Story Idea Development

3 Easy Ways to Write a High Concept Screenplay

“I like ideas, especially movie ideas, that you can hold in your hands. If a person can tell me the idea in twenty-five words or less, it’s going to make a pretty good movie.” – Steven Spielberg


The idea is King


Spielberg’s comment embodies the essence of the high concept film:

  • It can be condensed into one simple sentence,
  • It can be reduced to one single image,
  • It inspires marketing campaigns,
  • It attracts audiences & succeeds at the box office.

Who wants to be a 25-word champion?


The 25-word Challenge


Try to summarize the High Concept of  ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. You may come back when you’re ready. Write it down, if you will. Ok GO!


The Logline


SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
“A kid who grew up in extreme poverty uses his memories to answer the questions on the quiz show, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?”


WORDCOUNT: 25, ACADEMY AWARDS: 08

CAN YOU GUESS THIS MOVIE?


“A group of guys wake up in Vegas the morning after their bachelor party with no memory of the night before, and the groom is missing.”

Here’s another one…


“The police officer who oversees the department that predicts future murders, must go on the run when the system foresees he is the next killer.”


And one more…


A young lawyer gets his dream job and discovers he has sold his soul to the devil, and must find a way to reclaim it.
THE ‘LOGLINE’


Your logline is essentially your story in approximately 25 words or less. It showcases your unique dramatic situation and your main character in a compelling conflict that keeps him/her from their goals.


“A high concept script should have a great title, a strong hook, and should not have an overly complex plot. In addition to these elements, if your story cannot be described in one short simple sentence, it is not high concept.” ~ InkTip.com

LOGLINE VS. TAGLINE


A logline is NOT a tagline. A tagline is advertising copy used to sell a movie, and is written on the movie poster. For example:

  • “In space no one can hear you scream.” (Alien, 1979)
  • “Truth needs a soldier.” (Clear and Present Danger, 1994)
  • “On the Air. Unaware” (The Truman Show, 1998)


HIGH CONCEPT IMAGERY

ONE SIZE FITS ALL

A High Concept storyline must be visualized in or reduced to one single image. This keeps the Marketing department happy, and makes it easier for them to turn a movie into a brand with a distinct logo. Analyse these:


Jaws | Shrek | Batman |


WHAT IS A LOW CONCEPT?

  • Complex Plot: Story concept cannot be summarized into 25 words or less.
  • Execution Dependent: Concept is ‘budget dependent’ or ‘star dependent’.
  • Jarring Imagery: the story takes place on multiple continents, shows exotic cultures, and speaks foreign languages—forcing the viewers to “juggle their minds” rather than entertain themselves.

HOW TO TEST A CONCEPT?

  1. The Hook: Test the simplicity of your story concept by summarizing it into 25 words or less.
  2. The Look: Test the visual appeal of your screenplay by creating ‘one single image’ that may feature the Hero or hint at the main plot or central conflict of your story.
  3. The Book: Plan a post-release ‘coffee table book’ of your movie with ‘behind-the-scene’ info, photos, interviews and insights.


I would love to see what you have come up with so far. Be confident. Make mistakes. We’re not looking for a masterpiece.

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