This year’s Spirit Awards marked the first time in over a decade-and-a-half that my vote didn’t count. Considering how my “Will win” vs. “Should win” predictions panned out – I only missed the screenplay award; more on that later – it seems that my votes likely wouldn’t have made a huge difference in the massive, albeit completely anticipated, sweep of the evening’s prizes by Precious. I had been an IFP member for all that time, and for those who don't know, even after Film Independent took its larger budgets and events and split from the rest of the IFP community, they still allow their former sister chapters to vote.
I wondered if Steve Pond's "expose" on Spirit Award voting from a couple weeks ago was actually news to anyone who even pays attention to the Spirits. Granted, maybe there is an IFC audience out there not intimately involved with the film industry, but is that same audience reading The Wrap? Regardless, the main point of Pond's article was that lots (most?) voters don't have the opportunity to see most movies. That was certainly a much bigger problem 10-15 years ago before everyone had a computer, Netflix or a DVD player, and frankly, I think it's more due to the fact that people don't take the voting seriously. I mean, especially if you're a member of an audience that eschews awards shows – at least the Oscars – how much of an effort are you really going to make.
I used to go to the IFP awards screenings all the time in the late '90s at the Pioneer. I considered those screenings alone worthy of paying for my annual $100 membership. And unless the film was a "major" indie, the audiences were often pathetic, not coming close to filling the 99-seat house. Yet, schedule never managed to stop the popular titles from overflowing. People made time for those films.
Ridiculously or not, I always took my voting seriously, and even though I didn't vote this year, I still take it seriously; that if I'm planning on expressing my opinion on an indieWIRE ballot or here in my little corner of the Web, I'm going to do my best to have seen as many of the films (ideally, all!) as possible.