So....what's a good concept?

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • So....what's a good concept?

    The slogan "Concept is King" is thrown around a lot, so I thought I would get a discussion going on what is considered a good concept. If you have any that come to mind, list some good examples of great concepts and why they are great versus other concepts that do not meet that mark (and why).

    An example I see thrown around a lot is:

    A Quiet Place: In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.

    Of course, I realize there might be a difference between TV and film.
    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 10-06-2020, 09:09 PM. Reason: Added tags

  • #2
    The Quiet Place concept works because you can see the main thrust of the movie in that one sentence - and its potential...

    Comment


    • #3
      To me, a good concept is:
      - Simple and easy to grasp
      - Inspires potential ideas that could be "trailer moments"
      - Makes me want to know what happens next and how the conflict is resolved
      - Makes me wish I thought of it first

      Examples:
      - A bomb is attached to a bus that will go off if the speed drops below 50mph
      - A monster that only appears when the lights go out
      - An office worker lies about being pregnant to avoid being fired (dated concept now)

      Comment


      • #4
        This thread is only three posts deep and it seems it's already wading into high vs low concept territory. The only difference is 'good concept' has replaced 'high concept.' It's turned into a value judgement instead of a descriptor, which I reject.

        Here's an example. I wrote a feature script a couple of years ago titled 'Simulacra.' It's a kind of love story, but one where the two main characters don't actually meet. In the first 10-15 minutes/pages the two main characters are established in their everyday lives. They cross paths in the lobby of a movie theater - proverbial sparks fly. They both separately watch the movie. And that movie in movie takes up the next hour plus as we see idealized versions of those two characters. It's broken up into two parts, one through her subjective and idealized point of view and one through his. They nearly meet in the movie within movie but miss each other. After it ends she rushes out of the theater, he follows, but she's gone. The End.

        Is that a great concept? I don't know. If you have a kind of art-house sensibility about film then I think it's at least a good concept. And it took me a paragraph just to describe it so it's very much low concept.

        Since I feel like this post will inevitably lead to (or devolve into) questions about marketability and those kinds of things let me address those now. It's a concept I really liked so I wrote it, which will probably never be nothing more than a sample. I did submit it to Nicholls and Austin, back when I thought a unique take on story and structure would matter or resonate. I remember one set of notes that came back basically asked what simulacra means two or three times. I don't expect readers to have read Baudrillard and know that simulacra is an exact replica of something that has never existed, but I do expect them to have dictionaries. In this case understanding the word is pretty critical to understanding the story because the term does come up a critical point in the script as well.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by zetiago View Post
          This thread is only three posts deep and it seems it's already wading into high vs low concept territory. The only difference is 'good concept' has replaced 'high concept.' It's turned into a value judgement instead of a descriptor, which I reject.

          Here's an example. I wrote a feature script a couple of years ago titled 'Simulacra.' It's a kind of love story, but one where the two main characters don't actually meet. In the first 10-15 minutes/pages the two main characters are established in their everyday lives. They cross paths in the lobby of a movie theater - proverbial sparks fly. They both separately watch the movie. And that movie in movie takes up the next hour plus as we see idealized versions of those two characters. It's broken up into two parts, one through her subjective and idealized point of view and one through his. They nearly meet in the movie within movie but miss each other. After it ends she rushes out of the theater, he follows, but she's gone. The End.

          Is that a great concept? I don't know. If you have a kind of art-house sensibility about film then I think it's at least a good concept. And it took me a paragraph just to describe it so it's very much low concept.

