Friday, February 12, 2010

To budget or not to budget....

Two thoughts are rattling around in my head as a result of a screenwriting group session last night. High concept versus low concept – and should you think about the budget when writing a movie?

High concept ideas are brilliant for pitching and really allow you to imagine the finished movie from very few initial details. Are the end products any better than low-concept movies? Generally not – but they’re easier to sell and therefore more likely to get made.

There is, too (for me at least!) something joyful about a high concept idea. Someone tells you the logline – or you’re telling a group of people yourself – and the response is “Right. I get it! That’s great!”. Compare this with ten minutes of explaining your historical epic about a cross-dressing soldier during the War of Independence who has issues with his mother and has a brother with a drink problem.

On the other hand, try and sum movies like Little Miss Sunshine or Dog Day Afternoon up in one sentence and you’ll run into problems . But the end results are two fantastic movies.

On a slightly related note, should you bear budget in mind when it comes to writing a script? What if your movie about a space battle or the end of the world will cost 100 million to make? Should you shelve it and write something that could be shot for 2 million?

Here’s my take on both questions: you have to write the movie that you have in your head, begging to come out. Whether it’s high/low concept or high/low budget doesn’t matter – write it. That doesn’t mean it’s going to get made. Yet. But what you do is when it’s done, stick it in a drawer. Pour yourself a large cup of coffee. And start preparing a modestly-budgeted thriller with a killer logline. Once this has been made and you have a bit of a rep built up, it’ll be time to unearth the intergalactic space battle….

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