BSFI Receives Grant from Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation for Youth Education Programs

The Big Sky Film Institute (BSFI) has received a grant from the Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation in support of its full slate of youth education programs. A three-year grant, the funding will allow BSFI to commit more time and resources to take education programs into underserved areas in remote corners of the state, strengthen collaborative education networks, and sustain student and family programs at the annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (BSDFF).

“Generation Z is next-level media savvy,” says BSFI Executive Director Rachel Gregg, “and we are thrilled to receive the generous support from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to empower the next generation to be responsible consumers and creators of media, find their voice, expand worldviews and learn skills for artful and productive storytelling.”

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, the major philanthropic organization for The Washington Companies and the Washington family, supports programs and services that give people the tools to enhance the quality of their lives and benefit society as a whole. A proponent for enhancing collaborative education outreach, the foundation has supported the growth of BSFI’s youth programs and encouraged the institute to expand efforts to provide programs and services that give Montana’s economically and socially disadvantaged youth the tools they need to succeed in life.

“Extensive research shows that integrating the arts into the K-12 system, particularly in rural communities without access to arts programs, enhances academic achievement across the board and positively impacts the social-emotional development of youth exposed to arts programming,” said Mike Halligan, Executive Director of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. “This is clearly an investment that gives young people the tools they need to succeed in life.”

BSFI offers six youth programs that provide access to film and filmmakers that help inform, expand perspectives, facilitate discussion on complex topics and promote filmmaking as a vocation. Programs include Filmmakers in the Schools, taking filmmakers attending BSDFF into classrooms to share films and engage students in discussion; Schoolhouse Docs, a series of documentary films programmed for youth and families at BSDFF; the Big Sky Documentary Youth Fellowship, a 6-month mentorship program connecting high school students with a BSFI artist in residence to learn the history and mechanics of documentary filmmaking; the Teen Doc Intensive, a 2-day crash course in documentary filmmaking; and the NFI Film Club, the youth outreach component of BSFI’s Native Filmmaker Initiative that takes Indigenous film and filmmakers into classrooms across the state.

The slate of programs provides low-cost or no-cost opportunities for students and families to engage with non-fiction film and filmmakers. With sustaining funding from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, BSFI plans to expand programs to reach over 15,000 students across Montana by 2021, provide scholarships for Teen Doc Intensive participants without sufficient travel resources, and increase impact in underserved areas, especially Indian Country. More information on BSFI youth education programs can be found at

Sep 12, 2018 | permalink