Connecting Viewer with Creator: The Capital One Bank Audience Awards
Andrew Osegi | 10.01.13
Q&A with AFF Program Director Bears Fonté
What makes a movie connect with its audience?
That’s a hard question to answer, but if we put a film in the hands of the viewers, we can measure how a work of art resonates with its audience through a vote. Austin Film Festival’s Capital One Bank Audience Award does just that.
First awarded in 1997, The Audience Awards recognizes films that are most favored by its viewers.
Bears Fonte, Director of Programming, has been with the festival for more than ten years- he started as reader and has since moved his way up within the AFF film department. He is responsible for viewing, evaluating and selecting all submitted films entered through competition- about 80 percent of films submitted to the festival.
I sat down with Fonté to get the full download on what the Audience Awards means to the AFF and the film community:
Andrew Osegi: What are the Audience Awards and who is eligible?
Bears Fonte: The Audience Award (this year brought to you by Capital One Bank) is an opportunity to capture what an audience feels when it’s watching a film project. Viewers have the chance to vote on a scale from one to five, five being the highest, to express their support for the film they just watched. The movie with the highest vote count wins the award within its respective competition category. There are several audience awards and nearly all film categories are eligible to win one. (See past winners here.)
AO: What was the inspiration behind the Audience Awards? What makes them so special?
BF: We wanted to give filmmakers a chance to be evaluated within a live audience situation. The Jury Awards are conducted by a small group of film industry professionals who go in depth and intellectually critique a writer’s project. The Audience Awards flips that dynamic and gives the power to crowd. By capturing the emotional moment through a vote, it’s the viewership that influences the success of the film. AFF has no control over the winner, which is great!
When the audience gets involved with a screening, it stirs up “buzz” and boosts premier attendance. The Capital One Bank Audience Award symbolizes a successful connection between audience and filmmaker, and in a way is considered the best award to win.
AO: What aspects about a movie make an audience member vote? Is there a secret formula for success when it comes winning an Audience Award?
BF: The films that do the best in the Audience Awards are the ones that surprise the audience. Involving viewers with laughter and sudden twist has been successful in the past. Crowd reaction is key.
Different movies can win different awards, but it’s up to the filmmaker to get people excited, make connections and work the festival to improve a project’s success.
Local filmmakers have an advantage because they have the time and proximity to promote their premiers. Categories like Texas Independents and Dark Matters have a strong, loyal community behind them.
AO: Notable past winners?
BF: Last year’s hits included “The Muslims Are Coming” (Comedy Vanguard); “Junk” (Narrative Feature); and the marquee film Silver Linings Playbook. The audience experience was great and that’s how they won. Viewers packed the house and left the theater smiling- and voting.
AO: What are the prizes?
BF: The Capital One Bank Audience Awards are given out a week after the festival ends, and although there’s no cash prize, the prestige attained from the award propels the film into the public spotlight. It’s not about the money, but rather the connection between the viewer and creator.
AO: Other thoughts on the Audience Awards?
BF: It’s nice to have an award that responds to the audience’s feelings rather than an intellectual critique. The Audience Awards capitalize on the gut emotion viewers feel after they see a great film. Diversity is key when it comes to recognizing the great productions, and the Audience Awards is instrumental in achieving that diversity.
The Audience Awards represent AFF’s commitment to the community behind the film it’s the writer and acts as catalyst for the blending of audience and screenwriter. We are thrilled to have Capital One Bank present this year’s Audience Awards. For more information on AFF and its award winning screenings, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletter.
About Capital One
Capital One Financial Corporation (www.capitalone.com) is a financial holding company whose subsidiaries, which include Capital One, N.A., and Capital One Bank (USA), N. A., had $209.9 billion in deposits and $296.5 billion in total assets as of June 30, 2013. Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Capital One offers a broad spectrum of financial products and services to consumers, small businesses and commercial clients through a variety of channels. Capital One, N.A. has more than 900 branch locations primarily in Texas, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. A Fortune 500 company, Capital One trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “COF” and is included in the S&P 100 index.