Paige Williams

Paige Williams is founder and CEO of the Audience Awards.

TOM BAUER, Missoulian

The clock is ticking for two online film competitions.

In the first, viewers can vote on short documentaries on Montana artists.

In the second, everyone is invited to create a one-minute video on Montana and compete for $40,000 worth of prizes.

Art Montana, an online competition hosted by the Audience Awards, features 31 short films, ranging from five to eight minutes.

The first-place prize is $5,000, second place is $2,500 and third place is $1,000.

The 31 artists and subjects include Monte Dolack's paintings on the Smith River, Bozeman artist Jay Schmidt's provocative sculpture and 2-D work, Missoula resident and country songwriter Bobby Lee Springfield, and many more, stretching from western Montana, up to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and out to eastern Montana.

Viewers can log in and vote through Feb. 17 at audienceawards.com.

The Missoula-based Audience Awards is an online platform that seeks to connect filmmakers, film festivals and viewers through competitions such as these.

While the films in the Art Montana competition are local, the potential voting audience is global.

"Everyone is getting to see all the artists and beauty of Montana in these competitions," she said.

Last year, Williams' Porch Productions applied for a grant from the Montana Film Office and produced four videos under the Art Montana name.

This year, she applied for another Film Office grant and moved Art Montana to the Audience Awards platform.

She then opened it up to filmmakers with the prize money as incentive.

With that bonus, the number of films went from four, all produced by Williams, to 31 movies submitted by professionals, enthusiasts and college students from the state's many campuses.

The site's traffic has tripled as filmmakers and artists encourage their friends to vote via social media. The contest opened Tuesday and was on track to exceed 10,000 votes by Friday morning.

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She expects to quadruple the site traffic for Real Montana.

That competition, open to anyone around the world, seeks the best one-minute movies about Montana in categories that include "food and beverage," "culture and events," "Montana places," "Montana outdoor adventure" and "Montana wildlife and scenery."

The deadline to submit is April 6, and previously submitted footage can be used. Competitors can enter as many videos as they want, but are reminded that doing so can split their number of votes.

The first round of votes will take place from April 7 to 21, with the first- through third-place winners in each category splitting $5,000.

The top two videos in each category will then go into a final round from April 22 to 29, with the winner taking $15,000.

The Office of Tourism funded the prize money, and will use the winning videos on its YouTube channel and its app to promote the state.

Films from the Art Montana competition, as long as content is suitable, will be used in a educational curricula available through artinschools.org, which provides streaming content and materials to K-12 educators.

The Audience Awards was founded a year and a half ago by Williams, a documentary filmmaker and entrepreneur.

The site has grown to 10 full-time employees in development, marketing and sales.

Earlier this month, it was featured in an Inc. magazine article on the rise of user-generated content.

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