect for an adventure … and finding a dead body?


Continue reading Top Ten Summer Movies

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.

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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.

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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: sales@duomediaproductions.com.

Arachnid Background Options
Backdrop options for testimonial interviews.

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.