The Creative Network : Missoula made website connects audiences and filmmakers around the Globe

February 11, 2015

Screenshot 2015-02-11 09.52.45

Whitney Skauge currently in 1st place in the Art Montana competition/ courtesy of Montana Kaimin

Filmmakers rejoice. Former professor, CEO and founder of The Audience Awards, Paige Williams, has created an audience-powered competition site for Missoula filmmakers and beyond.

The Audience Awards generate exposure, allowing filmmakers to crowdsource their work, engage with audience members and filmmakers and compete. TAA hosts national and international film festivals as well as monthly original competitions on their site. February’s original competition is Love Shorts, and features  — you guessed it — short films about love. TAA also hosts sponsored competitions with partners like the Montana Office of Tourism.

Williams, a former adjunct professor in the entertainment management and media arts program founded TAA in June 2013.

“I always loved winning The Audience Awards [at film festivals],” Williams said. “It gave me the idea to let viewers be the judge and host short film competitions to source content for Montana’s site.”

UM students are consistent competitors on TAA’s roster. Williams said the biggest challenge facing students is marketing their work. TAA gives students the resources to share their creative projects on a larger scale.

Their current local competition, Art Montana, has a total prize value of $8,500. It includes UM students and independent filmmakers alike. Sponsored by Porch Productions, the competition hosts 3-8 minute films highlighting Montana artists in the categories of Mixed Media, Native American Art, Performance Art, Fine Art and musicians.

Whitney Skauge, a 23-year-old junior in media arts, has the most votes in the Art Montana competition with her short film “Wrinkles.”

“Wrinkles is a short documentary about the band … Wrinkles,” Skauge said. “It highlights their live shows, Hawaiian t-shirts and the community built around their music. But mostly Wrinkles is about connection, and taking the things you care about seriously.”

Skauge has had a special connection with film since she was a child.

“I grew up with a single mom, and movies were like my babysitters. It was just a natural progression that I would become a person that made them,” she said.

Skauge hopes to take “Wrinkles” to other festivals, including the Media Arts Expo at the Roxy Theater.

“I really hope the film can just make people feel good. It’s really easy to be negative about things, and about art especially and this film is about being sincere. The Audience Awards have allowed us to share that with people,” Skauge said.

Dalton Brink is another contender in the Art Montana competition with his short film, “Jay Schmidt — Beer and Football.”

“My film introduces the artist Jay Schmidt, a retired MSU sculpture professor, whose work in allegorical iconography reflects a warning of the over-extended state of the modern world,” Brink said.

Brink said the TAA offers more than a collected competition site.

“The benefits of using The Audience Awards are networking with other creatives, as well as having a platform for film lovers to watch and critique my work. I admire the fact that I can become turned on to so many filmmakers and their films that I never would otherwise,” Brink said.

TAA relies on audience votes and encourages sharing and commenting between filmmakers and their audiences. Anyone can create a profile, which can be used to vote. The more a user interacts with the site, through voting, commenting and sharing, the more weight their vote carries.

Winner of TAA’s Best of 2014 Showcase, Tom Stagg, said the TAA is something new.

“The clear advantage of The Audience Awards is that it’s the first of its kind,” he said. “It is a clean, high-quality showcase for independent films with every advantage over simple hosting sites. It is growing quickly and is already too big to get your arms around, so I know that the experience is going to evolve. But considering how far they go to embrace and promote every filmmaker, that welcoming feeling is probably not going to disappear any time soon.”


This article is courtesy of: 

The Audience Awards is film’s social network connecting audiences to films, filmmakers, film schools and film festivals. The Audience Awards hosts short film competitions where the audience chooses the best films. 

June Noel

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