High Concept in Film

I am working up ideas for a new script, and I am going for “high concept.” I’m finding it very difficult. Most of my ideas thus far have not been high concept. I have heard various versions of what high concept means, but the one I heard today may stick.

High concept means:

  1. Great Title
  2. Fascinating Subject
  3. A Strong Hook
  4. Broad Appeal
  5. Described in a single sentence.

My approach to a great title is something that is catchy, clever, and intriguing.  It must suggest something new and yet be familiar at the same time.  I look for puns, but maybe that’s part of my problem.

A fascinating subject might be the toughest challenge.  The subject material has to get you through 15,000 words of dramatic action.  It must be something people want to experience.  It must be familiar enough to be recognized, but not so familiar that the audience knows all about the topic.

A strong hook means piquing the interest of the audience early in the drama so that they are engrossed throughout, and perhaps long after so that they tell their friends.  It also means surprising them beforehand so that they are compelled to pay money to watch the story unfold.

Broad appeal means that you have the greatest potential for paying customers.  As the author, you may care more about the story than about the number of tickets sold, but if you can’t sell tickets, you won’t be in the business.  Harsh and irrefutable.

To describe all that in a single sentence is the Zen riddle of a lifetime.  It turns generating ideas about Hollywood style genre movies into an art with demands similar to Haiku–limiting the number of words available means that each one must count and do double duty if possible.

I haven’t found an easy way to do this.  I’m grinding them out, and hoping for the best.