What is ‘High Concept’ Anyway?

Sit back and gaze upon your screen, my children, and all will be revealed by the writing brains behind Script Reader Pro.

by Script Reader Pro

Um…not this kind of high, although we do like the concept

Is Deadpool “high concept”? What about Midnight in Paris? Or The Purge?

The fact that you can ask ten different writers and get ten different opinions, kind of sums up how confusing the notion of a “high concept” has become.

?  What does the term mean exactly?

?  Should you be writing scripts that are “high concept?”

?  Will it make them easier to sell?

In this post, we’re going to explain exactly what “high concept” traditionally means. But also how and why you should apply the tenets of high concept to your story idea. No matter what the genre.

So let’s get to it.

What Does “High Concept” Even Mean?

The term “high concept film” refers (traditionally) to one with a “hook”—a unique idea that sells easily and usually does well at the box office.



High concept movies are generally regarded as being more idea-driven than character- driven. As such, they’re more readily associated with idea-driven genres such as comedy and action/adventure. Rather than, say, coming-of-age dramas.

The idea of the high concept film really took off during the heyday of the spec era in the 80s and 90s. Imagine you’re an exec in 1980 and a writer pitches you Tootsie. You’d be immediately hooked, right? But why?


?  You’d be able to see the whole film in your head.

?  You’d be able to easily picture the funny situations Michael gets himself into.

?  You’d know you could easily sell it.

?  You’d instinctively know audiences will love it.

This perfectly captures the essence of the traditional view of a high concept film:

A big, original idea that screams “How hasn’t this been made before!!

Many other 80s and 90s hits, such as Groundhog Day, Jurassic Park and Liar Liar, all do the same thing.

You’ve probably heard some or most of these points before, but here’s a quick checklist of what constitutes a classic high concept:

?  Is unique and original

?  Is highly visual

?  Contains a clear source of conflict

?  Has a strong commercial appeal

?  Instantly grabs the attention

?  Is simple enough for an eighth-grader to understand

?  Can be written in one or two sentences

?  Possibly contains a twist and/or “fish out of water” scenario

?  Makes people think, “how hasn’t this been made before…?”

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