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High Concept

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Guess what the premise is.

"You think there's a treasure map... on the back of the Declaration of Independence."
Abigail Chase, National Treasure

Describe "High Concept" here:

A fresh, unique, and compelling story premise that can be easily summed up in a single sentence or two.

A High Concept is a bare-bones description of the premise of a proposed movie, show, or whatever, used to pitch it to a producer or an audience.

A High Concept work is one that can be explained with a short, to-the-point, and (it is to be hoped) intriguing description; one that can sell on its own merits. This type is loved by producers who can get a full pitch and explanation of what is going to draw in the viewers within ten seconds. From these few lines they can imagine the trailer, the marketing, the Target Audience and merchandise.

Occasionally, as in the page quote, a line of dialogue or narration from a film will sum up its High Concept for us — it sometimes seems like Meddling Executives demanded a good soundbite to put in the trailer. Let Me Get This Straight... is a frequent contributor.

High Concepts can take several specific forms like: "Show A meets Show B", "One's an X, the other's a Y: they fight crime", or "Film X in the style of Creator W" as well as the labored IN SPACE! and "Die Hard" on an X. Sometimes a High Concept can be based entirely around who's in it as opposed to what it is, with the implication that the star's unique style or talent will carry the premise — a sitcom starring Jerry Seinfeld; a sitcom based around Kelsey Grammer's character from Cheers. And of course you can combine headliner talent with a fantastic or unusual situation: Raven Symone has psychic powers; Billy Ray Cyrus' daughter lives a double-life as a normal teenager and pop icon. Sometimes a high concept can become so influential and imitable that it becomes a format trope in its own right, as is the case of Die Hard; see also The Magnificent Seven Samurai trope, (based on Seven Samurai), Wagon Train to the Stars (named for the high concept pitch for Star Trek), and A Boy and His X.

SitComs naturally lend themselves to High Concepts; the "Situation" in "Situational Comedy" often doubles as the High Concept tagline. The same is true for the Reality Show genre.

If the High Concept is right there in the title, then it's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.

The opposite of High Concept would be Low Concept. In other words, you can't boil down the premise of a show to a simple pitch or tag line. Slice of Life shows, comedic or otherwise (such as The Middle or Parenthood) are a common example of a Low Concept show.

Not the kind of concept invented while stoned.

Compare Laconic. See also Pitch the Work, a Just for Fun page for a game that involves listing High Concepts for works.

Please do not add examples to work pages, this merely defines the term.