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

Collapse

Announcement

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

  • #31
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
    A young woman struggles to overcome her self doubt and write her first novel.

    It's got a protagonist, a goal and an obstacle. But it's crap.
    Unless it's about JK Rowling. I get your general point, but I'm not entirely sure the blanket statement is true. Even if it's not JK, it could be a great story. Depends on the protagonist and their journey, surely.
    "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

    Comment


    • #32
      Originally posted by Prezzy View Post
      I think it's pretty easy to see if a concept is bad or not. I think there are three versions of bad concepts.

      1) The concept that sounds like a snoozefest because it was probably coneived by a writer who thinks their boring personal life is worthy of 50 million dollar budget.

      2) The concept that sounds culturally tone deaf because it was probably conceived by some White guy in his 60's that isn't aware that gay and interracial marriage are a thing now.

      3) And my personal favorite, the concept that sounds like a ridiculous trainwreck because it was probably conceived by a thirteen year-old boy on meth.

      There are probably more versions of bad concepts, but I think that's good for starters.
      Would you say the following is a "bad concept"?

      An old geezer must ride a lawn mower across the Midwest to fix his relationship with his dying estranged older brother.

      -- Doesn't this sound like an uninteresting snooze fest? It was produced in 1999: "The Straight Story." It was a critical success.

      Comment


      • #33
        Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post

        Would you say the following is a "bad concept"?

        An old geezer must ride a lawn mower across the Midwest to fix his relationship with his dying estranged older brother.

        -- Doesn't this sound like an uninteresting snooze fest? It was produced in 1999: "The Straight Story." It was a critical success.
        I actually don't think it sounds like a snoozefest. There's a few elements in that logline that sound kind of random, so it has a weird factor going for it.

        It also sounds like a road trip movie, which always have built in potential for action and interesting scenes along the way as the locales change.

        That said, it probably wouldn't be the first logline I'd choose if I had a stack of scripts in front of me, but there's enough there for me to not automatically write it off.

        Comment


        • #34
          Originally posted by prezzy View Post

          i actually don't think it sounds like a snoozefest. That said, it probably wouldn't be the first logline i'd choose if i had a stack of scripts in front of me, but there's enough there for me to not automatically write it off.
          omg

          Comment


          • #35
            Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
            A young woman struggles to overcome her self doubt and write her first novel.

            It's got a protagonist, a goal and an obstacle. But it's crap.
            Similar to Adaptation.
            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


            • #36
              Originally posted by sc111 View Post

              Similar to Adaptation.
              That's right.

              Comment


              • #37
                Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post

                omg
                Haha. What? Why am I getting sassed?

                As far as Adaptation, and I don't know what the official logline of it is, but if I were to write one for it, it'd be something like this.

                A screenwriter struggling to adapt the non-fiction book "The Orchid Thief" goes nuts and writes himself into the reality of the book itself.

                There's a lot more to that concept than just some guy trying to write a screenplay.

                Comment


                • #38
                  I'm a big believer that there's no objective truth about art, but the logline I put up is putrid.

                  And listing women authors isn't a rebuttal. I read a cool article about JK Rowling writing Harry Potter, but I don't recall the great movie that was made about it. And a story about Jane Austen would be more interesting - she was a woman back when women weren't encouraged to have careers - but that's not what I pitched. If you have to change a logline to make it mildly interesting, then you're admitting it's a bad logline.

                  Here's what's wrong with it: it's a writer writing about the frustrations of being a writer, so it's the kind of sophomoric boring crap that most writers get out of their system very early on in their development. Do movies about writers writing get made? Very occasionally, but I can't think of an example that doesn't have a great twist. Stranger Than Fiction, for example - as a writer writes, it's controlling a stranger's life. Or The Jewel Of The Nile - a bookish author who writes about fantastic situations finds herself in one.

                  The struggle is all internal. It doesn't suggest any interesting conflicts. The goal is boring - to finish a book! Not to sell it, just to finish it.

                  It's a horrible, horrible idea.

                  Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post
                  They just don't sound interesting and they don't sound commercial, but who actually knows the story will be a loser until the movie is presented to an audience.
                  It won't be presented to an audience if it never sells or gets made. If everyone thinks it's a loser idea until it's made, who the hell is paying for it to get made?

