Bigfork Independent Film Festival spotlights Montana filmmakers and made in Montana films

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Bigfork Independent Film Festival.

Northwestern Montana’s iconic film event, the BIFF has evolved over the years and now attracts filmmakers from across the state and around the world. As it successfully did in 2020, BIFF 2021 will offer moviegoers the choice of watching the films in person at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts or on demand from the comfort of their own homes.

“The most significant changes we’ve seen over the past five years are the increase in audience size and the way we’re getting a lot higher number and quality of movies,” said Founder and Executive Director from BIFF, Steve Shapero. “This year we received 65 submissions from all over Montana and one from Spain that was shot in Montana.”

Shapero points out that while there are many major film festivals in Montana, the BIFF is the only one that focuses exclusively on Montana filmmakers or films made in Montana.

“Our goal from the start has been to provide a venue for filmmakers in Montana to show their work,” Shapero said. “These filmmakers don’t have much of a chance to see their films screened or win prizes at bigger festivals. It’s a highly competitive industry and it’s easy to get discouraged. Being a much smaller competition, the BIFF gives them a platform. Filmmakers really appreciate this.

Independent cinema has changed dramatically over the past 10 years or so, Shapero said. Opportunities to be successful and even to earn money are now possible, which was not the case before.

“Over the past five years, we’ve come to realize that a lot of people who’ve never made movies are making movies now,” Shapero said, noting that filmmaking is more affordable, the equipment is inexpensive and training is available.

“There are YouTube videos on film making,” Shapero said. “There are streaming platforms like If you’re good at it, you can make a living with the distribution models now available.

THIS YEAR, the BIFF is partnering with the new Whitefish-based Winterland Film Festival to coordinate efforts.

“We caught up with Winterland co-founder Anderson Rosenthal, who is planning a giant event with an international focus,” Shapero said. “We clicked. We found that we could continue to do what we were successful – the Montana play – and they could provide us with creative and technical support. This year they helped us with our digital marketing and the expansion of our festival’s social events.

Scheduled for March 17-22, 2022, the Winterland Festival and Technology Summit will be a large-scale, eco-friendly event in Whitefish. The organizers are putting the films together.

Further support for the BIFF is provided by the Montana Film Office.

“We work closely with the office,” Shapero said. “It’s a great financial support, which means the state of Montana is supporting us. They also help us promote ourselves and be successful.

Of the 25 films selected for this year’s festival, including feature films, documentaries, shorts and student films, there are four in particular that Shapero says really stand out.

“’Keeping the barn’ is pure Montana, a great story,” he said. Part of the festival’s PBS block of films, the documentary depicts how Montana’s farm families struggle to maintain their iconic and historic barns.

“’They’re Gone’ is a beautifully made, albeit sad, documentary about the troubling issue of missing and murdered indigenous people,” he said.

“The movie ‘Gossamer Folds’ was produced by Yeardley Smith, who plays the voice of Lisa Simpson in ‘The Simpsons’,” Shapero said. “He’s a Hollywood person and does a lot of LGBTQ movies. The script came to her and she hired first-time director Lisa Donato, who lives half the year in Billings and half in Texas, for the film, which addresses the question of how children learn about prejudice. .

“’Peckinpah Suite’ is a fascinating and emotional film by a Spanish director that documents the story of legendary Hollywood director Sam Peckinpah when he lived at the Murray Hotel in Livingston for five years later in his life,” said Shapero. “His films were considered very violent in his time. He was an energetic, but troubled man, an alcoholic.

While the narration is in Spanish, the interviews are in English and with the subtitles, Shapero said it was easy to watch.

“Considering that Covid shut down much of the country and the film industry last year, it’s important to note that all of these people were making their films. Shapero said.

The fact that BIFF offers both in-person and on-demand opportunities to see the films is a sign of the times.

“Of course, we are going to hybridize once again this year with the BIFF. We will probably be hybrids forever. The industry is changing because of Covid… and so are we. “

Entertainment Editor-in-Chief Carol Marino can be reached at 406-758-4440 or [email protected]


Tickets for BIFF 2021 are now on sale online at They can also be purchased on site during festival hours, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The festival takes place over three days, from October 8 to 10. Face masks will not be required, although precautions are in place. Some films are not suitable for children and are graded on the schedule.

For the full schedule and to purchase tickets, visit

Explore the Selected Film Details page and discover the 25 independent Montana films featured and the two filmmaker workshops. Then go to the Festival Schedule page to see when your favorite films are showing or your workshop is taking place. Purchase a workshop ticket, movie block ticket, day pass, or all access pass. Besides films and workshops, several social events are also scheduled, which are free and open to the public.

The festival kicks off Thursday, October 7 with a launch party at 7 p.m. at Lake Baked / River View Bar in downtown Bigfork. There will be live music and the award-winning musical “Your Musical is Canceled: The Musical,” which was performed in Whitefish during the pandemic, will be shown for free on an outdoor screen. The public is invited.

Montana PBS Block 1 begins at 6:30 pm Friday. Six additional blocks of films will be shown on Saturday and Sunday October 9 and 10. All festival events take place at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts, unless otherwise specified.

Filmmakers workshops. Tickets can be purchased online or on site on Fridays ($ 10 adults / $ 7 seniors).

11:00 a.m. – Local bestselling filmmaker Ridge Mallery will teach attendees how to make money with their film after it’s finished.

3:00 p.m. – Barbara Schiffman, Hollywood Story Analyst and Screenplay Consultant, will explain how to pitch your idea, screenplay or film project to people in the film industry and to financiers.

BIFF on demand

Like last year, BIFF On Demand lets you watch any movie from the comfort of your home, or anywhere, for one price. The online version of the BIFF begins on October 11, the day after the festival ends live.

The BIFF, with the help of the Winterland Film Festival, was able to create a virtual film festival (without the Q&A sessions and social events) using Customers can log into Filmocracy and purchase a Premium Filmocracy subscription for $ 29.99. They can then watch all of the BIFF movies on almost any device. Information and movie trailers are available online at After watching a movie, they can rate it and their rating is used to choose the Audience Award winners. Bonus

Subscribers to Filmocracy, they can also watch films from other film festivals that may be of interest to them. The link to can be found on the site.

The submission period for BIFF 2022 begins on November 1.

BIFF is a 501 (c) (3) registered not-for-profit corporation in the state of Montana.





About Monty S. Maynard

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