Should New Writers Write High Concept Movies? by Kathie Fong Yoneda
Film Courage: Kathie, what is the difference between a low and high-concept movie? And which one favors new writers?
Kathie Fong Yoneda: I think that the low-concept favors new writers only because I think studios in general are more willing to take a chance on something that maybe is lower in budget. But concept and budget are two different things.
A high-concept movie usually means a higher-concept budget in general and that would be like your action pictures, your super-hero pictures, things like STAR WARS. Things that have what they call the “tentpole” (you’ve probably heard that term before) a tentpole effect…it’s just a lot different.
And most of them you’ll notice are based on something that has been adapted from another piece of material like comics, a book, novels, that kind of thing.
But for new people (new writers coming in), writing a nice project that is in another arena that doesn’t require a huge budget and a lot of special effects, that’s a way to really get a sense of can they develop characters? Can they carry a story all the way through for 90 minutes to 100 minutes? And can they give us good roles that actors want?
So I think that is better, if you try and do a lower-budget, lower-concept in terms of genre. That’s the way to do it.
Film Courage: Just a reminder, what is the definition of high-concept and low-concept again?
Kathie Fong Yoneda: Well high-concept usually means something that you can do a lot more with it in terms of whether it can be sequels or prequels. Those tend to be more high-budget and more high-concept in terms of it’s a larger world, more characters and they can do (like I said) more with it. They can continue on an adventure with all of those characters. So that’s why a lot of them you’ll see are adapted from other pieces of material.
Film Courage: What’s a good test if someone thinks their script is high-concept? How can they run it through some tests because maybe they’ll find out it’s actually low-concept and they’re just not aware?
Kathie Fong Yoneda: I think genre is one way. If you look at the ones that usually make the most money or that are based on other pieces of material, a lot of times they fall into science-fiction, horror, fantasy or sci-fi fantasy. Those are the most popular genres for that. Certainly if you look at things that are action-adventure like THE BOURNE IDENTITY, that’s another one that you can do a lot with because there is always going to be a new adventure as this guy [Jason Bourne] is trying to find out his real identity.
Question for the Viewers: Should new writers focus on high-concept or low-concept?
CONNECT WITH KATHIE FONG YONEDA
With over 25 years of industry experience, Kathie Fong Yoneda has worked for such prestigious studios as Paramount, Columbia, MGM, Universal, 20th Century Fox, and Disney, specializing in story analysis and development of live action and animated projects. Her career includes executive positions with Walt Disney, Touchstone, Island Pictures and Walt Disney TV Animation where she has evaluated more than 18,000 submissions (Read more here).
THE BEAT OF THE BAT is a full-length documentary that tells the story of the music of the 1966 “Batman” Television Series and how composers Neal Hefti, Nelson Riddle & Billy May gave Batman his first real musical identity- and one that has remained inexorably tied to the character for over 50 years!
In fact, if you saw the just released “Lego Batman Movie” you might have noticed the numerous references to the music of the TV series.
And face it, you can go up to anyone, anywhere in the world and sing “Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na!” and they will instantly know what you are talking about!
The music was as important to the show as the bright colors, campy dialogue and tongue-in-cheek performances. Yet, strangely, the story of how it came to be has never been told… Until now.
EXODUS documents the journey of Syrian refugees as they cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece. In the winter of 2015, over three thousand refugees attempted this treacherous crossing everyday, all in hope of seeking asylum in the European Union. It’s a life and death gamble that they are willing to take, all for a chance at a new life away from their war-torn homeland.
FREAK OUT: Matan, a soldier in the IDF, sets off for a week of patrolling in a remote base in the north of Israel with three soldiers whom he doesn’t know. As the week progresses, the soldiers begin to question whether they will come out of this experience alive.
THE HOLLY KANE EXPERIMENT: An obsessive psychologist attempts to reprogram her subconscious mind, but when her actions become increasingly uncharacteristic she fears her experiment is dangerously out of control.
AMERICAN TRIAL seeks to discover what a trial in the Eric Garner case might have taught us. How is our legal system designed to handle cases such as Garner’s? What verdict may have been returned after all the evidence was presented? More importantly, what conversations, perspectives and emotions went unexamined because of the grand jury’s decision?
Similarly to fiction courtroom dramas, the lead characters of this documentary will be the attorneys leading the prosecution and the defense. Our camera will capture them as they develop their public arguments and individual positions. How do they decide which witnesses to summon? How do they prepare for their court appearance? Are there any discrepancies between their systemic role and their true feelings regarding the case?
The film will also follow a news crews covering the trial and reporting on race relations in America within the context of the trial and the movement for black lives. They will travel across America to discover what public figures, intellectuals and activists think about the Eric Garner case, as well as other similar cases through the prism of racial relations in the United States.