American Cinematheque’s PROOF: Proof-of-Concept Film Festival Debuts October 20



The American Cinematheque announced the lineup of official selections and events for the debut of PROOF: Proof of Concept Film Festival, taking place October 20-22. The innovative new film festival will present a dozen thematically curated programs featuring 42 official selections, filmmaking labs and panels – all taking place at the Culver Theater (9500 Culver Blvd.). PROOF will be one of the first-ever film festivals dedicated solely to the presentation of proof-of-concept short films, looking to be expanded into feature-length productions or series.

The festival, programmed and produced by the non-profit film arts organization, will look to spotlight a slate of innovative films from up-and-coming filmmakers, as well as panel conversations on the art and business of filmmaking, the ultimate goal being to help filmmakers make inroads to the industry with access to mentorship workshops, professional development opportunities and more.

American Cinematheque Film Programmer and Proof Film Festival Founder, Imani Davis, said, “Short films are often the way we are introduced to new talent and voices. Many times, filmmakers have a further vision to expand the world they have created in the short into a feature film or even an episodic series. Through this film festival is specifically for those types of films and goals, the American Cinematheque hopes to create an effective platform for that work, as well as foster connections with filmmakers that will lead connections to further their vision, and even help build industry relationships that will serve as the foundation of their career.”

Curated themes among the short film programs include the Opening Night presentation of “Limitless”, which will include Stephanie Kaznocha’s Confessions about two nuns inspired to embark on an adventure following the death of a friend. Alex Cohen’s Crack Shot follows a junior squash ex-champion who is offered a large sum to train an enigmatic teenager. André Cherkassky Pilli’s They Come from the Sky focuses on two sisters who being hunted by mysterious creatures. Sarah Moshman’s Unbound is inspired by the true story of a woman who was chosen for a mission to space while pregnant.

Additional programming themes include “Discovery”, “Independence”, “Age of Change”, “An Examination of Learning”, “Bump in the Night”, “Daring”, “Chicago Filmmakers”, “Not As They Seem”, “Fish Out Of Water”, and a special out-of-competition program with Gunpowder and Sky/Alter and Dust: “Late Night Sci-Fi and Horror Shorts”.

Four juried awards will be presented at the festival’s end, along with one audience choice award, with the jury consisting not only of filmmakers, but also creative executives, managers, agents and more. Industry figures currently on board to participate as jurors include Kyle Bowles (Creative Executive, Macro), Kristina Cuello (Coordinator, Curate), Kate Hagen (Senior Vice President, The Black List), Priyanka Kapoor (Creative Executive, Orion Pictures), Sarah Minnie (Head of Artist Development and Production, OTV), Yasmin Felice Morris (Manager, Rain Management Group) and Kayla Stamps (Creative Executive, Hartbeat).

The Black List will provide the winning filmmakers with free script hosting on their website, with ShotDeck to provide free yearlong subscriptions to their services, and a $60K camera package will go to the grand jury award winner, courtesy of Panavision, as they look to flesh out a larger project from their proof-of-concept.

The 2023 Proof Film Festival Official Selections:





Director: Stephanie Kaznocha

Country: USA; Running Time: 11 Minutes

After the death of a friend, two nuns in their golden years contemplate what their future holds. One confession leads to another and before they know it, they’re embarking on an adventure.


Crack Shot

Director: Alex Cohen

Country: USA; Running Time: 15 Minutes

Justin Huang is a junior squash ex-champion who now uses his skills to train children. But when a wealthy stranger offers a large sum to train with his enigmatic teenage son, he must decide whether to release his repressed demons.


They Come from the Sky

Director: André Cherkassky Pilli

Country: USA; Running Time: 7 Minutes

When two sisters are hunted by mysterious creatures, they find themselves in a race against time as one of them falls ill. After one of them tragically dies, a surprising discovery about their true identities comes to light.



Director: Sarah Moshman

Country: USA; Running Time: 10 Minutes

Inspired by the true story of the 1st Mother in Space in 1984. Weeks before giving birth to her first child, Dr. Anna Fisher is chosen for a mission to space. Although the decision to go is easy, Anna is faced with the difficult intersection of motherhood and ambition on the way to her dream.





Cowboy, Choker, Harness & Heart

Directors: Nicolas Blanco and Julia Ponce Diaz

Country: USA; Running Time: 8 Minutes

A bathroom stall hookup gets complicated when some unexpected guests arrive.


For the Moon

Director: Nile Price

Country: USA; Running Time: 9 Minutes

A coming-of-age narrative based on the true story of Ronald McNair, the 2nd African American to go to space following his stand against segregation in an all-white Library.



