Every so often I see a conversation about “high concept” films or screenplays that goes something like this:
“That was a high concept film.”
“High concept? It was a bunch of explosions and giant robots! What’s so high concept about that?
“That’s poster-child high concept. By definition.”
“No, high concept means a concept with high aspirations… concepts with a higher calling.”
“High concept” does sound like it’d be more applicable to The Seventh Seal than to 2012. And those who lament Hollywood’s penchant for 90 minute action-figure commercials based on video games from the ’70’s might resent the apparent hijacking of the term to mean its exact opposite, somehow projecting value on the valueless by virtue of its semantic favoritism. But it is what it is… the term is firmly embedded in the lexicon of the industry, and now means precisely the opposite of what it sounds like it means.
So I dug up some old notes I’d written a few years ago, and thought I ‘d repost it here, to sort of bubble it back up to the top of the conversation. A few of the links are no longer any good, but you’ll get the point. Continue reading “on defining “high concept””→
Writing duo’s family friendly spec script lands option deal with Epiphany Productions.
Santa Cruz, CA – January 31, 2010
Chip Street and Sean Meehan have had unlikely good fortune in their short spec-screenplay writing careers. In an industry where newcomers are told that it’ll take 10 years of writing 20 lousy screenplays to finally get it right and earn any recognition, they’ve beaten the odds three for three.
A few years ago I ended up talking with Veronica Craven about her upcoming slate of horror films. We chatted about me writing a zombie flick for her but that project didn’t come together (at least not with me).
She did, however, have a project going into production called “Pocahauntus” — a cheezy B horror flick shot on a dime. It aimed for fun straight-to-DVD fare and as far as I know it hit it. And come on, “Pocahauntus“? Somebody had to make a film called “Pocahauntus“.
I ended up doing a few character dev sketches for the film. Never saw it. But it’s on NetFlix. And here’s a few clips from YouTube.
Very cool series of vids on YouTube from UCLA’s film school. Interviews with producers, directors, agents on how to pitch, what you get out of film school, and more… all good stuff, and always great to get it form the horse’s mouth.
Away We Go is just the latest in a long line of “indie” films to leverage the oh-so-cool “hand drawn title” font, lending it serious street cred and instant indie validation before anyone even sees the film.
Recently popularized by 2007’s JUNO, the quirky hand-made title font brought visions of diary entries and emo-teen angst-filled journal poems, setting appropriate audience expectations by screaming “We’re an honest unassuming micro-brew movie!”
Leveraged again in 2008’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, the wacky font inferred the hand written liner notes of a home-made mix tape. Plus, it promises that the movie is probably intimate, personal and low-fidelity-artsy, reminding us of the days of cassette mix tapes and Bic-penned song lists rather than CD’s and laser printered liners.
So then does 2009’s Away We Go not only give us a title font designed in the margins of a high-school English quiz, but an entire poster cartooned/rotoscoped like a modern-day Yellow Submarine (1968) or 1971’s The Point… or more contemporarily, hearkening right back to 2007 and JUNO’s opening title sequence — or the JUNO Soundtrack cover (See below). How quirkily indie-filmishly self-referential and hip. (Do the kids say “hip” any more? Or am I just fixated on “hip” because mine hurts?)
Yes, the same design firm (Shadowplay Studio) did the titles for both JUNO and Nick and Norah (not sure yet about Away We Go, but I’m guessin’). Anyway, sure they do fine work and all. But how long will it be before looking just like JUNO has people saying “What, again?” instead of “Ooh! Again!”.
Got more examples? Please share.
NOTE: In all fairness and in the interest of full-disclosure, I really enjoyed JUNO, plan to see Nick and Norah (love me some Michael Cera – Superbad rocks) and think Away We Go has two of my favorite funny people in it. But come on. This Title design trend is going to become as stereotypically “indie” as the wacky Grampa character addicted to porn.