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How to submit a film for the Big Sky Festival?

Big Sky Festival is one of the largest and most popular documentary film festivals in the country and it has the widest selection of movies. They are usually separated by theme and there’s over a 150 films shown every year.

The festival also provides the opportunity to young authors that haven’t had a chance to prove themselves. Don’t hesitate to submit your film if you’re one of those, just make sure that you study the rules as to how to do it.

Submission deadlines

There are 3 different sets of deadlines that you need to be aware of. The first is called early bird submission deadline for those who want to send their submission ahead of time. They will be able to modify the submits before the regular submission is underway.

There’s also a late submission deadline and it’s for those who have an objective reason to be late, which can be personal or due to the production issues. The modifications and changes made by those who have sent the submission in the regular deadline should be made by this date.

The dates are:

-Early Bird – June 28th
-Regular – August 30th
-Late – October 4th

The premiers?

The films that are shown during the festival need to be premiers. That means that they can’t be screened or broadcast in other way in Montana before the festival itself. There are some exceptions to this rule and they are made by the case to case basis.

However, the festival also takes into consideration previous screenings, broadcasts, and online availability when they are choosing which film to take on. The goal is to find the projects that will have an audience of their own even if it’s a niche audience.


The films that are selected to be screened can win an award at the festival as well. There are four award categories – Best Feature Documentary (over 40 minutes), Best Short Documentary (15-39 minutes), Best MiniDoc (under 15 minutes), and the Big Sky Award (best film about the American West of any length).

All the films that are shown at the festival are eligible for awards. The nominees for all the categories are announced by mid-January. There’s also an “Artistic Vision Award” that’s awarded for every category and it’s selected by the same jurors.

Submitting more than once

You can submit more than one film at once, but each submission needs to be treated separately and each needs to go through the process individually. This also means that some of your submission may be rejected while others are added to the festival.

It’s also possible to re-submit a film. That’s only the case if the film was submitted last year and rejected. This isn’t proof that it won’t be added this year so feel free to try. The film can’t be shown twice obviously. It’s however, best to make changes to the film before submitting it again.

Rough cuts

It’s allowed to submit a rough cut if the film isn’t finished by the end of the late submission date. That means that it will be submitted based on the rough cut. Due to the late date, the juror may not be able to see the final draft of the film. However, one needs to be submitted since only finished films can be shown.

The submission that isn’t finished needs to indicate how long the film will be once it’s done and you need to indicate what’s been left out meaning what you plan to add in the last version of the film.

Contact and information

You will be contacted if your movie was accepted by the festival and this needs to be done before January 10th. It’s done via e-mail that you’ve left in your application. The festival itself will take place from February 14th to February 23th.

If your contact information changes while you’re waiting for your acceptance letter you won’t be able to be notified since there is no way to resend that information. Make sure you have a clear channel of communication with the festival before you apply.


Big Sky Festival is a big opportunity for young authors to show their films to a large audience. It’s the biggest documentary film festival in the country and those who are awarded in it are put on the map and eligible to get an Oscar as well.

There’s a process for submitting the films to the festival and you’ll need to follow it to the letter. This allows the chance to submit unfinished and uncut versions of your film as long as you finish it before it’s time for it to be shown at the festival.

This is an opportunity young artists shouldn’t miss.

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