Director: Gabriela Ortega

Country: USA; Running Time: 14 Minutes

When her grandmother dies, a Dominican flamenco dancer experiences the stages of grief through a visit from her female ancestors.


Little Hollywood                                                                    World Premiere

Director: Ed McCulloch

Writers: Lane Bender and Benjamin Thevenin

Country: USA; Running Time: 6 Minutes

An aimless art student and their prickly grandma embark on a comedy of errors as they wrestle with their strained relationship and the upkeep of an unruly movie museum full of cowboy nostalgia.



Director: Dakota Daulby

Country: USA; Running Time: 12 Minutes

In a world where vampires coexist with society, Vance is a captivating love story that follows an ordinary vampire’s transformative journey when he encounters a spirited human, sparking a profound exploration of life’s true meaning.





Café Racer

Director: Harrison Houde

Countries: Canada/USA; Running Time: 15 Minutes

A Japanese Canadian teenager wishes to stay connected to her father by pushing the limits of street racing, despite her mother begging her to quit.


Heritage Day

Director: Lara Everly

Country: USA; Running Time: 19 Minutes

Eight-year-old Evie becomes obsessed with playing Holocaust after dressing up as her estranged grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, for Heritage Day at school.


Suzie (& Jenny)                                                                     World Premiere

Director: Marie Rouhban

Countries: USA/France; Running Time: 8 Minutes

As the planet reaches an alarming state in terms of global warming, a 60-year-old woman decides to take action.





Four Chairs

Directors: Ester Song Kim and Nika Burnett

Country: USA; Running Time: 9 Minutes

The morning after a new love affair, a woman reflects on her past relationships.


Pickled Herring

Director: Milana Vayntrub

Country: USA; Running Time: 17 Minutes

After an embarrassing accident shatters Irina’s hip, her ridiculous, old world, father visits, committed to fixing everything, except their relationship.


The First 30 Days

Director: Skylar Rochon

Country: USA; Running Time: 8 Minutes

3 black girls fresh to NYC go to a pre-game where the typical party conversation takes a turn.


The Jennifer Meyers Story

Director: Caroline Symons

Country: USA; Running Time: 12 Minutes

A mock true-crime episode covers the disappearance of a fictional teenager, but the reenactments are performed with mini-models. But as we learn more about the woman operating the mini-models, we also learn about the danger lurking in her one-bedroom apartment.





Blue Boy

Director: Tyler Riggs

Country: USA; Running Time: 19 Minutes

Insecure New Jersey bodybuilder, Joey Rossi aka Joey Muscles, starts doing steroids in a last-ditch effort to go pro.



Director: Lauren Minnerath

Country: USA; Running Time: 12 Minutes

At a high school talent show, 17-year-old Clare tries to confront her teacher over a private matter, leading to unexpected consequences.


Marcy Learns Something New

Director: Julia Kennelly

Country: USA; Running Time: 16 Minutes

A widow (Rachel Dratch) takes a dominatrix class.






Director: Ira Storozhenko

Country: USA; Running Time: 15 Minutes

A transgender teenager battles prejudice and her own self-doubt to audition for a female lead in her high school’s play.


Look Back at It

Director: Felicia Pride

Country: USA; Running Time: 12 Minutes

A forty-something single mother gets her groove back with a little assistance from her teenage daughter.


The Sheriff of Nottingham Meets Robin Hood                  World Premiere

Director: Omar Lopex

Countries: USA/Mexico; Running Time: 1 Minute

A lonely Border Patrol agent seeks purpose south of the border, and a fat Mexican boy dreams of blonde women.



The Universe and You

Director: Brendan Mitchell

Country: USA; Running Time: 13 Minutes

The host of a late-night cable access show takes a call from a viewer that could have dangerous consequences.


Trash Cats

Director: Maria Norris Scaffido

Country: USA; Running Time: 4 Minutes

Fang Dangler is tasked with making breakfast for his friends the morning after a bender.




It’s Not Real

Director: Tina Carbone

Country: USA; Running Time: 8 Minutes

A woman tries to convince herself that the strange occurrences in the 100-year-old apartment she just moved into aren’t actually happening.



Director: Jack Warren

Country: USA; Running Time: 5 Minutes

Gender dysphoria gives way to terrifying metamorphosis when a lonely partygoer discovers that their skin is turning to paper.


Silhouette                                                                              World Premiere

Director: Ana Liza Muravina

Country: USA; Running Time: 9 Minutes

Tess and Emmett are in love, but when she gets a promotion, the darkness hiding inside Emmett is revealed.


