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. Celebrating 22 years in 2025, 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 Film Institute, New York Times Video, ESPN Films, Gravitas Ventures, Al Jazeera Witness Participant Media, SFFILM, BBC Storyville, CNN Films, ITVS, POV, PBS, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Seed & Spark, Film Independent, Field of Vision, The Fledgling Fund and Ford Foundation. 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 qualifies 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, Barbara Kopple, Steve James, Joe Berlinger, Lucy Walker, Ondi Timoner, Robert Drew, Stanley Nelson, Kirby Dick, Greg Barker, Penny Lane, Daniel Junge, Sam Green, John Cohen, Jeanie Finlay, Doug Pray, Travis Wilkerson, Jeff & Michael Zimbalist, Cazeh Zahedi, Hart & Dana Perry, Ron Mann, the Ross Brothers, Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert and many many more.

BEST FEATURE: 40 minutes & over

BEST SHORT: 15-39 minutes (Academy Qualifying Category)

BEST MINI-DOC: Under 15 minutes (Academy Qualifying Category)

BIG SKY AWARD - Films of any length that artistically honor the character, history, tradition and imagination of the American West

Winners in each category receive a $500 cash prize.

Submissions are open to nonfiction films of all styles, subjects, and lengths. All films selected for screening will be notified of their status by January 10, 2025.

If accepted for screening, your film will screen in Missoula, Montana in February 2025, and potentially in a virtual exhibition, as part of the 22nd annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

ENTRY FEES ARE NON-REFUNDABLE. Should the 2025 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival be canceled or postponed because of a natural disaster, pandemic, or for any other reason beyond our control, submission fees cannot be refunded.


While our festival focuses on new work, films of any completion date are eligible for submission. However, accepted films must not have been shown anywhere in Montana prior to the festival.

Work that has previously screened online may be considered, however priority is given to work that has not already reached a wide audience.

You are welcome to re-submit only if the film has undergone significant re-working since it was previously entered.


Big Sky does not pay screening fees.


Preview screeners and exhibition screeners 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 Big Sky 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. At the beginning of your screener, please Include the intended final running time and work/elements remaining to be completed. Big Sky does not exhibit works-in-progress at the festival. Films must be completed by February 1, 2025 in order to be screened.

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.

All entry deadlines are upload deadlines. Entries received after the final deadline may not be considered.

Shipping & Insurance costs are the responsibility of the filmmaker.


Acceptance to Big Sky does not guarantee selection for competition. Up to 10 films are selected by the programming committee for each competition category. Priority is given to films premiering at Big Sky.

Competition categories are: Best Mini-Doc, Best Short, Best Feature, & Big Sky Award.


Accepted filmmakers must have the following format available by January 19, 2025 for screening at the festival: h.264 (.mp4) file. All films screening at the festival must include a .srt file. If the primary language is not English, then you must provide an open subtitled version for screening. The filmmaker is responsible for all shipping and insurance costs.

DCP is not a required screening format. However, we may request a DCP for screening in some instances.

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

Due to the volume and size of our staff, feedback is not provided regarding films chosen or not chosen for inclusion in the festival.


Discounted submission fees are available for Montana filmmakers or filmmakers with Montana-based films and Indigenous filmmakers. Explore the Categories & Fees panel for more information.


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 2024 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, if accepted, will be upheld and not be infringed. I own or control the copyright 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 14 - February 23, 2025; 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
  • Set Hernandez

    Big Sky is one of the best festivals I have ever attended or participated in. The curation of films, the curation of the programmes and panels, and the curation of experiences that are put together is second to none. I am grateful to have participated not only in the festival, but also in the pitch program, where they bring in industry leaders (and fellow filmmakers) to learn about emerging films in development. On top of that, they provide complimentary lodging at the heart of Missoul, Montana! Thank you to the team that brings this festival together. I am honored to be an alum of this tremendous festival.

    March 2024
  • Braeden Meyer

    The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival never fails to stand out as a brilliant opportunity to premiere films, network, and enjoy an amazing week of film. It was an honor to have my film “Terra Draconis” premiere at the festival as part of a special block of student films made in the MFA Program in Science and Natural History Filmmaking at Montana State University, Bozeman.

    I would certainly love to attend the festival again as a filmmaker or to visit!

    March 2024
  • Max Rykov

    I am incredibly grateful to have gotten the opportunity to premiere my short VHS documentary "Hindsight" at Big Sky this year. It was very rewarding to go and connect with amazing filmmakers as well as the Big Sky team and volunteers. The passion that people have for this festival really comes through. The experience has given me new motivation to continue working on my documentaries and I hope to premiere my upcoming films at Big Sky in the future.

    March 2024
  • One of the best documentary specific festivals out there - every time we have a client selected they had a wonderful time. In their 2024 edition we had the brilliant Demon Mineral screen.

    March 2024
  • Guillermo Asensio

    Amazing staff, receptive audience & outstanding festival. As a director, I especially appreciate that Big Sky has a dedicated team of people who actually sit down and watch the films they receive. I traveled from my home city in Barcelona, Spain, to attend the festival and was overwhelmed by the warm welcome & enthusiasm shown by everyone on the team, local media and audience. I’m sure that participation at Big Sky and contacts made whilst I was there will open doors for me and my film.

    March 2024