What is a High Concept Film?
In filmmaking, films are either high-concept or low-concept. The term, “high-concept” is applied to films and movies in which the story is clearly plot-driven, easily communicated through the logline, and pitched with ease. Throughout Hollywood, high concept films are all the rage. They tend to be easiest to explain, fastest to sell, and equally easy to execute. But, exactly what is a high concept film and how can we recognize the contrast between a high concept film and a low concept film?
What is a High Concept Film?
A high concept film is a story that is represented by a concise premise or plot that is easily described (pitched) in 3 sentences or less.
Typically, the high concept film can be pitched using just the logline which will provide enough information about the plot that the individual on the receiving end of the details will immediately establish expectations of what will occur within the story.
High concept films are easily pitched, event driven stories that are summed up by their logline. The term “high concept film” represents a plot-driven concept that attracts interest from a mass audience and is generally welcomed by the public.
High Concept vs. Low Concept Movies
To better help you understand the difference between high concept films and low concept films, it’s important to outline the key factors of relevance for each style of screenplay or literary work.
In the simplest form, high concept films:
- Are easily explained.
- Are intriguing to follow.
- Are event driven or plot-driven.
- Have a memorable title.
- Have a unique premise in which the idea is the king of the story.
- Has a logline that you can visualize.
- Is universally appealing.
For example, think about the movie Back to the Future in this film, we know that the story basically is about a teenager that goes back in time to rectify problems he created with his parents’ relationship which could jeopardize his future, so he goes back to make it right.
In this example, the plot is easy to follow and equally easy to explain, the story is event driven, and the pitch would be incredibly simple – there’s no hidden meanings.
In stark contrast with high concept films, low concept films:
- Cannot easily be explained.
- Discuss everyday life and the relationships that take place.
- Tend to be character-driven.
- Is typically less appealing to the masses.
- You just might not “get it,” until you watch it.
- Relies on more than just a concept to survive.
Many low concept films focus heavily on relationships and their titles may not be exactly easy to interpret. For example, think about Pride and Prejudice, a romance.
While the story is focused heavily on relationships, let’s start with the title – you don’t really gather any true clue as to what the story is about from the title.
As you get further into the story, you realize that it’s really character-driven, with almost exclusive focus on relationships between characters as well as in character building.
There’s hidden meaning in the title, and overall the story is less appealing to the masses — although plenty absolutely adore it!
The Difference in Narratives
So, what is a high concept film and how is it different from a low concept film? High concept films represent plot-driven narratives that are made up of a succinct concept that’s easily pitched and clearly differentiated from the competition.
Unlike low concept films, high concept films are event driven and can be summed up by their logline.