A High concept question

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  • A High concept question

    Does a High concept idea just help you sell or does it also affect the quality of a screenplay? I hope you understand my question.

  • #2
    Yes it does help you sell and no it doesn't affect the quality if you write it properly.

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    • #3

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      • #4
        EnglishDave is right with one caveat:

        If a concept is high enough, and there isn't another project out there like that, it can compensate (somewhat) for poorer execution of the actual script.

        This is not to say "aim for a high concept and then execute it poorly."
        It only means that the higher your concept, the more it balances out if your writing isn't as strong. The opposite is also true. The stronger your writing, the more it balances out a weaker concept.

        An easy way to define high concept: An executive passes another executive in the hall and can explain in one quick sentence your movie's premise. The second executive immediately asks for a copy of the script based solely off the strength of the idea.

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        • #5

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          • #6
            It only means that the higher your concept, the more it balances out if your writing isn't as strong. The opposite is also true. The stronger your writing, the more it balances out a weaker concept.
            Please, if you learn only one thing a day, forget you ever read that. There is no balancing, you need both.

            The "experts" in Hollywood know what makes up a story: a protag, objective, opposition, conflict, risk, structure, etc.

            You can explain all this in a logline, or you can come up with a high concept pitch that let's them easily and quickly fill in the gaps, like:
            It's a zoo for dinosaurs.

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            • #7
              Please, if you learn only one thing a day, forget you ever read that. There is no balancing, you need both.
              Actually, TwoBrad, that advice comes straight from UTA agents who were referring to many scripts they've sold where the concept was great but the writing was not.

              Other industry writers also have said the same.

              Again, this is not to say that you should then aim for such an imbalance. But it would be [email protected] naive to say otherwise.

              It's the same principle that bigger cleavage can help a homely woman to look more attractive. Sad, but true.

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              • #8
                That is not "advice". It is an observation, a misleading observation at best.

                Nobody can take anything from this to help them with their writing.

                A writer can only write as best as they can. They should write at that level no matter the perceived level of concept.

                It's the same principle that bigger cleavage can help a homely woman to look more attractive. Sad, but true.
                Please tell me you're joking.

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                • #9
                  I think it comes back to another age-old debate around these parts:

                  Idea vs Ability.

                  The argument that a great idea will compensate for poor writing, and that conversely great writing will compensate for a poor idea.

                  The general consensus always seem to be... why not try and find a great idea, and write it well?

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                  • #10
                    That is not "advice". It is an observation, a misleading observation at best.
                    Firstly, it's not misleading. More on that in a sec...

                    I never said it was advice. Of course it's an observation, but not mine. Again, this comes from agents, producers (that I've talked to) from reputable companies: UTA, CAA, Bender-Spink, Kaplan-Perrone.

                    I don't understand why you are so threatened by it, TwoBrad. I'm not advocating it, merely stating a fundamental truth. You'd be in denial to think that superficial strengths don't sometimes compensate for more meaniningful weaknesses. It happens all the time (in our biz and elsewhere).

                    He asked a question. I answered it two-fold. With a response and an observation.

                    This is a "discussion" board. People are supposed to bring different things and opposing opinions to the table. This isn't a debate you have to "win."

                    There are a lot of harsh truths within this business. Don't shoot the messenger who is simply shedding light on one.

                    Many and boy do I mean MANY two-bit hack writers have broken in on weakly-written specs that had a great idea. The studio bought them and then summarily hired more-skilled writers to polish them.

                    It happens every day. Yes, the hacks get their payday, although, the studios are no fools. They understand that they were going into the purchase with only the goal of snatching up that great idea.

                    Hacks are almost always exposed for what they are. UTA's given me the scripts. I've read them. Yes, this is a fact. They broke in on an idea, but that doesn't mean they can sustain a career that way. To maintain a lengthy and successful career, you need staying power and that can only come from having great ideas AND polished writing.

                    Writeman

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                    • #11
                      A High concept question

                      Tomasz a lot depends on your market and whom you are writing for. If the Swedish film institute are only funding knock off kitchen sink drama's then I guess that's what you have to write - or -aim more internationally. To do that needs a higher concept - one that is universally recognised - that doesn't mean it can't be set in the slums of Helsinki [ are there any?? ] but the theme must be readilly accessible to an international audience.

                      I agree with Writeman on the high concept issue. Studios pay for ideas as much as scripts - They will buy a bad script with a good idea a lot sooner than a good script with a bad idea. No one is saying this is what you should aspire to. it just sometimes happens that way.
                      You can have all the craft in the world but if your idea sucks - forget it.

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                      • #12
                        Re: A High concept question

                        Or, you can have a high concept, execute it properly and find out there are four similar concepts in development and that's why they pass. And by 'similar' it can mean there's only the barest similarity.

                        Two Brad:

                        There are many reasons a script may sell. I just read a script sold last month for 6-figures. Writing blah, dialog on the nose, the entire script. A strange habit of showing a "ha-ha gag" and then the protag goes back to his friends and tell them, in on the nose dialog, all about the "gag," as the reader waits for the other characters to catch up.

                        The concept is not so much "high" as it was a very marketable comedy to the 17 to 25 market.

                        I read the original draft. I was told that even when it sold they intended to change the entire story and simply keep the hook. So, in that case, the hook sold.

                        Yes, I agree, no one should be encouraged to write something poorly, but the reality of why something sells rests on many factors, good writing not being top of the list. They can always hire a better writer to polish or completely rewrite a high or even tall-ish concept script.

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                        • #13
                          Actually, TwoBrad, that advice comes straight from UTA agents who ...
                          I never said it was advice.
                          Do not misunderstand me. I'm not saying it's not true. I'm just wondering how the hell this little bit of wisdom is any help to any writer.

                          Is it now okay for a writer to think:
                          I don't have to be a very good writer because my concept will sell my script.
                          or
                          I'm a great writer so I don't need a great story.
                          or
                          I can slack off on my writing because my story is so great.

                          People listen to the information they want to hear and I don't think that is helping.

                          They can always hire a better writer to polish or completely rewrite a high or even tall-ish concept script.
                          And, they can hire someone else to punch-up a less than perfect concept. So the important thing is to fill up one-hundred pages with words and send out those query letters?

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                          • #14
                            I'm just wondering how the hell this little bit of wisdom is any help to any writer.
                            I think it is always better to know the whole truth before setting out on any endeavor, don't you? Or do you prefer for people to remain in the dark on such matters?

                            Is it now okay for a writer to think:
                            I don't have to be a very good writer because my concept will sell my script. or I'm a great writer so I don't need a great story. or I can slack off on my writing because my story is so great. People listen to the information they want to hear and I don't think that is helping.
                            Not so. Re-read the above posts. If someone chooses to take that approach, they are only doing themselves a disservice. Again, I was only educating, not advocating.

                            So the important thing is to fill up one-hundred pages with words and send out those query letters?
                            Firstly, most people that have broken in know that query letters are like lottery tickets. I don't write queries. You have to get a referral to stand a striking chance. Secondly, again, I hope you're a better reader than you are a writer, all three of us stated that the goal is to write a killer script with a killer idea.

                            Nothing more. Nothing less. I'm through with it.

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                            • #15
                              Ooooooo snap. He served you up, Bradley.

                              Let it die. Writeman, Dave, and Sc111 are right.

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