One Snowy Week in MISSOULA, MONTANA...

Twenty thousand strong converged on downtown Missoula, Montana in February 2018 to take in over 180 extraordinary documentary films on seven screens in five theaters, bringing downtown Missoula to life with conversation, inspiration and art. The 15th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival began with the biggest opening night in our history, and for the following ten days carried out a long tradition of celebrating documentary film and its power to inform, engage, and ignite discourse around issues that matter. With the overwhelming support of the local and documentary communities, the 2018 festival was one for the history books, including 70 World and US premieres, the first class of Native Filmmaker Fellows, Virtual Reality shorts from the New York Times, audio documentaries, a prolific DocShop conference and a record number of filmmakers in attendance.

With films and visitors from all over the world, BSDFF once again transformed our city for ten days and beyond. Learn more about who attended and impact of the festival here, and scroll down to explore scenes and stories from the 2018 event.


the scene





docshop 2018

BSDFF has become known as a filmmaker's festival, a forum where artists, audience and industry collide to network and explore cutting-edge ideas that are shaping the field of documentary film. With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the 2018 Big Sky DocShop industry conference explored the impact of technology on documentary filmmaking, provided examples of how doc filmmakers embrace and leverage new tech opportunities, and engaged in critical dialogue on the ways technology has fundamentally changed how documentaries are produced, distributed and viewed by audiences.  

A peer-to-peer and intimate setting, filmmakers and other DocShop attendees had access to conversations with AbelCineVimeoFilm IndependentTribeca Film InstituteGravitas VenturesSeed & SparkVulcan ProductionsITVSSundance New FrontierFandorFearless 360RYOTKCRW's The DocumentVision Hawk FilmsWarm Springs ProductionsElevated Productions and many independent filmmakers. Master Classes with BSDFF 2019 Retrospective Artists and veteran documentary filmmakers Kirby Dick and Greg Barker (pictured above) provided sage advice for up-and-coming filmmakers attending Big Sky.

A critical mass formed for the Big Sky Pitch where ten works-in-progress were presented to a panel of industry funders and distributors, followed by the Tribeca Film Institute IF/Then Shorts Pitch for works-in-progress where Derek Knowles and Spencer Seibert took home the win with up to $20,000 in funding for their project AFTER THE FIRE. 

The Big Sky DocShop continues to play a defining roll in the documentary space, providing professional connections, collaboration opportunities and the path ahead for projects and filmmaking careers. 



"Since our film screened in Missoula, we have been bombarded by emails from other programmers, PR agencies, distributors: all thanks to Big Sky. It’s an honor for us."


"I saw more amazing & inspiring docs than I can count, screened my work in a beautiful venue, and got to hang with a ton of awesome doc-minded folks. The organizers do a phenomenal job of fostering an environment for connection and inspiration."


"I went to another international festival shortly after Big Sky this year and realized how high BSDFF sets the bar. They treat filmmakers like royalty, the educational events are valuable and the recreational events are a blast. You know it's a good festival when you find yourself halfway through a film project, getting excited that maybe it will bring you back to Big Sky again." 






"Big Sky isn't just a is a community for documentary filmmakers. From start to finish I felt like I was a part of something that was more than a gathering of films, but even better, a gathering of like spirits sharing true stories about who, what, where, why, and how we are."

- Robert Emmons, Filmmaker



Every year after the curtains close on BSDFF, the festival office is flooded with emails, calls, letters and stories remarking upon the community support and collaborative effort evident in the character and presentation of BSDFF (read a sample of testimonials here). A special combination of industry loyalty and Missoula's local enthusiasm fuels the success of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival year over year. BSDFF is extraordinarily fortunate to have backing from corporate and community partners that not only contribute much needed financial support, they also lend to the character and world class quality of the annual event. Learn more about the impact of this collaboration here

We asked attendees to share a message with our sponsors and all those who make BSDFF possible including volunteers, venues, funders, moderators, staff, corporate supporters, community partners and the amazing place that is Missoula, MT. 

For all those who come together to make this marvelous event happen, this message is for you. Click the play button below!