          Since I feel like this post will inevitably lead to (or devolve into) questions about marketability and those kinds of things let me address those now. It's a concept I really liked so I wrote it, which will probably never be nothing more than a sample. I did submit it to Nicholls and Austin, back when I thought a unique take on story and structure would matter or resonate. I remember one set of notes that came back basically asked what simulacra means two or three times. I don't expect readers to have read Baudrillard and know that simulacra is an exact replica of something that has never existed, but I do expect them to have dictionaries. In this case understanding the word is pretty critical to understanding the story because the term does come up a critical point in the script as well.
          I'd watch your film, Simulacra. It sounds intriguing with a Charlie Kaufman vibe. If I were you I'd put it up on the Blacklist rather than enter it in contests. You can resolve the problem with the definition of the word by opening with a super and possibly a quote from Baudrillard. In fairness, expecting a reader to look up a word in the dictionary overlooks the possibility that not knowing the definition can bounce them out of the read. By including a super, you can control what the reader understands about your use of the word.

          Re: contests, over the years, some writers have experienced a decent placement in Austin or Nichol contests then, after re-entering the same script the following year, not even making the first cut.

          As for what constitutes a good concept, IMO that's always subjective. I mean -- we can likely all agree on a really bad concept. It's harder to agree on what's good.
          Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by sc111 View Post

            we can likely all agree on a really bad concept. It's harder to agree on what's good.
            I'd rather refer to concepts as commercial and non-commercial instead of bad and good. "Bad" gives off an ugly vibe. Like the writer did something wrong. Who knows what concept/story will connect with an audience. I went through this before in other threads with giving examples of non-commercial concepts that people would say are "bad," but were critical and commercial successes.

            I agree with sc111's point about a reader/viewer having to reach for a dictionary to understand your art. This is not good. I suggest, like she does, to get this across in way where a reader doesn't have to stop to look something up in a dictionary.

            Comment


            • #7
              Writers do things wrong all the time. Picking terrible ideas is one of them.

              Sure, some things are the proverbial execution dependent. The simulacrum idea of while not commercial or high concept could be something Charlie Kaufman or 500 Days Of Summer-esque. But the idea itself feels execution dependent even if I did fully understand it.

              Comment


              • #8
                A good concept is anything a specific writer can turn into a well-written story that has the profit potential of resonating with a large enough audience. What that is will vary from writer to writer.

                Sometimes they are more marketable because they're easier to pitch. Some might be a tougher pitch, but make up for it in execution.

                Then there are things that are just bad concepts even if the execution is perfect.

                ​​​Like, not many people are going to want to watch an Avengers-style action flick where a super-powered Hitler teams up with super-powered Himmler, Goebbels, and Mussolini to defeat the evil League of Minorities no matter how well Joss Whedon developed Hitler's character arc.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by sc111 View Post

                  I'd watch your film, Simulacra. It sounds intriguing with a Charlie Kaufman vibe. If I were you I'd put it up on the Blacklist rather than enter it in contests. You can resolve the problem with the definition of the word by opening with a super and possibly a quote from Baudrillard. In fairness, expecting a reader to look up a word in the dictionary overlooks the possibility that not knowing the definition can bounce them out of the read. By including a super, you can control what the reader understands about your use of the word.
                  Thanks. Yeah, I may try that avenue in the future, and the super idea makes sense. I wasn't literally expecting someone to pick up a dictionary while reading. It was just odd that someone seemed to be fixated on the word so much. It came across like I made it up and wasn't explaining it in the script or maybe they thought I was being pretentious. Who knows.

                  In regards to the main topic, saying a concept depends on execution is like saying the sky is blue. It's self-evident.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by zetiago View Post

                    Thanks. Yeah, I may try that avenue in the future, and the super idea makes sense. I wasn't literally expecting someone to pick up a dictionary while reading. It was just odd that someone seemed to be fixated on the word so much. It came across like I made it up and wasn't explaining it in the script or maybe they thought I was being pretentious. Who knows.

                    In regards to the main topic, saying a concept depends on execution is like saying the sky is blue. It's self-evident.

                    “Execution dependent” is not self-evident. It’s shorthand. The concept does not easily evoke, say, trailer moments in one’s head. A Quiet Place? Not an execution dependent idea. Juno? Absolutely execution dependent.

