A basic source for understanding how the term high concept is used to pitch story ideas in Hollywood is Robert Kosberg’s “The Bottom Line of High Concept” chapter in his book, How To Sell Your Idea to Hollywood. Kosberg credits the idea of high concept to Barry Diller and Michael Eisner. They created the term when they were young executives at ABC in the late sixties working to promote TV Movies. “Diller and Eisner had to devise a way to grab attention in a TV Guide listing with just one or two lines. That’s how the term high concept originated. To capture an audience, that one sentence had to convey just how exciting, sexy, provocative, and entertaining the movie was going to be for them to watch.”Because of the limited space a TV program was allocated in TV Guide, an exciting log line had to be created that would interest the reader, “hook them”, and get them to watch your TV program instead of one on another station. The program’s story had to be expressed using only its most exciting parts.What is the difference between a logline and a high concept? It is best to think of a logline as a humdrum high concept, and a high concept as an exciting logline. Both are one sentence statements about the essence of your story.Kosberg states that, “The essence of high concept is that it is both brief and provocative. It piques the imagination and promises that big things are going to happen out of an ordinary situation.” A high concept is not limited to any specific genre, but can be used to promote a comedy, drama, action/adventure, horror or fantasy project. It is meant to excite the audience, to tease them into wanting to see more. It is not so much a story design or writing tool as a marketing and selling gimmick.
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