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Maria White is ecstatic that Yahoo! joined with the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year to stream nine short films from the fest on Y! Screen and give visitors the chance to vote on their favorite. Why is White so happy? Her film, "The Debutante Hunters," won the audience award and the producer-director walked away from the Awards Night Ceremony in Park City with a $5,000 check.
The diminutive South Carolina native told the packed audience, "My husband and I were volunteers here ten years ago and Sundance has been a beacon for us." Her documentary, about a group of Southern belles who show their good old girl sides while hunting the backwoods, was culled from over 7,000 short films submitted to the festival. Then Yahoo! movie experts, in conjunction with festival programmers, winnowed that number down from eighty to nine to be streamed on the website.
Great content and savvy use of social media contributed to the win. "We emailed. We used Facebook," White told Yahoo! backstage as she clutched her award and sipped champagne. "As a cast and crew my entire team was pretty relentless. My composer Jasper Randall contacted five hundred of the musicians he knows."
Any more tips? "When we saw positive comments, it fueled us. We would reach out. Members of the 'cast' would comment. It was like wildfire!!!"
"I'm excited about Yahoo! because you see how many people are interested in seeing content online," White continued. She has an additional eleven hours of footage and would like to go deeper, and see more stories reach more people. She plans to use the award money to develop the short into a series — and as a result of the exposure, she has already been contacted by a number of networks and production companies.
But it all begins with the content. After going on a hunt with her friend Kristy Olson Cuthbert, White knew she had her subject: "This was a world I wanted to explore, where a woman can be feminine, a mother, a daughter, and still be a total badass."
The first-time collaboration between Yahoo! and Sundance generated over 50,000 votes — and at least ten times that many streams. As for White, who found the experience "validating," she went off to find her husband in the crowd — and possibly share the good news on her Facebook page.
Watch the winning short film "The Debutante Hunters" -- User discretion advised: Contains some graphic images of hunted animals.