Proof of Concept Announces First Class of Filmmakers

Proof of Concept, an accelerator program supporting women, trans and nonbinary filmmakers founded by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, producer Coco Francini and Dr. Stacy L. Smith, has set its inaugural class of filmmakers. 

Proof of Concept was created after Dirty Films partners Blanchett and Francini met Smith at a Kering Women in Motion talk during last year’s Cannes Film Festival. On Monday, the trio reunited to discuss the progress they’ve made in building the new program, which was announced in December 2023 with the mission to support an inaugural class of 8 emerging filmmakers.

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Among the updates shared was that the trio and their all-star selection committee — Chloé Zhao, Emma Corrin, Eva Longoria, Greta Gerwig, Jane Campion, Janicza Bravo, Lily Gladstone and Lilly Wachowski — had made their final selections out of more than 1,200 applications. They also announced that with the support of the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity, the program has been expanded to include 3 filmmakers of documentary projects, further widening the opportunity to affect change across the industry.

“[If] each of those filmmakers turn this into a feature. And let’s say they work with 100. And then those 100 people go on and work on another project that they’ve never worked in that capacity [before],” Smith explained. “In a very short amount of time, you’re amortizing an entire groundswell of people that would never have had the opportunity and it started with 11. Exponentially, that’s how you create change.”

During the festival, Variety also spoke to Gladstone, who explained why she signed on to work with Blanchett (“the queen of all queens”), Francini and Smith on the program.

“Organizations and initiatives like this have paved the way for artists that we may not have gotten to a chance to see otherwise or see highlighted. Because women know you’ve got to hustle a little harder. You have to do it better,” Gladstone said. “It’s a good continuation of us uplifting each other, because who else is going to do it?”

The participants will receive $50,000 to support the creation of a short film that will serve as “proof of concept” for a larger scale project. In addition to the funding, the participants will be mentored by industry experts and their films will be screened at a showcase. More information about the program and its first class of filmmakers can be found on Proof of Concept’s website.

The 8 narrative recipients are:

Courtney E. Hoffman “Sisters of Scott County”
When a foreclosure notice threatens their family farm, Cherry Mary and her redheaded sisters will have to pull off the biggest moonshine heist in history to save it. Inspired by 1970s films like “Smokey and the Bandit,” this action-packed female trucker movie is about family, legacy and destiny.

Ellie Foumbi “Raw Sun” 
An African nanny’s last day with the Texan family she’s been living with for over a decade is trickier than expected.

Gabriela Garcia Medina “SKRRRT!”
A teen girl with muscular dystrophy must rally a group of frenemies to pull off an impossible heist to save their Miami neighborhood from a predatory real estate tycoon.

Laura Moss “Over and Over”
In an age of climate anxiety, a young historian starts to suspect they may be humanity’s savior after experiencing recurring nightmares and sudden hallucinations. A film about the beginnings that come from endings, what things can be built and imagined, even in harrowing times.

Mahnoor Euceph “Brown Girl”
In 2007, seventh grader, Sara, desperately wants to be part of the popular trio that rules her affluent Palos Verdes middle school. When her birthday wish goes awry and she wakes up white instead of Pakistani, Sara must decide if her newfound privilege is worth losing her true identity.

Nate Gualtieri “Queerbait”
A precocious college student is taken under the wing of an accomplished professor only to realize his mentorship comes with an ulterior sexual motive.

Nicole Taylor-Roberts “Ella”
During a recording session, Ella Fitzgerald is transported back to her tumultuous adolescence by the haunting notes of a Gershwin song, revealing the life-altering bet that launched her into stardom and her pursuit to be loved.

Rebecca Halfon “HAGS”
When the feuding co-stars of a hit TV show find themselves flung back in time to the Salem Witch Trials, rewriting history is the only way they’ll survive.

The 3 nonfiction recipients are:

Barbara Jean Hall “Faithful Defenders”
The film reclaims the “good news” about Christianity and reproductive rights.

Gilly Barnes “The Search for Magic”
Follows celebrated magician Michael Carbonaro on a quest to recapture his sense of wonder; by exploring the physics and metaphysics of the illusions he performs.

Yoo Lee “A Man Who Takes Pictures of Flowers”
One afternoon, Jung Myung Kim, a photographer who dedicated over 40 years to capturing wildflowers in Korea, shares his story of pursuing his passion for photographing flowers, while discovering true happiness in return, even as he battles cancer.

First row (L to R): Barbara Jean Hall, Courtney Hoffman, Ellie Foumbi, Gabriela Garcia Medina, Gilly Barnes and Laura Moss<br>Second row (L to R): Mahnoor Euceph, Nate Gualtieri, Nicole Taylor-Roberts, Rebecca Halfon and Yoo Lee
First row (L to R): Barbara Jean Hall, Courtney Hoffman, Ellie Foumbi, Gabriela Garcia Medina, Gilly Barnes and Laura Moss
Second row (L to R): Mahnoor Euceph, Nate Gualtieri, Nicole Taylor-Roberts, Rebecca Halfon and Yoo Lee

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