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 local Montana flavor.

The festival hosts over 200 visiting artists, presents an average of 150 non-fiction films and offers a variety of exciting events throughout downtown Missoula, Montana. In addition to screenings, Big Sky hosts DocShop, a five-day industry event that includes panels, master classes, workshops, and the Big Sky Pitch session. DocShop participants have included: HBO Documentary Films, Showtime Documentary Films, Tribeca Film Institute, Sundance Doc Fund, New York Times Video, ESPN Films, Gravitas Ventures, Sub-Genre, Participant Media, BBC Storyville, CNN Films, ITVS, POV, PBS, The Film Collaborative, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Seed & Spark, Film Independent, The Fledgling Fund and Catapult Film Fund. Big Sky also screens films in schools across the state of Montana reaching over 4,000 students in just four days. Participating filmmakers have the unique opportunity to visit classrooms to present their films and engage students in discussion.

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival is an Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences qualifying event for short form documentaries. The winner of the Best Mini Doc and Best Short Documentary categories automatically qualify to compete for a Documentary Short Oscar the following year. Distinguished judges from around the country select the winners in each category during the ten day festival. Special guests of the festival have included Les Blank, Kirby Dick, Greg Barker, Daniel Junge, Lucy Walker, Ondi Timoner, Barbara Kopple, Steve James, Robert Drew, Stanley Nelson, Joe Berlinger, Sam Green, John Cohen, Doug Pray, Cazeh Zahedi, Hart & Dana Perry, Ron Mann, Brendan Canty, and many many more.

BEST FEATURE - (40 minutes & over)

BEST SHORT - (15-39 minutes)

BEST MINI-DOC - (Under 15 minutes)

BIG SKY AWARD - (Films about the American West)

The competitive event is open to nonfiction films and videos of all styles, subjects, and lengths. All films selected for screening will be notified of their status by approximately January 5, 2019. The filmmaker agrees to be responsible for all shipping and insurance costs for shipping materials to the festival office. All submitting filmmakers will be notified of the official selections prior to the festival.

If accepted for screening, your film will screen in Missoula Montana in February 2019 as part of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

Films of any completion date are eligible for submission. However, accepted films must not have been shown in anywhere in Montana prior to the festival.

Big Sky does not pay screening fees.

Preview screeners and exhibition prints must either be in English or have English subtitles.

Rough cuts are accepted for entry at the final deadline only. If you submit a rough cut, we cannot guarantee that the programmers will be able to review an updated cut at a later date. If you are submitting a rough cut, make sure it is indicated as such. Include intended final running time and work remaining to be completed with your entry. Big Sky does not exhibit works-in-progress at the festival. Films must be completed by January 26, 2019 in order to be screened.

Entering filmmakers must have one of the following formats available by January 15, 2019, if accepted, for screening at the festival. Blu-Ray or h.264 (.mp4) file.

DCP is NOT an accepted screening format.

You are responsible for updating Big Sky directly regarding any change to your contact information and ensuring that emails from are not blocked by spam filters.

Big Sky requires an online screener to be uploaded to Vimeo (password protected private link), Youtube (unlisted link), or the FilmFreeway video player. If you absolutely cannot upload your film please email for instructions on mailing a physical screener.

All entry deadlines are postmark deadlines. Entries postmarked after the final deadline may not be considered. Submission fees are non-refundable.

By submitting this documentary, I understand that I am agreeing to the following:

I am currently the copyright owner of this work. Should ownership or rights to my film change, this agreement to screen at the 2019 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, if accepted, will be upheld and not be infringed. I own or control the copyright in and to, and am duly authorized to submit this documentary film to the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (Big Sky) and to the best of my knowledge, all statements on this document are true; This documentary contains no material which could result in tort claims, royalty claims, claims for breach of contract, or claims of any sort whatsoever; If this documentary is selected for screening at Big Sky, I grant Big Sky the right to screen this film in Missoula, Montana, February 15-24, 2019; I understand and agree that this film entry, if selected for the Festival, may be used for promotional purposes for the Festival, Big Sky and/or its partners and I grant Big Sky and its partners the rights to use up to two minutes of footage, photographic stills and/or titles and information from the film for promotional purposes; I fully indemnify and hold Big Sky and its partners harmless from: a) damage to or loss of the film print or videotapes en route to or from Big Sky or during the course of festival possession of the entry; and b) from any claims which may arise in connection with this documentary film. If a claim arises in connection with this film, I will bear all the costs of defense incurred by Big Sky and pay any award of damages which may ensue. I also agree to reimburse Big Sky for any attorney fees incurred in connection with the defense of such a claim. I understand that Big Sky reserves the right to place my film in the appropriate competition category. By submitting my film, I am indicating that I understand, comply with and agree to the Terms of Entry and the eligibility requirements.

Overall Rating
  • Melissa Lesh

    It was excellent in so many ways. Intimate feel, with incredible staff, beautiful setting and some of the best films I have seen all year, some of which I had never heard of. The networking side of it was great too, many of the industries best were there and all within reach. What a fun, productive, non-stop and endlessly inspiring week.

    April 2018
  • Chris Metzler

    I always consider myself lucky when I get a film selected by Big Sky. Having now attended the festival twice, I have found it be one of the top doc festivals out there with a terrific mix of great films, engaging audiences and whole lot of fun. The local community really supports the festival in both audience attendance and press, but what really makes it top notch is all the filmmakers that attend and industry events the festival puts on.

    March 2018
  • Victoria Mills

    We had an incredible time at Big Sky with our film, Like Any Other Kid. Festival staff were so nice and thoughtful, the theaters were beautiful, and we were extremely well-taken-care-of. The screening audiences were terrific--engaged, curious, open-hearted and the Q&As were as long as they needed to be, which was long bc the audience had so much to offer! We loved seeing so many great films and meeting great filmmakers. We love you Big Sky! Thank you!!!

    March 2018
  • Daniel Anguiano Zúñiga

    In my experience was a wholesome opportunity to meet interesting people and amazing filmmakers, and share projects amongst them. The festival crew was very supportive, kind and resourceful. Missoula it's a cool city worth the visit by itself. I had a great experience and I'll love to come back.

    March 2018
  • James Kwon Lee

    This is hands down one of the best festivals I ever attended.
    The workshops were actually very insightful and helpful, the films were world-class, and the organization was top-notch.
    I hope to go again!

    March 2018