In this video, I’m going to share with you what makes a great concept. So I had a really interesting discussion this morning with the team and I wanted to share with you the conclusions we had as to what makes a concept attractive and what might actually shock you so it’s important to note that determining the originality of a concept is very subjective.
What I like is not what the next person may like but generally, but how can we quantify a concept from an objective standpoint? this is the question that we’ve asked and explored and come to some conclusions that I want to share with you and see what you think. One of the angles that I want to address first is the idea of a high concept and what it would presuppose which is a low concept movie, you know you google high concept movies and the general definition is a concept that appeals to a mass audience so that would make a high concept in hindsight right since gross revenues aren’t calculated until after the film is released, so in concept, the idea of a high concept can’t really be known upon conceiving of the concept you see.
Why that? is a little bit confusing, it doesn’t make a lot of sense so I decided to abandon this notion of a high concept. I think it’s smart to try to formulate a concept with a broader audience in mind, but it can also be very beneficial to target your audience right as we see with Disney movies, that is some of the highest-grossing movies of all time that appeal to an itch audience, kids, so put aside this need to create a high concept, and on a side note, don’t ever pitch your movies as a high concept because technically you can’t determine that the audience is going to determine if they go to the movie theaters to watch your flick in mass or not.
When we evaluate screenplays, we care about the execution of mechanics. This does not mean that a concept isn’t valued. I think the x-factor of many scripts is directly attributed to the concept, but I also witness firsthand potentially good concepts that are victim to poor execution, and therefore, unable to be high concept due to poor execution. Right, no one’s going to go and watch a bad movie, but back to the matter at hand How can we evaluate a concept for its novelty and novelty alone?
That’s where I created a concept paradigm. Now it’s important to be clear that a concept or the concept is not mutually exclusive from the narrative value of the screenplay. Like I outlined earlier if it’s a bad screenplay the concept just kind of falls flat, and I’ll get into that let’s get into that now actually let’s ask the question: What constitutes a concept’s novelty now?
I define novelty of a concept, as the level of originality as it relates to the combination of character setting plot genre and theme. Keep in mind that character setting plot genre and theme are not mutually exclusive under this novelty definition. It’s the combination of these elements that make up the originality of the concept as a whole.
Let’s dive further into this if you watch some of my other videos you probably recognize that the viability of a screenplay at all levels, has direct ties to the value of character. Character is number one, so how do we determine whether a character is original or unique? Well, it’s not usually in the occupation or the physical attributes though that can play a factor, from a more fundamental aspect, it’s the level of originality as it relates to the character’s objective in the narrative and their motive for engaging in the procurement of that objective and also the overall inter-character dynamics take a very simple example of a movie that I think, it´s brilliant and I think it has every novel character, is American Beauty. It’s a domestic drama, but the novelty of Lester’s objective and motive, makes the screenplay novel and by all measures, high concepts I think they did about 20 times return on the investment, it was a 50 million movie.
Character & Setting
Now let’s look at setting another element that I would say is very important to the novelty, the overall novelty of a concept on the surface you may say that the setting of American beauty is not novel but, can we judge novelties of a setting simply by its location or are their other elements?. It’s my belief and again my belief, that originality of the setting isn’t just the novelty of the setting alone, but the combination of character and setting it is. Okay, they’re not mutually exclusive when you observe the movie, but from the perspective of the character and setting together, you start to realize that there’s never been a movie made with this combination of novel characters.
Within this setting and being that the setting contributes towards something very valuable to the narrative it does only in relationship to the way the characters interact right, so does that make the setting a novel for American Beauty I think it does and then finally theme another part of the trifecta of concept, is the level of originality that actually relates the combination of character and theme. The question how are theme and character related? and how do they create novel chemistry?
You cannot have a theme in a movie, without the fundamentals of character development. A play’s just basic story science the narrative elements leading to your climax and conclusion of your narrative have everything to do.
Let’s take a helicopter view real quick and observe the originality of a concept again, it has everything to do with characters just like every angle of your story has to do with characters a great setting can add to a concept but it can’t make the concept okay.
The characters make the setting work. The profession of the character can make the character more novel but unless they have a defining motive with a relatable and emotional core, your character will be reduced to just occupation and that cannot on its own make your character novel hope. This is interesting food for thought, because, like everything else in your craft your success begins and ends with a character.
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