Ephrata grad’s film shown at Cannes Gill-Pennington now seeking additional funds for new project
MICHAEL C. UPTON Review Correspondent
, Staff Writer
Twenty-nine-year-old Karen Gill-Pennington has been busy since graduating from Ephrata High School in 2002.
She and her husband, Brian Pennington, operate Star Wipe Films, and the company’s last short film was screened at the Festival de Cannes film extravaganza. Now, Gill-Pennington is already back to work on her next film, "Apocalypse Rock."
In her early days, Gill-Pennington spent time filming her friends goofing by the pool or by turning out Spice Girls-inspired videos.
"I always liked playing around with a video camera," said Gill-Pennington. "In middle school I was always the friend who had her video camera – you know, the big VHS video recorder. I was always bringing that thing around to my friends’ houses."
She went to Akron Elementary, then on to Ephrata Middle and High schools. The filmmaking, however, really hit home when she was in seventh grade.
"My best friend was going to camp for the summer so I decided to make her a video. We were really sad that she was going to be gone all summer," said Gill-Pennington. "I remember one day I spent eight hours in my room working on this video, editing it together. I realized, hmm, I can do this for eight hours and not be bored with it. I didn’t even stop to take a break. Maybe I should consider this for a career. By the time I got to 10th grade, I pretty much knew where I was going to go to school."
In high school she took every class available where she could learn about videography. She helped film the Ephrata version of WITF’s "Our Town." She was part of the high school’s television team. After high school she headed to Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida.
"It’s a very specified college for film, audio, production, digital animation, gaming. They have all sorts of programs there," said Gill-Pennington.
She received an associate degree in film and video science from Full Sail. She loved the experience of working with state of the art products and equipment. During her time at Full Sail, she was able to get actual Hollywood-caliber experience when the movie "Sydney White" was filmed on the university’s back lot. "Sydney White" starred Amanda Bynes, the recently troubled star from Nickelodeon television programs who is most known on film for her roles in "Easy A" and "Hairspray."
After a quick trip down memory lane, Gill-Pennington wanted to talk about Cannes. Brian attended the festival in May and the Pennington’s film "Welcome to the Neighborhood" played as part of the events Short Film Corner.
"Basically, we had to pick one of us to go (to Cannes), so I figured the director would be better. So, I had to stay home with our son," joked Gill-Pennington. "Our film screened there with all the other 48-Hour Film Projects that won."
"Welcome to the Neighborhood" won the trip to Cannes by being one of 15 international films selected as winners of The 48-Hour Film Project – only three of which were from the United States. The 48-Hour Film Project takes place in more than 100 cities all over the world. Contestants are given a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a random movie genre and are then tasked to produce a film in 48 hours. The grueling process is one area where Star Wipe Films has excelled. Each city’s winner is invited to Filmapalooza and the top 15 scored films are invited to Cannes.
"Brian got to meet filmmakers from India, Amsterdam, Paris, Toronto. (The reception to ‘Welcome to the Neighborhood’) was great. An actress … called it a ‘gift to the world,’" said Gill-Pennington.
"Welcome to the Neighborhood" is available to view online at vimeo.com/44930624. From here, "Welcome to the Neighborhood" will travel to other film festivals. Gill-Pennington said during Cannes most people urged Brian to shoot a full-length feature film. A full-length feature will have to wait, because Star Wipe Films is already on to its next project, a short film called "Apocalypse Rock."
"Apocalypse Rock" tells the story of Tom Harper, the last man on Earth. For two years Harper has played rock DJ, broadcasting to an empty world. As his supplies begin to run short he comes to the realization that he is, in fact, truly alone. Harper will be played by Doug Powell, a comedian turned actor who won Best Acting at Filmapalooza for his work on "Welcome to the Neighborhood."
"We wrote (‘Apocalypse Rock’) around him because he fits the part perfectly," said Gill-Pennington. "He has a lot of talent. We are really excited to see what he does with this character."
The film will feature music from independent bands from Central PA and Baltimore. "Apocalypse Rock" is in the funding stage and Star Wipe films is using Indiegogo as a source for crowdfunding.
"We are in the final days of our campaign, so we are trying to make that last push to get us to our goal," said Gill-Pennington. "It’s neat; people can give as little as five dollars and get their name in a film. Plus, there are a lot of other perks."
For example, a Call Screener level donation of $50, gets their name in the credits, a bumper sticker and a copy of the film when it is completed. A Caller donation of $250 gets the donors name and hometown placed into one of the fictional callers fielded in the movie by Tom Harper. Readers interested in donating to the film can go to indiegogo.com/projects/apocalypse-rock-a-short-film for more information.
More CANNES, page A16