                    In order to be *good* it has to be executed well, but you’re Well, Actuallying what is a common term that is meant to convey something in an off hand way.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Prezzy View Post
                      ​​​Like, not many people are going to want to watch an Avengers-style action flick where a super-powered Hitler teams up with super-powered Himmler, Goebbels, and Mussolini to defeat the evil League of Minorities no matter how well Joss Whedon developed Hitler's character arc.
                      That's almost exactly "The Boys," which is the biggest thing going right now.

                      Not to rehash that horrible thread, but when someone says their idea is "execution dependent," it often (not always) means "it's not a compelling story, but I don't want to think of a new one."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Satriales View Post


                        “Execution dependent” is not self-evident. It’s shorthand. The concept does not easily evoke, say, trailer moments in one’s head. A Quiet Place? Not an execution dependent idea. Juno? Absolutely execution dependent.

                        In order to be *good* it has to be executed well, but you’re Well, Actuallying what is a common term that is meant to convey something in an off hand way.
                        You're basically taking this whole conversation back to high vs low concept, and seem to be asserting that only low concept ideas rely on execution. I thought this thread was about ideas/concepts and what is good vs bad. I started off by showing how a low concept can also be 'good' but requires more description than something that is high concept. That is basically one of the main distinctions between the two.

                        I'm also saying even high concept ideas are only good when executed well. An idea, generally summarized in a sentence can sound good, but the proof is in the finished product. Here's an example. Jaws is generally looked at as the original modern summer blockbuster and is obviously high concept. The basic concept of a shark terrorizing a quiet tourist beach community sounds pretty good. However, someone could take that concept and make a gory horror fest or turn it into those Sharknado spectacles. That would be bad execution of a good concept. In my mind if you gave that concept to 100 writers most would 'f' it up with tons of extraneous garbage, instead of the more restrained version we know today. There are also high concepts that to my mind are bad on the surface. The concept for Speed is mentioned in this thread. That kind of idea where some madman toys with the hero to me is the stuff of bad writing. It's the kind of thing that is lampooned in Austin Powers. Instead of killing this person and being done with it, they concoct some elaborate scheme to belabor the point.

                        I do think a good concept is major hurdle and the starting point for a good end product. But writing is about taking a good concept and turning it into a compelling complete story. It's a case of inspiration vs perspiration. The hard part is the perspiration.

                        It's like line that everybody has one good novel or screenplay idea, but most people never actually write it. And those that don't have any ideas for a second. The reason is ideas are easier than the work of bringing those ideas to life.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post

                          That's almost exactly "The Boys," which is the biggest thing going right now.

                          Not to rehash that horrible thread, but when someone says their idea is "execution dependent," it often (not always) means "it's not a compelling story, but I don't want to think of a new one."
                          Haha. I stand corrected. It's kind of amusing to me that I failed to come up with a terrible idea for a concept. But I'm not gonna lie, it still sounded somewhat entertaining to me, so I'll probably have to check out "The Boys" the next time I allow myself some free time.

                          On the second part, I think you're right, but I also think there's an opposite end to that spectrum. I think a story idea can be compelling, but it can be on the more ambitious side or have some other complicating factor that leaves little room for error in its execution.

                          I think those types of ideas can either be examples of good concepts or bad concepts entirely depending on who's writing it, but I also think I'm probably just stating the obvious at this point.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            IMO Jaws was execution dependent. If a Great White Shark is terrorizing a seaside town, the easy solution is: stay out of the water.

                            Jaws was character driven. And it was a best-selling novel before it was adapted for the screen.

                            Snakes on a Plane seemed like a good concept in four words. Movie wasn't very successful IIRC.
                            Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Prezzy View Post
                              I'll probably have to check out "The Boys" the next time I allow myself some free time.
                              I can not recommend The Boys highly enough.

                              On the second part, I think you're right, but I also think there's an opposite end to that spectrum. I think a story idea can be compelling, but it can be on the more ambitious side or have some other complicating factor that leaves little room for error in its execution.
                              Yeah, something like the new Mel Gibson movie, Fatman. Big idea... but boy oh boy is it gonna be tough to pull off. Such a tiny target. I'm curious.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X