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.