“Proof of concept” films are the latest norm for filmmakers to pitch their ideas to big studios. Not many make the final cut to becoming a full-length feature film. And many of those which do, rarely see the silver screen. It’s not that the film has run out of ideas; it means the film is indefinitely stuck in development without moving into production. The industry jargon for this is termed “development hell”.
The need of finance
To take a unique idea and turn it into something big, you need adequate financing which is possible only if you have the backing of a studio. Newcomers see proof of concept films as a means of visibility in the industry. Actors, directors, and writers find it easier to participate in such short films because of the minimal cost involved. A lot of times, studios stick to tried and tested films that give them lucrative profits at the end of their run. These formulaic films can be a part of a larger franchise or a standalone concept which the studio deems rewarding. Even if the idea behind a proof of concept film is new and unique, many studios may not bid for it.
Video credits – Example of a proof of concept film, “Sundays” by Mischa Rozema
Waiting for the right team
Sometimes, the studio may have a particular crew in mind for making the film. They will put the film on hold until the appropriate team is hired which could take months or years. It is interesting to note that big studios refrain from hiring newcomers because of their lack of exposure. Therefore, negotiating a deal with the short film writer or director or even actor can take time. There are also films like “Pixels”, based on Patrick Jean’s video-game themed short film “Pixels”, which turn out to be box office disasters. Therefore, studios proceed with caution when dealing with proof of concept films. Even management changes in the studio can put a film in development hell.
Initially, when a proof of concept film is greenlit by a studio there is a lot of excitement and frenzy around it. As time goes on without any progress, interest in the film dwindles. In that time, there may be another film with a similar concept releasing which can mark the end of the film altogether.
But it isn’t something to be disheartened about. Many films came to be as a result of “proof of concept”. Critically and commercially acclaimed films among these include Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, 300, Sin City, Lights Out, and District 9.