Four competitions shine a spotlight on the best of the festival and superior works in documentary filmmaking. Up to ten documentary films per category are selected in competition for Best Feature, Best Short (films 15-49 minutes), Best Mini (films under 15 minutes) and the Big Sky Award presented to one film that artistically honors the character, history, tradition and imagination of the American West. Distinguished judges from around the country chose the winners in each category during the ten day festival with the option to award an "Artistic Vision Award" in addition. Winners in each category receive a cash prize.
The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival is also 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. Past Big Sky winners that have advanced to Oscar consideration include Slomo and Kayao: The Living Shopping Baskets. Special guests of the festival jury have included Les Blank, Daniel Junge, Lucy Walker, Ondi Timoner, Barbara Kopple, Steve James, Robert Drew, Joe Berlinger, Sam Green, John Cohen, Doug Pray, Cazeh Zahedi, Hart & Dana Perry, Ron Mann, Brendan Canty, and many, many more.
2018 Competition Jury
Nancy Collet - Independent Consultantant
Nancy Collet’s experience in the film industry spans over twenty-five years. With her extensive knowledge of working with studios and film festivals, she founded Cinema Collet in 2007. Her company offers strategic consulting services to large conferences, film festivals, educators, distributors and independent filmmakers around the world. Her clients include The Toronto International Film Festival, The Wrap News, Inc., Ketchum Sports and Entertainment, The Audience Awards, New York University and many others. Her services include festival start up, event management, production and marketing, film programming, acquisitions, VIP guest/Industry Procurement and festival/distribution strategy for independent filmmakers. Collet has covered the major film festivals and markets around the world since 1997, and also served as a juror and panelist for numerous international film festivals and events. Previously, Collet worked for the American Film Institute’s AFI FEST and served their Director of Programming for seven years. Nancy is a 1989 Magna Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School and has a dual degree in Marketing and Psychology.
Kirby Dick - Documentary Filmmaker
Kirby Dick is a two time Emmy-award winning and two-time Academy award-nominated documentary film director. His most recent film, THE HUNTING GROUND, a monumental exposé of rape culture on college campuses— premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, was released by Radius and CNN, is the 2016 recipient of the Producer’s Guild of America’s Stanley Kramer Award, shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. His previous film, THE INVISIBLE WAR, a groundbreaking investigation into the epidemic of rape within the US military, won two Emmy Awards for Best Documentary and Outstanding Investigative Journalism, the 2012 Independent Spirit Award 2012 for Best Documentary, a Peabody Award, and was nominated for an Academy Award. He also directed TWIST OF FAITH, the story of a man confronting the trauma of his past sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, which was also nominated for an Academy Award. Other films include OUTRAGE, nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism; THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED, a breakthrough investigation of the MPAA’s secretive film ratings system; and DERRIDA, a complex portrait of the world-renowned French philosopher Jacques Derrida. He is the 2012 recipient of the Nestor Almendros Prize for Courage and Filmmaking and the 2013 Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize. He is currently completing a new original investigative feature for Netflix and is in the early stages of production on a Hollywood Assaults film.
Jannat Gargi - Director of Documentary Films, Vulcan Productions
Jannat Gargi is an Emmy Award winning Co-Producer of the short documentary, Body Team 12 and Emmy nominated producer of the feature documentary, Circo. Gargi is currently the Director of Documentary Films for Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions overseeing feature documentaries including Sundance Award winning film, STEP, Academy Award Nominated short documentary, Body Team 12, Naledi: A Baby Elephant’s Tale, Ghost Fleet and Ballet Now (currently in production). Prior to joining Vulcan Productions in 2014, Gargi served as Vice President of Alpha Cine Labs for over a decade where she revolutionized the boutique film lab to become the premiere independent film lab in the country, working closely with emerging and award winning filmmakers from around the world. Notable films include: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Waste Land, Born Into Brothels, Taxi to the Dark Side, Jesus Camp, Iraq in Fragments, Trouble the Water, Crude, My Country, My Country, Waste Land, Street Fight, Page One: Inside the New York Times, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, No End in Sight, Your Sister’s Sister, Humpday, Compliance and Safety Not Guaranteed.
