Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

For ten days each February, filmmakers and doc film enthusiasts from around the world gather in Missoula for the chance to see some of the more than 150 films that make up the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (BSDFF).

When not watching films, attendees often participate in DocShop, a week-long program featuring panels, workshops, and presentations for students and media makers.

We’re honored to team up with BSDFF each year to co-host DocShop panels that connect our students and community members with industry experts. Check out our ongoing collaboration with DocShop below.

2020: Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Presents “Paradise Without People”

For the 17th annual BSDFF DocShop, the Montana Media Lab hosted TIME Studios filmmaker Francesca Trianni for a conversation about her film Paradise Without People.

2019: Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Filmmakers Forum

For the 16th annual BSDFF DocShop, the Montana Media Lab co-hosted multiple panels with experts from across the country. From “Audio to Visual: Taking Podcasts to the Screen” to “The Art of Sound in Documentaries,” filmmakers learned from the best in the industry.

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs at Big Sky High School

In the fall of 2019, the Montana Media Lab teamed up with Big Sky High School students and PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs to tell video stories about everything from climate change to teen pregnancy.

University of Montana School of Journalism students helped teach story development, interviewing, filming and script writing.

Interested in having the Montana Media Lab work with your school on a storytelling project? Get in touch!

The Flagship Program: Conversations with a NASA Commander

Earthrise (above) courtesy of NASA

In 2018, the Montana Media Lab joined up with Missoula’s Flagship Program to produce an out-of-this-world story.

Local middle and high school students interviewed NASA Apollo 8 Commander Frank Borman as part of the “Lights on Afterschool” program. Apollo 8 launched in 1968 and was the first successful manned mission to orbit the moon and return to earth. The mission became famous for the stunning “Earthrise” photo captured by one of the crew.

The Flagship Program provides out of school opportunities for K-12 students in Missoula County Public Schools.

A Conversation with Commander Frank Borman

Behind the Scenes of our Intergalactic Interview

StoryCorps’ One Small Step Project

It’s no secret that politics in the U.S. has become increasingly polarized in recent years. We see it in our social media feeds; we read it in the news; we hear it in conversations with our colleagues and neighbors. For many of us, it’s as if party lines have turned into walls we can’t see over or around.

In December 2019, the Montana Media Lab teamed up with StoryCorps’ One Small Step project to help bridge the political divide here in Montana. We invited Montanas with opposing political views to sit down with each other for a 40-minute, recorded conversation.

The goal? To get beyond political stereotypes and recognize our shared humanity. To stop debating and start listening. To realize, at the end of the day, that we might have more in common than we think.

The following One Small Step conversations were recorded in Missoula, Mont. in December 2019.

“I voted for Trump, and I’m not ashamed of that.” — Jason Ellsworth

Jason Ellsworth (Republican State Senator representing Montana’s Bitterroot Valley) and Susie Orr (executive board member for the Missoula County Democrats) discuss how they came to hold their current political views and share their hopes and fears for the future. Listen here.

“I’m most fearful that we’re losing the ability to have compassion for each other.” — Rachel Gooen

Lisa Velk-Buseman, a fiscally-conservative, fourth-generation Montana, says Missoula has changed dramatically over the years, and not always for the better. Rachel Gooen, a Montana transplant with a social justice background, sees those changes differently. Listen here.

“We both really want to look at where the problems are… and try to do something about it to get to a better place.” — Ethan Holmes

Jessica Mayrer, LGBTQ community member and self-described liberal, Missoula liberal and member of the LGBTQ community and Libertarian Ethan Holmes discuss the environment, the 2020 elections and the concept of “anarcho-altruism.” Listen here.

“[Republicans] are not all the same, and I’d like people to know that… and I assume the same for the left.” — Jack Meyer

College Republicans Vice-President Jack Meyer and self-described liberal Ashli Jaschke (both UM students) talk about everything from prison reform to political stereotypes. Listen here.

“I used to think, ‘You can’t be a Christian and a Democrat,’ but I have changed.” — Rebecca Miller

Bigfork resident Rebecca Miller and University of Montana student Cassidy Martinez talk about religion, sexuality and how their political views have evolved over the years. Listen here.

Box Elder High School Participates in NPR Student Podcast Challenge

Last spring, students from Box Elder High School on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation, teamed up with the Montana Media Lab on a podcast episode about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) to enter in NPR’s Student Podcast Challenge.

According to the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, four out of five Native American women are affected by violence in their lifetime. The Box Elder students highlighted the effect MMIW has had on their community and indigenous communities as a whole.

This year, the Montana Media Lab is teaming up again with Box Elder High School to create a podcast episode focusing on meth addiction on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation. 

Listen to the first episode of Box Elder High School’s “Fight Like a Bear” podcast below and check out photos from their recent audio training field trip to the Montana Media Lab.

Box Elder’s “Fight Like a Bear” Podcast, Episode 1

Box Elder Students Visit the Montana Media Lab for Audio Training

The Montana Media Lab is an outstanding learning facility. The professional staff and students at the media lab trained our podcasting team on the finer points of interviewing, production and editing student driven podcasts. This excellent training was well worth the trip to the University of Montana campus.

Jay Eagleman
Cree/Cultural Awareness Teacher | Box Elder Public School