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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 toward 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.

DOCSHOP 2023 // Documentary 101: An Education 

Every year we choose a vibrant conversation evolving in the industry. In 2023 the Big Sky DocShop will go back to basics with a theme of Documentary 101: An Education, exploring the evolution and advancement of documentary film practice and ethics while reexamining foundational knowledge of the nonfiction medium. Sessions will delve into documentary filmmaking fundamentals from subject, style, and purpose to production, editing, and other hands-on techniques, as well as academic conversations on accountability and credibility of the medium and the makers.

Documentary films are subjective reflections of reality constructed by auteurs, individual or in collaboration, with a given set of available tools, technologies and world views. The credibility of this art form amongst audiences, i.e. the extent to which documentary films are generally regarded as truth, depends on the collective integrity and intentions of nonfiction filmmakers. Is there a common set of agreed-upon techniques, technologies, ethics and creative license that define the boundaries of documentary film? What mechanisms exist for maintaining a sense of responsibility to the truth, and what principles must remain intact to maintain the validity of the medium? Who is tasked with holding the art form accountable?

A 2009 report from American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact, then the Center for Social Media, stated “that filmmakers generally are acutely aware of [the] moral dimensions of their craft, and of the economic and social pressures that affect them.” Since then documentary film has experienced a golden age as the marketplace for media opened to nonfiction media of many kinds, despite rapidly eroding trust of media and social institutions. DocShop 2023 will seek to take the pulse of the documentary artform and industry as it reckons with these divergent trends. We’ll revisit the foundational elements of nonfiction storytelling and how the documentary toolkit has evolved. We’ll also explore the modern tenets of documentary that can guide the artform into a productive future. A gathering of thought leaders, educators, filmmakers and students of the form, DocShop 2023 will be a true forum for peer-to-peer discussion and discovery.

Programming, schedule and participants will be announced in late 2022! Interested in participating in the 2023 conference? Please contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Big Sky DocShop is an ADA Accessible event. Accommodations available upon request. Please contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call our office at (406) 541-3456 with your request.


DocShop 2023 is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. To learn more about how NEA grants impact individuals and communities, visit