Lisa Hasko, Manager of Documentary Programs & Fiscal Sponsorship, Film Independent
Lisa Hasko is responsible for the design and management of Film Independent's Fiscal Sponsorship program for both fiction and documentary film. In addition, she oversees the outreach, selection and programming for the Documentary Lab as well as all Artist Development initiatives and events serving the organization’s growing documentary community. Lisa plays an integral role in the year-round outreach, selection and programming efforts for the Film Independent Labs and the Fast Track finance market. Prior to joining Film Independent, she spent nearly seven years at the International Documentary Association where she oversaw several key programs including the Fiscal Sponsorship Program, the Pare Lorentz Documentary Fund and DocuClub, a works-in-progress screening series. Lisa received her M.A. in International Development and Gender Studies at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England and lived in Europe for several years before returning to the US to pursue a career supporting independent film and filmmakers.
Amy Hobby - Executive Director, Tribeca Film Institute
Amy Hobby is the Executive Director at the Tribeca Film Institute as well as an Emmy Award winning, Academy-Award nominated producer whose films include AND EVERYTHING IS GOING FINE (IFC) directed by Steven Soderbergh, SHEPARD & DARK (Official Selection Cannes Film Festival), SECRETARY (starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal) and LOVE, MARILYN (HBO) directed by Liz Garbus with whom she collaborated again on WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE? (Netflix). In 2013, Ms. Hobby co-founded Tangerine Entertainment- a company dedicated to produce and build community for films directed by women. Tangerine’s films include Tribeca Film Festival winner KEEP THE CHANGE, PAINT IT BLACK directed by Amber Tamblyn and the documentary THE LAST LAUGH directed by Ferne Pearlstein. In her various capacities, Ms. Hobby has been on numerous Film Festival Juries and Panels over the past 10 years.
Julie Keck - Head of Education & Outreach, Seed & Spark
Julie Keck is a Chicago-based writer and producer and also the Head of Education and Outreach at Seed&Spark. Since 2000, Julie has made two features, several shorts, and over 20 web series, including her most recent series F*ck Yes, an adult sex ed series focused on consent. Prior to joining Seed&Spark, Julie ran or consulted on crowdfunding campaigns that raised over $300k for film projects across the spectrum. Julie is co-author of Social Media Charm School. Find her on Twitter and Instagram and pick her brain: @kingisafink
Theo Lipfert - Montana State University School of Film & Photography
Theo Lipfert, Associate Professor in the School of Film and Photography at Montana State University, Bozeman, is a filmmaker who is exploring the intersection between visual media and sound. He earned an MFA in Painting at Hunter College in New York City and exhibited paintings and prints widely in North America and Germany before devoting his creative energies to film, video, sound, and teaching. Lipfert was a Fulbright scholar on the African island nation of Mauritius where he taught digital media production to undergraduate students.
Joshua B. Nelson - Director of Film & Media Studies, University of Oklahoma
Joshua B. Nelson is Director of Film & Media Studies, Associate Professor of English, and affiliated faculty with Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He is Lead Organizer of the Native Crossroads Film Festival & Symposium, ex-officio member of the Society for Cinema & Media Studies executive board, and interviewer and Associate Producer on the forthcoming documentary Searching for Sequoyah.
