Filmmaking / Directing : Proof of Concept Films by Martin Reese

Martin Reese

Proof of Concept Films

There has been a lot of buzz recently about shorts being done as proof of concept films and being picked by big studios. Can someone weigh in on how realistic this is? It seems more like trying to hit the lottery with so many shorts getting made and so few getting picked up. I do note that the proof of concept films that have been picked have high production values. Doesn't seem like a realistic avenue for newer flimmakers. Love to get feedback on this.

Regina Lee

Not sure how to respond/help here... I think your characterization is right. It happens, but it's infrequent. Then again, many things are infrequent with tough odds. I think the odds of hitting the lottery are worse. :-) And playing the lottery is not at all strategic because it's random, right? Whereas, you can at least try to be strategic when making a short film. http://deadline.com/2015/03/sundays-viral-short-film-warner-bros-mischa-...

Martin Reese

Thanks, Regina Lee. Your comment was very helpful. The way I see is if you are doing a short it is best to have a strategy for it. Thanks for the article link.

Phillip Bastien

I've actually been doing some research into proof of concept films lately and I've noticed that the reason many of them have high production values is that their directors mostly seem to be former VFX guys and do the effects themselves.

Martin Reese

I note that to Phillip. You definitely have to try to network to put together a good team if you want to get noticed.

Regina Lee

Yes, agree w/ Phillip, most of the short films that have gotten picked up for feature-length development of late seem to have been made by VFX types who have the resources to produce them. Off the top of my head, 2 that fall outside the lines - GOWANUS, BROOKLYN (short predecessor of HALF NELSON) and FISHING WITHOUT NETS (same title). If you asked the filmmakers, I'm not sure that they would characterize their shorts as having been made expressly as "proof of concept," but it's true that the shorts helped them gain credibility/fans and helped them get their feature versions made.

Phillip Bastien

Also an ancient example but semi pertaining to this: Paul Thomas Anderson's Sidney/Hard Eight was precedented by a short film called "Coffee, and Cigarettes"

Rick Mowat

It's true that occasionally a short gets picked up and made into a feature based on the short as per Napolean Dynamite. More often though if the short is well received the usual question is: "what else do you have?" meaning do you have feature scripts ready to show.

Martin Reese

Great info. I always wondered about that.

Harry Johnquest

Recently I wrote a movie short screenplay. I wrote it as a cheap-easy production in order to shoot it and so have a serious calling card.

Rick Mowat

That's great Harry. Is it a 2K DCP file yet? Probably want to do that as it's quickly becoming the default screening format. This will cost you but it's worth it. Two bits of advice - first try and get into as many quality festivals as possible. Palm Springs of course and there are about a dozen others that will do you some good. In the meantime try and complete a feature screenplay based on the short (if you haven't already) and or write something completely different, feature length. And good luck!!

Royce Allen Dudley

Its a refelction of just how much material is out there and how dumbed down creative thought is. It used to be people could see through a concept on paper, now they have to see the film before its made. Then, they cannot usually see through the potential difference between a concept piece and a funded film, which makes the POC or pitch trailer more questionable. Short films used to be short films... complete. Now they often reference a "feature version"... proving my concept people are long on tech and web presence and short on creativity and storytelling.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

I'd suggest that if you're going to try a proof of concept short, you get a feature length script ready first. What I'm saying is that if you have a high concept idea which is such a 'grabber', that you happen to get a lot of notice with the short, you want to be ready.

Harry Johnquest

The writing goes well. Short script is ready to shop around, a low budget drama. Full feature treatment/outline is rounding out -- nice and edgy. Learning curves and steep grade ahead for me in Lightworks, www.lwks.com to produce a short. To shop the short I'm looking ahead to DIY 2K DCP, www.dcpbuilder.com

Stefano Nurra

I would say that, as always, there's no clear way on how to strike a deal for making your first feature. Totally agree with Royce that it's quite sad and shows how dumbed down is the creative industry. I would say if you have an idea for a feature yes, you could make a sort-of short version but always remember that the short should be able to firmly stand on his own legs. In general, you should be able to show that you have a very strong vision and great ability both as screenwriter and director. I think that the main reson for saying that the short leads to a feature it's because it could potentially give you exposure at festivals where it's going to be seen by people that matters but hey, I would say just do what you like and don't fall victim of thinking that this is gonna lead into that and then into that, exc...

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