So you have an idea. The idea. The idea that you feel like will jump start your career as a filmmaker. But all of a sudden you’re faced with the question “How will this get made?” Films and television pilots require a lot of resources and a lot of money to execute. So how do you obtain these resources from potential producers and investors?

A growing technique is the proof of concept. What is a proof of concept film and how is it used in the industry? Let’s explore what a proof of concept is and what the goal of any proof of concept should be when adapting it from a larger project concept. 

What is a Proof of Concept Film in Cinema?

First, let’s define proof of concept

Before we dive into some iconic proof of concept examples that became larger productions, let’s take a look at the proof of concept definition to understand the basics of the technique. 

PROOF OF CONCEPT DEFINITION

What is a proof of concept film?

A proof of concept is a smaller sample of what an eventual (often larger) project might look like. In film and television, a proof of concept is a short film composed of scenes that best represent the concept, story, tone and themes of a potential feature film or television series. A proof of concept not only demonstrates the potential of a feature film or television series, but also the skill and vision of a director and/or screenwriter. 

What is a proof of concept film used for?

  • Showcasing the strengths of a larger story to producers
  • Workshopping a concept through execution
  • Demonstrating your skills as a director and/or screenwriter

Proof of Concept Meaning in Filmmaking

What is a proof of concept film used for?

A great proof of concept short film should be executed with a few things in mind. These goals will not only benefit the end product and increase your chances of getting eyes on the project, but they will also encourage you to grow as a filmmaker.

Showcasing the strengths of a story to producers

First and most obvious goal of a proof of concept is to create something tangible to show to potential producers and investors. People with resources and money are much more likely to invest in your product if they are able to see a proof of concept rather than simply a screenplay or treatment. 

A proof of concept gives you more control as to choosing and showcasing the major strengths of your project to producers.

Check out this video further explaining the importance of a proof of concept short film for aspiring filmmakers.

Why You Need A Proof Of Concept Short Film  •  Jesse Harris

Workshopping a concept through execution

The second goal of a proof of concept is to provide a space where you can further workshop the concept of your story. If you’ve taken any script into production, you will know that the story and the edits do not end on the page. 

Working on a proof of concept will help you identify more problems in your project’s story, characters, tone, or themes before potentially taking on the entire feature. 

This is also excellent practice to grow as a filmmaker. You will find out what works, what doesn’t work, and what mistakes you made when initially creating and writing this idea.

Demonstrating your skills as a director and/or screenwriter

Finally, a proof of concept will not only showcase the strengths of your story, but also your skills as a director and screenwriter. Producers and investors may not see the potential in the story you pitched, but they may see the potential in you as a filmmaker and how you executed.

Proof of concepts are great to build your reel as well.

Beyond the benefit of selling yourself as a filmmaker, a proof of concept is also a playground to find your voice and style. The qualities of your filmmaking that make you unique and what you enjoy most about the process.

What is a Proof of Concept in Film and Television?

Examples of proof of concepts

Now that you understand the benefits and goals of a proof of concept short film, let’s take a look at some examples of proof of concept shorts that have gone on to become successful feature films.

Whiplash by Damien Chazelle

One of the most iconic stories of the proof of concept short film is undoubtedly how Whiplash the short became Whiplash the feature film

Damien Chazelle had originally written Whiplash the feature film before even considering it as a short film. However, the writer director struggled to get funding to make the feature.

So he decided to shoot a proof of concept short film. 

Whiplash short film

The Customer is Always Right by Robert Rodriquez

Speaking of unique visual style, Robert Rodriguez found the proof of concept short film a useful tool when pursuing the creation of Sin City. Sin City, like 300, was also an adaptation of a Frank Miller comic. 

To convince Miller to let him adapt the comic into a film, Rodriquez created The Customer is Always Right. Once the short film granted him the green light, it also found its way into the final feature film as the opening scene. 

The Customer is Always Right  •  Sin City

As you can see, there are many success stories to the proof of concept short film. However, it’s important not to measure the success of a proof of concept solely on whether or not it gains you funding for your film.

While that is the ultimate goal, creating a proof of concept is an important creative exercise to grow as a filmmaker. Screenwriting is one aspect of the filmmaking process. When you create a proof of concept, you are able to grow in all areas of filmmaking, especially as a director.

It will also help you hone in on the aspects of the filmmaking process that you love and what type of stories you love to tell.  

Up Next

How ‘Whiplash’ Was Funded

As we mentioned in the article, one of the most iconic proof of concept success stories is that of Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. Check out out next article where we dive a bit deeper into how Whiplash the short film became Whiplash the feature film. 

Up Next: The Origins of ‘Whiplash’ →
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