Do you need to make a proof of concept?

Bri Castellini
5 min readFeb 21, 2024

Defined for the purpose of this post as a short piece of test material (a sizzle reel, trailer, or scene/short) made to entice funders, collaborators, and buyers of the premise/concept you truly want to create, there’s a lot of opinions about whether or not the time and expense is worth it. So I’m going to throw my hat in the ring, as a script audit consultant and crowdfunding expert as well as a multi-time-produced indie filmmaker myself.

Yes, make one, if… you want to make a project bigger than your current resources can support

Whether you want to make a feature film, a TV pilot, or a full web series season, it might be a good idea to start small in order to showcase your ability to deliver on a big promise by starting off showing a smaller one.

Creating some kind of visualization to showcase your final concept is a much easier persuasion check (DND reference) when asking for money and support. Anyone can say they have a great idea… not everyone can show off their ability to accomplish it. In this way, a proof of concept can substantially set you apart.

No, don’t make one, if… you want to submit to festivals

A proof of concept by definition rarely has a concrete ending, which makes it hard for festivals to program it next to pieces with a beginning, middle, and end.

If you can make a standalone short film or web series that you can enter as an end to itself into festivals and contests, that’s always going to be preferable. As I said, you can’t really submit a sizzle reel or trailer or out of context scene to rack up awards and accolades, which means your proof of concept’s ONLY purpose is to convince funders and collaborators to join the team.

Instead of focusing on a proof of concept, if festivals are what you’re after, focus on a first project instead. It may bear resemblance to your ideal longer-form piece, but if it cannot stand on its own two feet detached of the context of the longer-form project and a pitch deck or crowdfunding campaign, it’s unlikely to find many opportunities on a festival run.

Yes, make one, if… you’re making something distinct and unique in genre/tone from your existing portfolio

If you’re known for your short form comedy sketches and then you turn around and ask for support in making a drama or horror film, it might be worth doing a little bit of extra work to convince us that you can make something off-brand just as successfully as your current content.

In fact, if you’re usually a dramatic or genre filmmaker who’s looking to expand into comedy, it’s even more valuable to have some kind of proof of concept. It’s more of a leap for a more dramatic artist to make us laugh than it is for a comic artist to make us think, because in many ways laughter is the hardest thing to truly sell.

From Better With You and Rosalie… I never need to make a bisexual lighting proof of concept again!

No, don’t make one, if… the eventual completed project is short form

If you’re looking to fundraise for a short form project, like a short film or a digital miniseries (fewer than 10 episode web series with episodes under 6 minutes in runtime), there’s really no point in creating a proof of concept. At that point, the proof of concept will likely be half the thing you need to make anyways, so you may as well just make the whole thing.

At the point at which your proof of concept for a short film is close to the quality of the eventual short film, it’s better to just save your favors and money for cast and crew for the final project. There’s a lower barrier to entry for asking for funds for a short-form project, and simply making an excellent, thoughtful pitch video is plenty proof of your abilities.

Need help with making a pitch video? Check out my Complete Crowdfunding Template Pack, which comes with a pitch video starter script!

Yes, make one, if… you’re making something more ambitious from your existing portfolio

This, in my opinion, is the most important reason to make some kind of proof of concept prior to the actual fundraising or pre-production of the ultimate project. Ambition is so important to making progress in your filmmaking career, and it can also be the thing that stops it in its tracks if you aren’t thoughtful about how to approach it.

If you’re a sketch comedian or have only made single-location short films, but tell me you’re crowdfunding for a SFX-heavy piece… that’s going to be an upwards battle without proof you can follow through. No combination of persuasive words and cool ideas will make you magically able to film a realistic-looking spaceship battle or produce a feature-length project after only making 4 minute shorts. You need to prove you have the chops to pull off whatever it is you’ve never done before.

The ultimate show, don’t tell; because telling is often not enough to raise the budget you need.

Bri Castellini is an independent filmmaker, an aspiring romance author, and, regrettably, a podcaster. She’s known for the 2017 short film Ace and Anxious (writer/director, 160k+ views on YouTube) and for her podcasts Burn, Noticed and Breaking Out of Breaking In, covering the USA television show Burn Notice and practical filmmaking advice, respectively. She can lick her elbow (not clickbait). Full work history and ways to hire her as a consultant can be found on her website



Bri Castellini

Freelance indie film and crowdfunding consultant. Writer of mystery TV and romance novels. Human bulldozer.