Screenwriting Concept

HIGH CONCEPT

High concept, in film, is a Hollywood studio term. Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975) and George Lucas' Star Wars (1977) might be considered among the first high concept movies, unless you consider such big-impact classics such as Casablanca (1942) and Citizen Kane (1941), which also explored broad themes with a universal appeal.

The plot of a 'high concept' movie is easily understood by audiences, and can often be described in a sentence or two. It also tends to be succinctly summarized by the movie's title. High concept movies feature relatively simple characters and a heavy reliance on conventions of film genre.

Some high concept movies are built as star vehicles for successful music and sports personalities to enter the movie business. Often high concept movies are pitched as combinations of existing high concept movies, or unique twists on existing titles.

Some other examples of 'high concept' movies include . .

  • Armageddon
  • Beverly Hills Cop
  • Home Alone
  • Independence Day
  • Jurassic Park
  • Night at the Museum
  • Speed
  • The Terminator
  • Twister

'High concept' is sometimes used as a derogatory term, to refer to movies that pander to the lowest common denominator and are only concerned with financial profit.

So what does this all mean to the new screenwriting?
Depending on your interest and abilities, and where you are in your screenwriting career, you may want to churn out a slew of 'high concept' films to feed the Hollywood studio movie-making beast. For numerous reasons, though, it may not be to your liking.

You want to write from passion? Stick to 'low concept', then. You want to write something personal and small and character-based? Ditto. You want to write something for the art houses of the world? Need I say more.

'High concept' may not be your thing, but it keeps Hollywood going, and may pay your rent someday.

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