BSDFF 2023 logo

About BSFI

Rooted in the heart of the mountain west, the Big Sky Film Institute nurtures and elevates non- fiction films that have the power to transform our world, our culture, our youth, and ourselves.

Our Mission:

The Big Sky Film Institute is a leading arts and education non-profit dedicated to the transformative power of documentary film. Our work empowers a diverse range of filmmakers, promotes media literacy for all ages and presents global perspectives that inspire our engaged communities. 

The Big Sky Film Institute, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Major programs include the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the Native Filmmaker Initiative, Filmmakers in the Schools, and the DocShop filmmaker's forum.

The Big Sky Film Institute acknowledges that our work takes place in the aboriginal territories of the Salish and Kalispel people. 


The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival is the premier venue for non-fiction film in the American West. Big Sky offers an ideal setting for filmmakers to premiere new work and develop lasting relationships with fellow filmmakers and industry. The festival draws an audience of 20,000 and film entries from every corner of the globe to a uniquely intimate mountain town setting with a local Montana flavor.

The annual 10-day festival takes place each February in downtown Missoula, Montana.

The festival hosts over 200 visiting artists, presents an average of 150 non-fiction films, and offers a variety of exciting events at the historic theater The Wilma and neighboring downtown Missoula venues.  

In addition to screenings, the Big Sky DocShop is a five-day industry event that includes panels, master classes, workshops, and the Big Sky Pitch session. DocShop’s participants have included: HBO Documentary Films, Showtime Documentary Films, Tribeca Film Institute, Sundance Doc Fund, The New York Times Op-Docs, ESPN Films, Participant Media, BBC Storyville, CNN Films, ITVS, POV, PBS, America ReFramed, American Experience, AJ+, Al Jazeera Witness, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Seed & Spark, Film Independent, The Fledgling Fund and Catapult Film Fund. Big Sky is an Academy Award qualifying festival in the SHORTS and MINI DOC categories.


DOCSHOP is a five-day filmmaker's forum and industry conference that takes place every year during the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (BSDFF). The conference is geared towards filmmakers, innovators, students, and media industry leaders to explore cutting-edge ideas that are shaping the field of documentary film today. The conference includes workshops and panels that cover diverse aspects of the filmmaking process, and culminates with the Big Sky Pitch, an opportunity for filmmakers to pitch works-in-progress to a panel of industry representatives and funders. The festival/conference energy creates a unique and fruitful experience for emerging and award-winning filmmakers alike.


The Big Sky Film Institute offers six exciting educational programs that promote media literacy, opportunities for students, filmmakers, and families to access, evaluate, create, reflect and engage in discourse on documentary film. BSFI is dedicated to bringing film education opportunities to Montanans and visiting filmmakers alike during the BSDFF and throughout the year. 

Lean more 


The city of Missoula sits on Salish land, and Montana is home to twelve tribal nations and seven Indian reservations, each with its own culture, language, identity, and history. Uniquely located to elevate Native voices, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival has a long tradition of celebrating Indigenous documentary film, stories from Indian Country, and expressions of Indigenous filmmakers.

The 4th World Indigenous Media Lab is a year-long fellowship for emerging and mid-career Indigenous filmmakers, providing opportunities to develop filmmaking skills and networks through festival participation, hands-on training, masterclasses, workshopping projects in development, pitch activities, and meetings with funders and other industry decision-makers. Fellowship activities take place from September 2021 through May 2022 at Camden International Film Festival (CIFF), Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). The program is a collaborative partnership between the festivals and Nia Tero. The Points North Institute in Camden provides a vast network of peer and industry mentors and resources at CIFF, including access to the Points North Forum and opportunities for one-on-one connections with future collaborators and funders. At Big Sky, fellows will attend the DocShop filmmaker’s forum, Indigenous filmmaker screenings and events, and a private seminar with leaders in the Indigenous filmmaking community and the film industry at large. The Seattle experience, in partnership with Nia Tero, offers industry masterclasses, hands-on training, and global networking in the SIFF urban festival atmosphere.

The Native Filmmaker Initiative Film Club is a virtual youth education outreach program that screens a curated selection of Indigenous-made documentary films in classrooms across Montana. Following the screenings, filmmakers visit classrooms virtually for a live Q&A and discussion activities rooted in Montana's Indian Education for All Essential Understandings. Film Club discussions are led by the Big Sky Film Institute in collaboration with the Montana Office of Public Instruction’s Indian Education Specialists as well as participating filmmakers to talk in-depth about the process of filmmaking. Learn More

The Big Sky Film Institute proudly presents the Native Filmmaker Initiative to bring more Indigenous stories to the festival, support and engage the Indigenous media arts community, and have a greater impact on community youth. Supported in part by a FilmWatch grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the initiative includes special festival programming, educational outreach, a digital toolkit curated for Native filmmakers, and a fellowship program for emerging artists.