High Concept-- that crazy, indefinable term writers hear over and over
again. But what is High Concept and how do you make a story High
High Concept is a unique idea that takes one sentence or less
to describe your story. From this sentence, also known as the
logline, you should be able to visualize your movie and imagine the
type of scenes and situations your character may stumble upon.
High Concept scripts can sell simply from the pitch.
The first step in achieving that slam dunk high concept idea is by molding the story to meet four requirements.
ONE SENTENCE PITCH. This is the master idea behind high
concept. Giving the premise of your story in a logline that is
concise, descriptive and sparks intrigue.
ORIGINAL AND UNIQUE PREMISE. We are not talking
about reinventing the wheel. A traditional subject matter can be
manipulated and molded into something new by adding a creative hook or
twist. Think Romeo and Juliet- you don’t get more traditional then that. Now set in present day, you have the modern day Romeo and Juliet. The movie, She’s the Man, is also a twist on the Shakespearean classic Twelfth Night. Or how about this for completely original: A boy is working with a psychiatrist because he can “see dead people” and it turns out his psychiatrist is a ghost (The Sixth Sense).
MASS AUDIENCE APPEAL. To sell your work you must think
about your potential audience. Who are they? What are they
watching? What movies are making money now? Analyzing the
“movie market place” is a great way to gauge what the mass audience
wants to see. Coming up with that fabulous premise is a great
starting point to achieving mass appeal.
A GREAT TITLE. Who hasn’t been captured by a great title? Star Wars, The Omen, Jaws, 10,000 BC, all conjure up images that will unfold on the screen.
Now that you have captured the illusive idea of what High
Concept is, how do you come up with your High Concept story?
There are a few things you can consider that will help guide the
creation of your High Concept story.
OPPOSITES. Thinking of stories, scenarios and character
stereotypes in terms of their opposites is a great way to create a
unique story. A lawyer who can’t lie (Liar Liar), an adult has an imaginary friend (Drop Dead Fred), Peter Pan grows up (Hook) are perfect examples of stories and characters that we envision one way and presented in another.
WHAT IF. Asking the simple question, What if, can
help a story take on a unique perspective. What if your plane crashed
on a deserted island and you were the only one left alive? (Cast Away). What if the devil had a son? (Rosemary’s Baby). Now ask yourself, What If…?
TRADITIONAL TWISTS. Everyone has their all time favorite
classic story. Adding unique and original twists to traditional
stories can help you create your high concept idea. Pretty Women is Cinderella on the streets of L.A. She’s All That is a high school version of My Fair Lady. Texas Lullaby is Hamlet in a trailer park.
Still not sure where to start? Draw some inspiration from these High Concept loglines…
A lawyer is forced to tell the truth for 24 hours – Liar Liar
TOP GUN in a fire house – Backdraft
A man dies and becomes his wife’s guardian angel – GhostWhat if Peter Pan grew up? - Hook