American West

Five projects focusing on the American West were selected to enter the IF/Then pitch competition at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival on February 22, 2018.

The winner was selected by a professional jury consisting of:

Amy Hobby, Executive Director of Tribeca Film Institute
Billy Luther, Independent Filmmaker
Kathleen McLaughlin, Journalist for The Guardian
Gita Saedi-Kiely, University of Montana School of Journalism
Pam Torno, Series Producer for Indie Lens Story Cast


The Jury chose "After the Fire" by Derek Knowles and Spencer Seibert as the competition winner and also chose "Neqeniighta" to receive mentorship and free post production services from World of Wonder Productions in Los Angeles. These winners were selected from the following five projects:

Directors: Derek Knowles and Spencer Seibert– California.

Logline: An intimate chronicle of Sonoma Valley and several of its residents both during and after the recent historic Northern California wildfires.

  • Carnival

Director: April Wright, Producer: John Ansotegui– Montana and Wyoming.

Logline: The formation of an unlikely family when 66 year old Riley Cooke and his wife Vickie start up a new carnival in the northwest.

  • Forest of Big Fingers

Director: Ryan Glenn, Producer: Sarah Haber– Arizona.

Logline: A documentary about the keystone species, friendly neighbor, and cultural icon; the Saguaro cactus. How did this one variety of cactus, native to only the Sonoran Desert, become the synonymous symbol of the American West? 

  • Hoodie

Director: Johnny Symons, Associate Producer: Daniel Chein – California.

Logline: A coming of age story about an African-American teenager as witnessed by his white gay filmmaker father. 

Director: Alexandra Stergiou, Producer: Gina Pollack– Alaska.

Logline: On a remote island in the Bering Sea, a teenaged whaler must battle mankind and mother nature to feed his family and preserve his way of life. 

For more information, please visit our Big Sky page.

Key Dates:

  • Online registration opens: September 18, 2017
  • Project application deadline: November 3, 2017
  • Notification of project selection: late January, 2018
  • IF/Then pitch competition in Missoula, MT: February 22, 2018


All stories and storytellers coming from the American West. These 13 states include: Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Hawaii.