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Case Study: Film Festivals Apply Audience Awards to Engage More Visitors and Sponsors

Lately, we've posted a lot about audience choice awards and film festivals because we see that in many ways film festivals are at the forefront of the event industry innovation. For instance, when it comes to audience engagement and interactivity. Many events, especially larger conferences, tech events, and others can learn a lot from film festivals. The way film festivals value audience participation and opinion is a great example of giving people a voice and showing that at least the most important decisions are left to the audience.


Our successful collaboration with the Marché du Film–Festival de Cannes, Black Nights Film Festival, Montclair Film, imagineNATIVE Film, and many others have taught us what are the everyday challenges of festival crews before and during the event. Even though every festival is unique, they still face similar challenges. How to collect more audience feedback, how to get better sponsors, and how to battle last-minute changes in programmes, to mention a few. Time is always also a limited resource.


This case study describes how Votemo's event interaction tools were used by three different international film festival teams to highlight audiences' favourite films and give out Audience Awards.


The following blog contains cases of

  • Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival,

  • Montclair Film Festival and

  • ImagineNATIVE Film Festival.

Black Nights Film Festival (Tallinn, Estonia)


The challenge: Instead of using the traditional evaluative voting system, give out the Audience Award by measuring the emotions of the audience. Additionally, enable sponsor communication and participants to post questions for film director Q&As.


The Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) screens around 600 films in 13 different venues. Setting up polls and handling Live audience response data for such a large number of films can be a challenge for every festival. Votemo has developed a workflow for these cases enabling the bulk setup of hundreds of polls, Q&As, sponsor Ads, and other relevant elements at once.


Measuring Audience's Emotions


Watching a movie is like going on a journey full of emotions. For each viewer, however, the experience is different and the story interpretation is unique. Black Nights Film Festival has implemented a one-of-a-kind voting system to emphasise exactly these aspects of film art.

Demo of the Votemo voting application embedded in the Black Nights Film Festival  website
Votemo voting application in the Black Nights Film Festival website

The PÖFF team has said they're trying to avoid a regular voting system where visitors have to say if they liked the movie or not. Instead, the festival has replaced it with a more creative solution where the audience can express how the movie made them feel. The concept is called “Ela kaasa” (Share emotions) and it allows viewers to express emotions throughout the programme and win awards from festival sponsors.

PÖFF, also like its sister festivals Hõff and Tartuff, gives out Audience Awards in several categories each year. It is very important to us that the audience has a say in this and they can contribute in recognising some of the best festival films. PÖFF is already the third festival this year where our new voting concept “Ela kaasa” is in use. We don't even want to call it voting as it's more like sharing the emotions of how the films made you feel. We think that's more relevant when it comes to evaluating creativity and stories.“ — Jaan Leppik, Development Project Manager

It is important for Black Nights Film Festival to give the most prominent sponsors some extra visibility and Audience Award voting is a perfect way to do that. The search for audience favourites was announced before each screening by festival hosts who introduced the sponsors and the chances to win awards. Participants were asked to visit the festival landing page and express their opinion on the Votemo application by selecting the emotion closest to the experience in the list. Depending on the theme of the festival programme, the selection of emotions in the poll was different. Besides voting, the festival interactivity layer included Q&A and lead generation for further announcements about winners and festival newsletters. The audience’s favourite film from the 26th PÖFF’s competition programmes is Amusia by director Marescotti Ruspoli.

The Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival is the biggest international film festival in Northern Europe and the busiest regional industry platform and sees an attendance of 80 000 people annually. PÖFF started in 1997 and holds the FIAPF accreditation for holding an international competition programme which puts the festival into the A-category of film festivals, alongside other 14 major festivals in the world.


Montclair Film Festival (New Jersey, US)


The challenge: Shift from paper to digital balloting to save time and reduce stress for the organising team. Cut down on paper usage as switching to digital tools contributes to reducing festivals' ecological footprint.


