Big Sky Doc. Film Festival Draws Crowds, Boosts Economy - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Big Sky Doc. Film Festival Draws Crowds, Boosts Economy

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MISSOULA -

It's day three of the 11th Annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula.

Organizers said this year's attendance numbers are already on track to become the highest in the festival's history.

They said last year, the festival drew about $3 million into the Missoula economy.

The festival includes more than 130 films that will be played through this weekend, bringing in visitors from all over the world.

"We're seeing a definite uptick in this year's numbers already," said Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Director Nick Davis.

Davis said this year, festival organizers launched a more robust marketing campaign, which drew more than 1,000 documentary submissions from all over the word.

"One of the beauties of the festival is the diversity that you can bring into one location," Davis said.

He said over the past 11 years, the festival has gained popularity, boosting sponsorships and donations, which included a grant from the Montana Office of Tourism this year.

"This was really just kind of a 'back of the bar napkin' kind of idea at the beginning," he said.

This year's festival theme was "humor," but the focus of the documentaries range from Alzheimer's to Olympic boxing in India.

Jan Krawitz, a filmmaker from California, said she submitted her film "Perfect Strangers" to the Big Sky festival, hoping to gain insight from other filmmakers and a new audience.

"It feels to me like I get to know and understand my film a little bit more every time I show it with different audiences," Krawitz said.

Local filmgoers said they've noticed the Big Sky festival has drawn more attention from the Missoula community over the past several years.

Beth Frazee, a Missoula resident, added, "It brings a little bit of kind of the big city to Missoula and there's just such a wide variety of topics and interesting things you can learn about."

Davis said the documentary genre has recently gained more attention and popularity, boosting attendance at the festival.

"Come down, see a film or two, check it out, and you might be surprised by what you find," he said.

In 2012, the festival drew an audience of about 20,000 people.

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival runs through this Saturday, and films are played at the Wilma and Crystal Theaters and the Top Hat.

Click here for a complete schedule.

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