High Concept vs New High Concept

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  • High Concept vs New High Concept

    Picking up from the glorious final few pages of Bono's 'Picking Right Idea' thread, I thought it would be apt to discuss High Concept vs New High Concept*

    What I mean is, as mere peasants wanting to break in, and with the changing film industry (death of cinema and the rise of VOD) is it still essential to come up with a concept that's not only high but new as well or will high concept be enough?

    I mean, high-and-new ideas like The Matrix, Jurassic Park and Edge of Tomorrow will cost hundreds of millions that studios probably wont bankroll anymore - not original IP, anyway - whereas 'mere' high-but-familiar-concepts, such as contained thrillers, slashers, buddy-cop comedies, and monsters in the house horrors will be accessible for all. Plus the latter have the benefit of being proven successes - music to prodco ears in these uncertain times?

    I remember ex-DDP'er Terence Malloy landed a pro career with a run of the mill creature feature which the pros dismissed when he posted pages - did he do it right in writing an easy to summarise script that trod familiar territory or was he lucky and should have aimed to write the next game changer?

    Look how much moolah the Insidious and Conjuring films have generated despite wearily-ripping off their original forebears from the 80s? So if you wanna write a contained thriller/horror, should you be happy with a concept like ATM, Hatchet and Feast or look to be revolutionary like Alien, Buried and Saw?


    *Ninjas welcome.

  • #2
    Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

    I think people can drive themselves crazy with definitions. If you have a smart contained thriller that has an angle no one has done, you'll get reads. If you're pitching "guy trapped in phone booth pinned down by sniper" or "people trapped in an ATM vestibule" or "guy buried alive," you're going to have a harder time getting attention. I don't think you've ever needed to create a whole new genre - just an interesting twist is fine.

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    • #3
      Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

      I feel like the expression give us "the same but different" is key to all this. Most people are looking for something that's original, but also something that reminds them of other movies they loved so they can actually see how the movie goes from script to screen.

      So you see SPEED spec in the 90s and they think, "great Die Hard on a bus." It was even considered for a bit to be used as script to Die Hard 2.

      Every now and then something is unique and then we start copying that. I'll say something like GET OUT stood out the last 10 years as well, haven't really seen that before.

      My favorite movie is HALLOWEEN and has any movie launched more other movies?

      ROAD TRIP movies are nothing new -- but they keep making them.
      ROMANTIC COMEDIES will never did. Netflix 'tween' versions seems to be on the rise.

      Just saw trailer for MAGIC CAMP and I think it's for tweens, but I want to see it. Classic setup Kid Group A vs Kid Group B -- but they added magic to the mix. Nice update.

      SMALL CONTAINED THRILLER and HORROR MOVIES seems like go to specs I'd write if I had interest in those genres. Oh wait, I love Horror! But I'm focusing on the comedy right now. But if you out there love them at all -- I'd say go for it. From outside looking in, seems like a bigger market for those then my dumb comedy ideas.

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      • #4
        Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

        Originally posted by Bono View Post
        My favorite movie is HALLOWEEN and has any movie launched more other movies?
        Deep Throat.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

          Well played, Sundown. Although I think DEBBIE DOES DALLAS for some reason. And if we are going there PAMELA AND TOMMY SEX TAPE was the first one that made sex tapes popular. In fact, "leaked" tapes lead to some high profile careers. That gives me an idea...

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          • #6
            Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

            I'm scrolling through this list of upcoming 2020 films.

            Not many high concepts here. One odd feature: Bill & Ted Face The Music.
            Description: Bill and Ted are finally back as middle-aged dads forced to save the universe again, dude.
            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


            • #7
              Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

              It's funny you mentioned Bill and Ted 3 and I guess this is first time you heard of it and meanwhile I've
              been waiting for it for like 20 years. To each their own.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

                Originally posted by Bono View Post
                It's funny you mentioned Bill and Ted 3 and I guess this is first time you heard of it and meanwhile I've
                been waiting for it for like 20 years. To each their own.
                Good things come to those who wait? It's 29 years since the sequel, Bogus Journey. And 31 years since the first.
                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


                • #9
                  Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

                  Again, it's like you're telling me my own name. Ha. I'm stupidly excited. As I am for many things like Saved By the Bell TV show.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

                    When I received THR article about how Warner was laying off 600 staffers, I couldn't help to consider that, maybe, the industry might change for a while.