The audience's opinion and participation are highly valued at the Montclair Film festival. Each year the organisers use every opportunity to engage with their audience and let people participate in discussions. From several masterclasses and panel discussions to social media and audience award voting. The latter is where Votemo comes into play.

The announcement of the audience award voting at Montclair Film festival
The audience award voting announcement at Montclair Film

Every vote counts


The Montclair international film festival wanted the audience to be able to express their opinion after each screening and say how much they enjoyed the film on a scale of 1-5. It was the organiser's common goal to get as many people to vote as possible. And communication was the key to achieving that. In addition to audio-visual on-site announcements and social media communication, Montclair Film appointed volunteers to promote the audience award voting at the venue and invite visitors to vote and make their voices heard. They also assisted the ones that needed help with the new digital tool or didn't have their mobile phones with them. Because, as they say, every vote counts. As a result, 30% of the audience participated in the voting.

"Votemo helped us successfully make the shift to electronic balloting. The backend of the product was user friendly and customer service assistance during setup made this transition so easy. Our audience appreciated the more sustainable option for voting and our staff appreciated not counting ballots until early morning on our busy days! Looking forward to continuing this relationship with Votemo and Montclair Film." — Jennifer Cambras, Director of Production and Special Projects

Going green with digital tools


It is more and more important for the global event industry and event organisers to think about sustainable planning and production. Digital tools in general support every event's sustainability aspirations and help reduce the ecological footprint.


Montclair Film has already taken the environmentally friendly route and decided to cut down on paper usage. Switching to digital voting allows the festivals to go green and put an end to paper ballots. Counting votes by hand is also way more time-consuming than digital voting.


The Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey, US aims to entertain film lovers and professionals from across the region and country with ten days of compelling independent films, comedies, documentaries, panels, family events, and work by emerging artists. The festival provides a platform for talented filmmakers from around the world and gives special recognition to New Jersey artists.


ImagineNATIVE Film Festival (Toronto, Canada)


The challenge: Set up dozens of sessions-based digital voting systems where the audience can cast votes for their favourite films. The solution had to support voting at the live and online part of the festival.


The ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival had been on the lookout for a digital tool suitable for online voting for a long time now. When they found out about Votemo it was clear that the tool matches the festival's needs in every way. In 2022 ImagineNATIVE decided to use Votemo for audience engagement and online voting. It was important for the film festival that the tool would have the necessary flexibility to fit the unique festival setting and enable access to voting for each feature film and selection of short films separately. After the in-person part of the festival, ImagineNATIVE Film was followed by the online festival. In that phase, the audience was able to vote online on the CineSend platform, where the Votemo voting system was integrated.


ImagineNATIVE Film is an attractive platform for filmmakers and well-known global brands, especially when it comes to sponsoring the Audience Choice Awards, where the number of user impressions and contacts is higher. This year the festival had BMO Financial Group supporting the audience choice award for the short film and Shutterstock for the feature film programme. Both awards came with a cash prize of $2,500.


ImagineNATIVE is the world’s largest presenter of Indigenous screen content. The organisation is recognized locally, nationally, and internationally for excellence and innovation in programming and as the global centre for Indigenous media arts.


How can Votemo help your film festival?


Votemo offers a platform for film festival audience award voting that seamlessly integrates with any festival setting and size. With Votemo you can:

  • Set up digital ballots for hundreds of screenings with a one-off data import;

  • Customise the ballots with unique header images, texts, and a set of options;

  • Add interactive advertising solutions and banner Ads for your sponsors;

  • Use Votemo Client Admin to easily manage the voting during the festival;

  • Get data reports on a daily basis and after the event.

If you’re not sure where to start, Votemo is here to help you with brainstorming ideas and putting together the audience interactivity strategy for you. Our packages include demos, personalised assistance and support, training for your team and many more. We can also help you with managing the voting during the festival and help your team on-site to make sure your event goes smoothly.


If you'd like to know more about how Votemo can help you to increase the value of your event through audience involvement, lead generation and branding options, set up a consultation here.

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