Tag Archives: indie film

Seasons Greetings from DUO!

As 2016 draws to a close, we’re taking a moment to review the past few months and that we’ve been working on.  So, what have we been up to?

Attending the 2016 TIVA-DC Peer Awards for one!  It’s one of the big highlights, both recently, and over the course of the year and it was another resounding success for us; we took home another set of awards, including:

L-R: Jim Pennington, Robin C. Farrell, Brian Pennington, DL Moody, Dave Garner

A Special Recognition was also awarded to Jim Pennington: the Distinguished Service Award!

Congratulations, Jim!

Our appreciation goes out to TIVA-DC for another year of recognition.  We’re already looking forward to next year!

We also went back into the studio for our client SOLIDWORKS for a number of videos; some featuring their product, Draftsight, which was the first of many shoots at DC Visionaries in Rockville, MD.  


For others, we got to work with Kevin Brennan again to announce the approaching event, SOLIDWORKS World 2017…

Continue reading Seasons Greetings from DUO!


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:


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

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.

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.

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 www.StarWipeFilms.com.

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 www.apocalypserock.com 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 www.StarWipeFilms.com.