                  Maybe the caliber of writing is so strong where it advances or wins in the Nicholl and the writer scores an agent and gets work in the industry.
                  If you gave David Mamet or Diablo Cody that idea, they would write an incredibly well written, incredibly boring script. And their voice would shine through so brightly that maybe - maybe - someone would hire them to do something else. But that logline isn't going to get producers to read it, and I seriously doubt it's going to win any contests with such a horrible story at its core. I bet the coverage would say "10 for voice, 1 for story," and that would be it.

                  Why the hell would any half way intelligent writer put that insurmountable obstacle in front of themselves? Arguing that any story can make a great script is saying that story doesn't matter.

                  If someone is asking for feedback on their script, they have to open to the note that "the story doesn't work." You can't take it off the table. Yes, the reviewer might be wrong. And yes, if the reviewer is right, it's catastrophic - you have to throw away months or years of work. But to say that reviewers should never say a story can be bad, because with enough work/luck, maybe the writer could score an agent one day if it does well in a contest...

                  I'm circling back to advice I've given a lot: workshop your story as vigorously as you workshop your script. Before you start writing it. A script that has a great logline but some problems with execution will at least get read. A script with a horrible logline is counting on the planets aligning to even get read by someone who matters.

                  An old geezer must ride a lawn mower across the Midwest to fix his relationship with his dying estranged older brother.

                  -- Doesn't this sound like an uninteresting snooze fest? It was produced in 1999: "The Straight Story." It was a critical success.
                  It's a true story, which adds a high concept element right away. And that's not an accurate logline. Here's how I'd sell it in a letter: "It's the true story about a disabled older man who learns that his brother is dying. Since he can't get a driver's license, he uses his lawn mower and tries to drive 250 miles so he can make amends with his brother before he passes away." It's got a goal, it's got a ticking clock, it's quirky and visual, it suggests scenes, it's something I've never seen before, I can imagine the poster. Is it Mr. And Mrs. Smith? No. But it's not an obvious miss.

                  I see a lot of obvious misses.

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    Sorry, cross-posted.

                    Originally posted by sc111 View Post
                    Similar to Adaptation.
                    That's right.
                    Wait, what? Have either of you seen Adaptation?

                    It's a meta film about the actual writer of the film - Charlie Kaufman - being hired to adapt an unadaptable artistic novel, while his brother finds success with commercial crap. Charlie tracks down the book's author and finds that the author is hiding the truth about the orchid - that it's a powerful mind altering drug. The author and her lover decide to kill Charlie to hide the truth about the flower. Charlie's brother dies instead, the lover is eaten by an alligator, and the book's author is jailed. Charlie finishes his screenplay.

                    So the two of you wrote that script, then sat down to write the query letter. It went something like this:

                    "Dear Sir or Madam:

                    Enclosed please find my spec screenplay for your consideration. It's the story of a young man who struggles to overcome his self doubt and write his first script.

                    Thank you for your consideration."

                    You wouldn't sell it that way, you wouldn't pitch it to your friends that way... That's like saying "I wrote a story about a man and woman who fall in love" is how you'd describe Casablanca.

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      A young woman struggles to write her first novel - concept

                      JK Rowling struggles to write her first novel - IP
                      Jane Austen struggles to write her first novel - IP
                      Charlie Kaufmann struggles to adapt The Orchid Thief - IP

                      You guys see the difference?

                      I'd also add that the latter pitches also need something more like "Jane Austen falls in love with the man she's working for as she struggles to write her first novel in a patriarchal time. This novel would eventually become Jane Eyre."

                      But I've transformed it by adding extra elements. Barebones, "a young woman struggles to write her first novel" is not enough unless you start bolting on more stuff like stakes or an IP.

                      From my experience, the industry likes IP. If you can attach your concept to a well known existing piece of IP (legend, article, folklore, historical figure etc) it instantly becomes a lot more appealing.

                      A ghost haunt a couple of orphaned siblings - concept (not enough)
                      La Llorona haunts a couple orphaned siblings under the care of a social worker - Famous IP in Latino culture - biggest demographic for horror.

                      The aim is to get read and get your script made. IMO, the only way the story about a "young woman struggling to write her first novel" will get a shot is if it's attached to an upcoming filmmaker with a good track record in prestige drama.

                      I agree that the idea is sopho-moronic since most new college-level writers are on-the-nose with their ideas and literally write what they know - themselves. I think a lot of readers wince when the protagonist is a struggling writer.
                      Last edited by Why One; 10-12-2020, 02:00 AM.

