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The Great Film Festival ‘Audience Award’ Hoax – A Piece of Advice for Moviegoers #indiefilm

A moment in my day (2012): At a screening of "The Last Fall" starring Lance Gross.You’ve seen the movie posters, read the newspaper reviews and website listings, looked at the DVD covers that are all toting badges of honor for a film that won the Audience Award at your local festival.

Guess what – those laurels don’t mean the title you're looking at was the most popular film playing there (although this could still be a possibility, so don’t count it out).

The award indicates that there were people in attendance who actually took the time to vote for this movie.

So, here is some sound advice for men and women who attend film festivals: Participate in the voting process during screenings where you are asked to vote on films!

Your vote counts – and I know you’ve heard these lines time and time again from political campaigners that spew them out on television, on the sidewalk, on Obama/Romney (whoever’s camp you’re with) T-shirts, buttons and baseball caps, etc. – but voting at film festivals makes a HUGE difference where Audience Awards are concerned. Most, if not all, other main awards (Best Film, Best Director, Best Documentary, etc.) given out are selected by a jury of people with a myriad of expertise and interests including (but not limited to) festival staff members, seasoned directors, television & film producers, university professors, screenwriters and even corporate executives that have nothing to do with making movies (but are probably sponsoring the event).

The Audience Award is a whole different ballgame because festivals use the votes tallied from people who sat in the theater (or lawn, rooftop, bar, etc.) watching all of the movies that are competing for this particular honor. This includes people who are not affiliated with the festival or the films playing on screen, in any way shape or form. If you ever bought a ticket or pass to attend a film festival and if you ever plan on visiting one in the future – YOU are among these people – the audience members who festivals (and filmmakers selected to screen at the event) rely on for votes.

A moment in my day (2011): The Q&A for "The Casserole Club" directed by Steve Balderson; At Tribeca.Audience Awards provide the kind of bragging rights that indicate moviegoers at the festival enjoyed a particular film the most, compared to other films in a given category.

Since filmmakers, cast, crew, newspaper journalists and related workers are the ones mainly filling up the seats at some of the festival screenings that take place each year, it can be difficult to gauge who likes what and more importantly – where the Audience Award is going to go.

All voting methods and tallying of those votes are not created equal. I’ve worked at festivals where paper ballots are given to attendees and I’ve also attended a film screening where the voting was done electronically. Some festivals are better at organizing the voting process than others, regardless of what form the ballots are dispersed in and collected. That said, it’s easy for almost any film to win no matter how well or how poor the audience received it when, under the right circumstances, the director’s parents put in that winning ballot that put their kid’s movie over the top.

Since indie pictures need all the support they can get, my call for more active audiences is not meant to discount the votes of family and friends who have showed up to back their favorite movie in every way that they can. That is awesome! There is an equally, if not more, important side to that, however, when a lot of independent films are at slight disadvantages because audience members who just came to check out new movies that they are curious about stop at the roll of end-credits. You can’t stop there. You must get involved in the voting for movies that you watch at film festivals.

If you don’t vote, then you make it easier for your favorite films to fall by the wayside while other movies get to win laurels in their place – including flicks that may not even be that good. It is a reality that occurs far more often than you may think at festivals. You can watch two films that are like night and day when it comes to entertainment value but it won’t matter if Film A plays better than Film B – festivals are counting the votes.

Film A is considered to be Great but received 12 votes from the audience

Film B is considered to be Ok but received 17 votes from the audience

Film C is considered to be Poor but received 9 votes from the audience

Which film do you think won the Audience Award? -- It surely isn’t Film A!

As you can see, voting matters when it comes to independent films. It doesn’t matter if you attend a festival with the intention of watching one movie, or several that are playing there – Make sure your participation at these screenings include a vote for the films that YOU enjoyed watching!

Today’s post is a mash-up of two prompts from Jenni who is hosting the Blog Everyday in May Challenge. She encourages participants to share a piece of advice for others, as well as a moment in your day via photography.

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Reader Comments (4)

I have never had the opportunity to attend a film festival yet. When I do, I will make sure I vote :)

Here from the AtoZ Challenge Road Trip
Bhavya from Just Another Blog

May 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBhavya

I wonder how political the film festival voting is too? I used to love going to film festivals when I was in San Diego, but they're so far away now. I plan on moving back soon, so I'll be back at it then. :)

May 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristen Dyrr

I never knew about the ins and outs of the voting system. Seems like it could easily be rigged. I demand a recount! ;-)

May 12, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterhermanturnip

Yes! I make it a point to vote every time I see a film at a festival. I have witness some mediocre films getting audience awards.

May 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShala

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