                    During COVID big tentpole studio fare will be a challenged to get into production, due to the potential for spreading infection. They'll work diligently on the ones that were already well into production when COVID hit, but new ones? Seems it might be wise to hold off on those until the virus is under better control.

                    Which got me thinking about the vast middle that's basically disappeared in the past decade or so... perhaps that middle is more likely to emerge and entice filmmakers who want to get films made and can do it in a smaller, safer way.

                    In that case, lower budget, contained, high concept scripts could potentially be the interim answer. Even as a way for studios to recover the huge losses they surely will experience this year.

                    I don't know.

                    I follow Aditya Sood on Twitter (The Martian, Deadpool, Let's Be Cops) and he has a pinned post where he explains what HE"S looking for...

                    Audiences have a particular set of expectations in any genre. One of the elements he looks for is a story that has a clear genre and then changes precisely one of those conventions.

                    Meet cute usually happens in the beginning of the film at about page 10. but what if the meet cute was at the end of the film? Then you'd have Sleepless In Seattle.


                    The Martian is really a film about a man being stranded on a island (Cast away, Gilligan's Island, Robinson Caruso) what's the most important thing when you're stranded? Finding food. Where do you find that on a lifeless planet? Human fertilized potatoes!

                    Deadpool is a super hero movie where the protagonist isn't heroic.

                    Let's Be Cops is a cop movie where the characters aren't actually cops.

                    Similar but different. Things to think about perhaps.
                    "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

                      Nothing ever wrong with a good story well told no matter the genre.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

                        Originally posted by sc111 View Post
                        I'm scrolling through this list of upcoming 2020 films.
                        I think more of these are high concept than maybe you're giving credit:

                        She Dies Tomorrow
                        Cut Throat City
                        Unhinged (full logline isn't up, but it looks like it's in the mold of Falling Down)
                        Bill & Ted
                        The New Mutants
                        Tenet
                        The King's Man
                        Ava
                        I bet Greenland is
                        Wonder Woman
                        Honest Thief
                        Candyman
                        G.I. Joe

                        Okay, I'm stopping there, but all of those seem to fit the bill.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

                          I sent a bunch of queries for my first script. Noob mistake, I know, but I ended up getting a surprising amount of read requests and a total of one general meeting. It turns out the idea was better than I initially realized (at least some people thought so). In the end, though, nothing came of any of the reads or the meeting. Idea and execution are clearly both important, but I'm certain I wouldn't have gotten a single read if the idea wasn't commercial.

                          Anyway, there are tons of ideas that could potentially make great movies but most are probably too expensive. Any history book is filled with them (a good period movie is the closest thing we have to a time machine, I think).

                          Many of these stories would be simple enough. I'm not onboard with the whole subverting for the sake of it thing. Only if it makes for a better story and doesn't seem corny or forced. Satisfying beats surprising imo, but accomplishing both is an admirable goal.

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                          • #14
                            Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

                            Originally posted by SundownInRetreat View Post

                            I remember ex-DDP'er Terence Malloy landed a pro career with a run of the mill creature feature which the pros dismissed when he posted pages - did he do it right in writing an easy to summarise script that trod familiar territory or was he lucky and should have aimed to write the next game changer?


                            *Ninjas welcome.
                            Was that "Priority Run"?


                            Hey! You might do it in your house, but in this house we don't lick our butts. -- Mother Teresa

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: High Concept vs New High Concept

                              Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                              I think more of these are high concept than maybe you're giving credit:

                              She Dies Tomorrow
                              Cut Throat City
                              Unhinged (full logline isn't up, but it looks like it's in the mold of Falling Down)
                              Bill & Ted
                              The New Mutants
                              Tenet
                              The King's Man
                              Ava
                              I bet Greenland is
                              Wonder Woman
                              Honest Thief
                              Candyman
                              G.I. Joe

                              Okay, I'm stopping there, but all of those seem to fit the bill.
                              As you said in your previous comment, it's about defining high concept. Broadly? Narrowly?

                              Sundown listed Matrix, Jurassic Park and Edge of Tomorrow. I looked at the list with that benchmark in mind. Then again wouldn't all sci-fi fall under high concept?

                              I was intrigued by the one about the woman convinced she would die the next day.

                              Does everyone agree that's high concept? It would help to nail down a definition.
                              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

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