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post

                        If you have to change a logline to make it mildly interesting, then you're admitting it's a bad logline.
                        Jeff, you put in a lot of time and effort to respond and I appreciate it.

                        I never said it wasn't a bad core concept. I mentioned that to me it seems weak because of the internal struggle driving the story.

                        My point throughout these different threads on the topic is that I will not discourage a writer from writing such a story. Obviously, to write something like this he has a burning passion to tell this story. If there is anything that I've learned over the years is to never underestimate a writer's talent. His imagination and understanding of the craft.

                        You say don't try to change it into a bio of a Jane Austin story in order to make it sound more interesting, but I said in the vein of that type of story. The dramatic and emotional journey of a female writer's struggles to achieve what she wants.

                        Hollywood is a business, so naturally, a concept that sounds like it will not make money will be considered a "bad concept," but I've seen concepts that I would consider "bad" that were written and produced where they were a commercial success. This is why I would not tell a writer not to write a concept because who knows what will connect with an audience.

                        If you take a look at the majority of the history of the Nicholl winners, this proves a lot about the idea of perceived "bad concepts." The execution of these concepts obviously connected with judges who are professionals in the industry.

                        For example, "Kangaroo Jack" about two idiots chasing after a wild kangaroo because it ran off with a package containing $50,000 that they were suppose to deliver for a mafia guy. I thought who wants to see a movie about a kangaroo? I went into the theater not expecting to like it, but I did. It was a fun movie. The critics hated it, but it connected with an audience and was commercially successful.

                        This isn't about whether or not a concept is bad. It's about not to discourage a writer from writing it by telling him it's a "putrid" idea. Yes, let him know it sounds uncommercial and he'll have trouble getting reads from the industry, but let him decide to write it or not. (This is directed at readers/members in general.)
                        Last edited by JoeNYC; 10-12-2020, 08:05 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          Originally posted by zetiago View Post

                          Good vs Bad is not the same thing as High vs Low.
                          Yes, you're right, but to Hollywood, being a business, you got to admit that to them the majority of Low Concepts are gonna sound bad because of a lack of commercial potential. High Concept equals "good" because one of the characteristics of High Concept is it's protentional to reach a broad audience, making it commercially viable.

                          The lower a concept moves down on the concept spectrum they are gonna possess elements that Hollywood does not like because it limits its commercial protentional, i.e., complex plot, making it difficult to market to an audience, where they would have trouble easily imagining such things as, scenes, characters, plot, the story having a dark theme, unlikeable protagonist, bummer, unhappy ending, etc.

                          I get your point. Your screenplay "Simulacra" is low concept, but you believe readers and the industry would not consider it a "bad concept" only because it's market may be limited. You believe it has such a unique and interesting story idea that it would be found to be a good concept. This may be so, but with the majority of low concepts what will get these screenplays attention is not the concept but the quality of the writing.

                          This goes toward the "execution dependent" discussion: A unique high concept could have competent, not outstanding, writing and get sold, but a low concept story will have difficulty if it doesn't possess outstanding writing.

                          Comment


                          • #43
                            I would argue that complexity of plot is not a marker of something being low concept. Things that are low concept may have a complex plot.

                            If anything, broadly simplifying, I’ll submit they more often suffer from a lack of plot that feels cinematic.

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              Originally posted by Satriales View Post
                              I would argue that complexity of plot is not a marker of something being low concept. Things that are low concept may have a complex plot.

                              If anything, broadly simplifying, I’ll submit they more often suffer from a lack of plot that feels cinematic.
                              I tend to find that the majority of high concept stories can be told in one sentence in the area of 25 words in under because of their simple plots. Low Concepts tend to be more involved with plot and character so for the majority it seems it needs to be more descriptive.

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post

                                I tend to find that the majority of high concept stories can be told in one sentence in the area of 25 words in under because of their simple plots. Low Concepts tend to be more involved with plot and character so for the majority it seems it needs to be more descriptive.
                                A group of explorers travel to a newly discovered wormhole in an attempt to find a new planet as earth becomes rapidly uninhabitable.

                                In the wake of his brother’s death, a handyman must raise his nephew and deal with his own grief.

                                This is just one example. One of these has an intricate and complicated plot. The other is simple and straightforward and very much low-ish concept. I see no correlation between plot and height (?) of concept.

                                Comment

                                Working...
                                X