Skin & Bone

Director: Eli Powers

Country: USA; Running Time: 17 Minutes

After taking a job on a farm run by a reclusive woman, a drifter begins suffering from visions of men trapped inside the bodies of animals.


Skin Deep

Director: Abby Alleyne Brooke

Country: USA; Running Time: 13 Minutes

On the last night of summer in a sleepy seaside town, an insecure young woman finally reveals to her crush exactly how she feels — and what she is.


The Loop

Director: Rich Ragsdale

Country: USA; Running Time: 8 Minutes

Mikey’s older brother, Tommy, brings home a mysterious bootleg VHS tape of the scariest movie ever made. But what they expect to be a run-of-the-mill 80s slasher flick turns out to be something much more terrifying.





All In

Director: Dusan Brown

Country: USA; Running Time: 15 Minutes

When an enterprising teen is left with seemingly insurmountable debt by his unscrupulous, late father, he must play poker to either make the money back and save what’s left of his family… or die trying.




Director: Kimberly Michelle Vaughn

Country: USA; Running Time: 15 Minutes

When racial unrest plagues Chicago, Illinois, four strangers with opposing political views and cultural ideologies agree to participate in a social experiment.


The Black Monk

Director: Jeffrey Gabriel Silva

Country: USA; Running Time: 14 Minutes

A musician suffers a nervous breakdown and is haunted by the supernatural apparitions of a black monk.






Director: Andrew Reid

Country: USA; Running Time: 7 Minutes

While on a routine mission, an astronaut soon finds herself battling for command, facing forces known – and unknown – intent on destroying her.



Director: Colin Sevely-Ortiz

Showrunner: Gabriel Guimaraes

Country: USA; Running Time: 29 Minutes

Posing as a typical teenager, a humanoid robot must navigate the uncertainty of adolescence in order to conceal a haunting secret.


That’s Our Time

Director: Alex Backes

Country: USA; Running Time: 10 Minutes

Danny’s stuck in a dead-end job. It keeps him focused on the clock and unable to connect with those around him. However, his sympathetic therapist tries to help him realize that it’s more important to focus on the time you have left than the time you’ve already spent.





Dún Laoghaire

Director: William Lancaster

Countries: USA/Ireland; Running Time: 12 Minutes

During their morning tea, Julie reminds her elderly mother, Aoife, of a new stove that is to be delivered to the house today. Aoife believes Julie is lying about ever telling her and takes it upon herself to sabotage the delivery by any means necessary.


The Song of the Witch                                                         World Premiere

Director: Minos Papas

Country: Cyprus; Running Time: 13 Minutes

On a cold Christmas eve in nineteenth-century Cyprus, an old woman tells a folk tale of death, myth, and magic to the children gathered around her.



Youthful Pleasures                                                               World Premiere

Director: Rex Provost

Country: USA; Running Time: 20 Minutes

Ben, a dissatisfied twenty-something, is obsessed with perfectly recreating an embarrassing childhood memory. To pull it off, he reaches out to estranged friends from childhood. Under unlikely circumstances, the group of friends mend old wounds and give Ben the climax he didn’t realize he’d been seeking.





Bounce House

Directors: Callie Bloem and Christopher Ewing

Country: USA; Running Time: 16 Minutes

Civilization has ended. Everyone Polly loves is dead. But at least she has a bounce house.



Director: Zen Pace

Writer: Dana Aliya Levinson

Country: USA; Running Time: 13 Minutes

A trans fraudster must decide who she wants to be when her target surprises her with an unforeseen proposition.


Out of Water

Director: Madi Stine

Country: USA; Running Time: 13 Minutes

When a disenchanted mermaid performer is mistaken for a real mermaid, she plays along to disastrous consequences.





Death Snot

Director: Charlie Schwan

Country: USA; Running Time: 9 Minutes

Severe allergies drive a man to the brink of insanity as he desperately attempts to rid his body of mucus.


Future Boys

Director: Julian Clark

Country: USA; Running Time: 10 Minutes

In a future housing project, a permanent tenant of virtual reality receives a rogue transmission.


Violet Butterfield: Makeup Artist for the Dead

Director: Brooke H. Cellars

Country: USA; Running Time: 13 Minutes

Violet Butterfield, a mortician beautician, uncovers the beauty in death her clients could have owned in life.


Yummy Mummy

Director: Gabriela Staniszewska

Country: USA; Running Time: 14 Minutes

Ignored throughout her pregnancy, Lilith senses her identity is being smothered by her burgeoning motherhood. Her anxieties begin to have physical manifestations – and she starts to fall apart – literally.

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