Tag Archives: film

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


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)


Granola bars 


Trail Mix

Gum and/or Mints

Sodas (Regular, Diet and Caffeine Free)

Bottled water

Sports drinks

Hand sanitizer


Trash bags

If you want to get a little fancy

Veggie tray with dip


Bagels and cream cheese



Small plates

Sliced bread (for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches)

Peanut butter


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!

How to be a Good Production Assistant; Part 8

Ok. So we’ve talked about how to act on set but what about all those strange terms you hear being thrown around? Every department has their own terminology and things may vary from set to set, but here are some standards you’ll hear on most sets in Part 8 of How to be a Good Production Assistant.

Learn set language and walkie talkie etiquette.  Here are a few terms off the top of my head.

Rolling, Speeding or Speed:  The camera and/or sound is recording so be quiet! 

Room Tone:  The audio mixer is recording the sound of the area you are in.  This means you have to be extra quiet.  That means no sniffing, shuffling your feet, turning pages in the script, whispering, breathing heavy or texting.  It usually lasts about 30 seconds and it will feel like the longest 30 seconds of your life.  Watch “Living in Oblivion” for a good example of this.

Over Under wrapping:  If you don’t know how to do this, learn, and don’t pretend that you do.  And don’t go wrapping any audio cables if you don’t know how.

Bogey:  Someone in the shot that shouldn’t be there.  Usually this happens when you’re shooting out in a public location and even though you’ve got an area fairly blocked off, someone unknowingly wanders into the frame.

Sticks:  A term often used for a tripod and sometimes for a slate.

Stinger:  A thicker extension cord specifically for lights and heavier duty gear.

Half Apple:  Apple boxes are a piece of grip gear that come in the following sizes:  Full Apple, Half Apple, Quarter Apple and a Pancake (1/8 Apple).

Lock it Up/Lock it Down/Lock-Up/Lock-Down:  All are terms used to mean, nobody should be coming in or out of the set, talking, whispering, moving around, etc.

What’s your 20?:  Where are you?

ETA:  Estimated Time of Arrival

Walkie check:  You say this when you first get a walkie talkie handed to you.  If it’s working properly, someone will respond with “Good check.”

10-100 or 10-1:  I’m going to the restroom but it should be quick.

10-200 or 10-2:  I don’t know too many people that actually use this one, but it means I’m going to the restroom, and I might be a while. Hint, hint.

C-47, bullet, peg, etc.:  Clothespin

Spike:  Usually a piece of tape that marks where the talent is supposed to stand.

Last Looks:  Last chance for the hair/makeup and wardrobe to make sure the talent is looking their best before the camera starts rolling.

Give me an On/Off:  Checking the usefulness of a light by turning it on, then off, then on, then off over and over until the DP determines if he wants to use the light or not.

Call Time:  This is what time you need to be there.  Actually get there 10 minutes before call time.

There are so many more that could be listed here and a lot of these you’ll learn on the spot. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask what something means. It’s a lot less embarassing to ask right away about a certain term than to pretend to know what something means and end up causing a problem, confusion or just looking silly.

How to be a Good Production Assistant; Part 7

In part 6 of this series, we talked about how and when to ask questions. No one expects you to know everything so you’ll most likely have questions, but there’s a big difference between asking questions to help you complete a task and asking questions because you think have a better idea of how to do something.  Part 7 of How to be a Good Production Assistant talks about why it’s important to be seen and not heard.

Be seen, not heard.  If you really have nothing to do and you’ve already tried all the suggestions from Part 4 of this blog series, don’t just slink away to a far corner where you can play Words with Friends on your phone assuming someone will call you on the walkie when they need you.  Being seen means you’re available to help and more likely to be in the right place at the right time.  Being “not heard” is just as important.  There’s nothing more frustrating than a PA (or any other crew member) trying to give suggestions without being asked.  If there’s something you really think is important to share, go to the person directly above you.  If you’re asked for your opinion then by all means share away.  That’s not to say that your opinion is not valid, but keep in mind that you were probably just brought onto the project for that day, while the director and client have been working on it for weeks and even months.  A good director will often pull ideas from his surrounding crew, but this isn’t always the case.

How to Be a Good Production Assistant; Part 6

In Part 5 of How to be a good Production Assistant, I talked about the unfair and unspoken rule of never sitting down. As I mentioned, it seems kinda cruel but it’s because sitting down gives the posture of “I’m bored” or “I don’t feel like doing anything.” When you’re standing and alert you look ready to go and take care of the necessary tasks. However, even having the right posture doesn’t mean you won’t have plenty of questions, so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask.  That’s what Part 6 is all about!

Ask questions if you’re unsure about something.  But try to keep it short.  Most people understand that as a PA you’re probably still new to the business and might not understand that when the AC asks if you can find him or her another marker, that they actually want a dry erase marker.  So just ask.  It could go something like this.

AC: “Hey can you get me another marker? This one’s dead.”

You: “Does it matter what kind of marker?”

AC: “Oh yes, a dry erase marker.  Not a sharpie.  It’s for marking the slate.”

You: “Any particular color?”

AC: “Black or blue would be best.”

You: “You got it.”

You return with both a black and a blue marker.

You: “Here ya go.  I brought you one of each just in case.”

AC: “Hey thanks!”

You: “Need anything else?”

AC: “No, but let me get your phone number.  I still get calls to be a PA sometimes, so I’d be happy to pass your name along.”

Shazam!  You just got yourself a new friend in the business who may just land you your next job.

How to Be a Good Production Assistant; Part 4

The previous blog (How to be a good Production Assistant; Part 3) talked about how to take initiative and anticipate what’s coming next.  If you’ve already done all that and you still have nothing to do, here are some tips for what to do next.

Stay busy.  If you’ve already asked what to do and you’re still just standing around, find something useful to do without being in the way.  Ask if anyone could use a bottle of water or a snack brought to them.  Many times cameramen, talent, directors, ADs, sound mixers and others aren’t able to step away from their gear or their job and therefore forget to eat or stay hydrated.  Just make sure not to bug them when they’re in the middle of something important.  Depending on the shoot, you may not be able to address someone directly but there should be someone below them that you can check with instead.  Other tasks you could do without asking are picking up trash (soda cans and chip bags can end up all over the place), walking by each department and maybe even checking in with them to see if they need anything, tidying up the craft service table (unless there’s a craft service person on set), reminding folks to put on sunscreen (if needed), see if anyone needs a new walkie talkie battery and anything else you can think of.  Again, don’t be a nuisance.  Your job is to be useful without getting in the way.

Stay tuned for Part 5!

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!