Michele Ohayon - Documentary Filmmaker
Michele Ohayon is an Academy Award nominated director and producer. Her critically acclaimed feature documentaries include: It was a Wonderful Life (1987, PBS, narrated by Jodie Foster) Colors Straight Up (1997, PBS) Nominated for an Academy Award, Directors Guild of America Award, and a Spirit award as well as 13 National awards; Cowboy del Amor (2005, ShowTime) winner SXSW jury and audience award; Steal a Pencil for Me (2007) Produced with Netflix, Winner Jerusalem Film Festival, and Audience award Sonoma Film Festival; S.O.S/State of Security (2010) Berlin film festival; and Solar Roadways (2012), Tribeca film festival. “Cristina” (2017, Netflix). Michele produced the feature documentary 100 years (2017 Winner Big Sky Festival) and co-directing/producing Power. Michele is currently producing CNN’s Believer, with host Reza Aslan (2017). Michele also directed the Academy of Motion Pictures tribute films for Angelina Jolie’s Governors Award (2013), narrated by Morgan Freeman, and for Jean-Claude Carriere (2014) Narrated by Jeremy Irons, with Natalie Portman, Richard Gere, Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert. She has been a guest speaker/lecturer on directing at various schools and colleges, including UCLA, AFI, USC, UVA, GEORGETOWN, WESLEYAN, STANFORD, CHAPMAN, KENYON and more. For her body of work, Michele received twice the Artist’s Grant from the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. Michele is the CEO and co-founder of Kavana Entertainment, with a mission to bridge Hollywood and the rest of the world. (http://www.Kavanaent.com) Michele is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures where she serves on the Executive Committee (Docu Branch), International committee, foreign film committee and the educational/grants committee. She is also a member of the WGA, DGA and IDA.
Milton Tabbot - Senior Director of Programming, IFP
Milton Tabbot is Senior Director of Programming at the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) in New York. His responsibilities include supervising all documentary programs and IFP’s fiscal sponsorship program. His documentary program management includes the Spotlight on Documentaries section of the Project Forum of IFP’s annual IFP Film Week, including responsibility for the annual documentary project selection and industry relations, and supervision of the documentary module of the IFP Labs for first-time feature directors. He also manages the jury nomination process for the annual IFP Gotham Awards. He has been with IFP since 1996. At IFP he previously managed the Anthony Radziwill Documentary Fund (2004-2006), which provided seed grants for documentary features, including such documentaries as Marco Williams’ BANISHED; Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern’s The Trials of Darryl Hunt; Lourdes Portillo’s Al Más Allá, Jay Rosenblatt’s The Darkness of Day, and Sam Green’s Utopia in Four Movements and The Universal Language. Concurrent with IFP, Mr. Tabbot served as the U.S. Consultant for the Locarno International Film Festival for the 2006-2009 editions under Artistic Director Frédéric Maire and has served on program review panels for Doc Society’s Good Pitch, PBS’ P.O.V. series, and Co-Pro, The Israel Documentary Screen Market. He served as a writer, editor and film programmer for first two years of the Tribeca Film Festival (2002-2003) and a contributing writer for the Miami International Film Festival and has also served on juries for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, Ashland Film Festival, and as a “Ringleader” at the True/False Film Festival. He has a BS in Communications from Northwestern University and an MA in Cinema Studies from New York University.
Carmen L. Vicencio
Carmen is in charge of American Documentary's 26-episode, non-fiction series, America ReFramed. Discovering filmmaking in college, Carmen has built a career in Asia and New York as Assistant Director, Post Production Supervisor, Line Producer, Producer and Director of award-winning short and long-form content for film, TV and digital media. Acclaim for the ReFramed series includes a duPont Award and multiple Emmy nominations. Carmen is a member of the Producers Guild of America, and is actively engaged in its Diversity and Women’s Impact Network Committees.
Drew Xanthopoulos - Documentary Filmmaker
Drew Xanthopoulos is the director and cinematographer of the feature documentary, The Sensitives (World Premiere, Tribeca 2017) which was awarded a Special Jury Mention for the Cinematic Vision Award at the Camden International Film Festival. As a cinematographer, he’s most recently DP'ed Travis Mathews’ narrative feature Discreet (Berlinale, 2017), Kyle Henry’s Rogers Park (Chicago IFF, 2017) and has contributed footage to Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time. Drew freelances as a narrative, documentary, and commercial director/cinematographer whose projects have premiered at Sundance, SXSW, Edinburgh International Film Festival, and AFI Docs, among others.