A high concept pitch can help you sell your product or idea to potential investors, but how do you write one that will get them excited about what you’re doing?
There are lots of different ways to define a high-concept pitch. High-level pitches are sometimes called elevator pitches because they should be short enough for someone to explain in an elevator ride. They also need to be clear and concise so people understand the core of your business without having any prior knowledge about it.
It’s important for these types of sales pitches not only explain what your company does, but why it’s better than other offerings on the market. This is where some companies fail with their high concept pitching – they don’t take time to really think through what makes their product unique and worth buying into. Before writing out your own high level pitch, make sure you know exactly who this message needs to reach (investors vs customers).
- 1 What is a high concept pitch?
- 2 Why do I need to know this information?
- 3 How to create a high concept pitch for your screenplay
- 4 Examples of high concept pitching
- 5 What makes a good high concept pitch?
- 6 What’s a high concept pitch good for?
- 7 My personal experience with high concept pitching
- 8 FAQ about What is a High Concept Pitch?
What is a high concept pitch?
Movie concepts and pitches fall into three categories: high concept, mid-range and low concept. A high concept is a one- or two-sentence description that tells what the movie is about. If you are looking for an agent or manager, this type of pitch may help them visualize your story line, so it can help them determine whether they want to read the screenplay. It should be created by someone who has already read the script or at least knows what happens in each scene. Agents look for original ideas that have commercial potential, meaning enough elements exist in the premise to sell it as a film to studios, networks and independent financiers.
High Concept Pitching Examples
“Two paraplegics set out to climb Mount Everest in their motorized wheelchairs.”
“A young woman, hunted by a ruthless gang of Colombian killers, is saved when her family dog barks at them and the assassins mistake him for a Doberman.”
“A collection agent gets mixed up with his targets while pursuing an arms dealer’s wife through Europe.”
The “Rocky” movies are all high concept. Rocky Balboa is a small-time boxer who gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fight the heavyweight champion. He takes on all comers — first as an underdog and finally as champion. The sequels were simply new opponents: Drago, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was another brilliant example: a detective story set in a cartoon world, where animated characters and humans coexist.
Why do I need to know this information?
You’ve finished your script, but before sending it off to an agent or submitting it to production companies, chances are you’re going to have some explaining to do.
That’s where the high concept pitch comes in.
A high concept is a logline that packs a big punch – summing up the story and its appeal in one tight sentence. It tells us who we can expect to see (genre), what they want (goal) and what’s preventing them from getting it (obstacles).
What’s more, if well written, this quick snapshot manages to evoke tone and atmosphere as well as telling us enough about the key players for there still be questions left unanswered. They leave us wanting more – which is exactly what we should be aiming for.
A high concept may not tell us everything about a film, but it should certainly leave us wanting to know more.
How to create a high concept pitch for your screenplay
The first step is to get a piece of paper and write down all the main characters, plus their wants and goals.
In TV, your core idea should be entirely contained within one half-hour episode or one hour pilot. In film, it can be more complex but should still contain all the elements of a high concept pitch in one sentence.
What you’re aiming for is a single line that immediately tells the reader what the story’s about and hints at some of its distinctive features. Remember: we’re talking commerciality here so think instantly saleable and watch out for metaphors and analogies with other well known stories (familiarity helps sell an idea). You need to show agents how they could pitch this project when they go into a meeting with a studio, so it’s more important to create an original idea than to be 100% accurate.
Once you have your sentence, run through the following checks:
- Does it sum up your story?
- Is there enough conflict and obstacles to sustain the plot for 90-120 minutes (or one hour)?
- Can we easily identify who our main characters are and what they want?
- Is it clear who the antagonist is – and why they’re trying to stop our protagonist?
- Would anyone pay money to see this film or TV series about these people in these circumstances? To test this last point try converting your logline into a question with two possible answers: “Would you pay money to see this?”
- If the answer is no, rewrite it!
Examples of high concept pitching
“In a world where vampires have overtaken humans as the planet’s dominant species, a young woman battles both sides to protect her blood-drenched family.”
That sentence tells us everything we need to know. It may not be 100% accurate, but it’s certainly high concept!
Action/Adventure: A modern day Robin Hood seeks revenge on those who killed his wife and son by stealing from the rich, so he can redistribute their wealth to those in need.
Romance: Love is a drug – and thanks to Dr Love’s new wonder pill men are becoming hopelessly addicted, while women can’t get enough of the stuff. What chance does a hopeless romantic stand against such odds?
Drama: The same story told twice, once in reverse.
Crime: A young woman wants to know who her mother’s murderer was, but the most dangerous man she could ever meet is the only one who can help.
Family saga: The story started by Romeo and Juliet is re-told in a modern setting, where two families are still fighting it out centuries later.
Fantasy/Sci-Fi: Dorothy Gale wakes up on Mars having been transported there by a tornado. She must find her way home if she wants to keep Kansas out of the clutches of the evil Queen Ora.
Thriller: Two men wake up in adjacent prison cells without any idea how they got there or why they’re being held captive together. Only one clue is left behind – “I Know Who You Are, I Know What You Did”
What makes a good high concept pitch?
• The idea should be instantly saleable in one sentence.
• It should contain both narrative drive and something new for audiences to think about after they’ve seen the film.
• It should be clear who the main protagonist is (e.g., an underdog) and who or what they are trying to beat (the antagonist).
• It should contain conflict between at least two of the elements in your sentence.
• The plot idea needs to be primarily visual, not conceptual, so that it can translate into a movie treatment or short synopsis easily.
• It must have universal appeal since you’re pitching it to mass market audiences.
• Come up with your core idea first then work out how to fill in the blanks later on.
What’s a high concept pitch good for?
- Sending to a literary agent – you only have one page, so make it count.
- Sending to a screenwriting contest – you can go into more detail later on in your script or treatment.
- Meeting with development execs – show them the essence of your idea and they’ll be more likely to ask for a longer synopsis/treatment/script as well as meeting.
My personal experience with high concept pitching
Not long after I started writing full time, I got the opportunity to pitch an idea that was then sold to Working Title for seven figures. If ever there was a chance to feel like I was on cloud nine and bask in some reflected glory, this was it.
The only problem was that when I pitched my high concept idea it didn’t get a particularly good response from the producers. It wasn’t until later when they were halfway through commissioning a screenplay based on my “U-List” idea (more of which below) that they realised what a mistake they’d made .
After learning more about pitching from both personal experience and talking with writers who have been successful at selling their ideas, here are four key ways of creating your own pitch:
- Your logline. The logline is the most distilled version of your idea, so make sure it’s as strong as you can possibly make it. Write it down on a post-it note rather than leaving it to memory, then pitch that before talking about anything else.
- A “Funny Sayin'” One of the best ways to ensure people are listening closely is to slip in something funny at regular intervals throughout your pitch – so much so that they almost forget why they came up with you! This might be an inside joke between you and the director or something odd about one of your characters, but whatever it is try to use it during pauses in your pitch so people laugh at just the right moment.
- Use an analogy or comparison that makes your idea easy to understand. When pitching, it’s important to try and define what makes your idea unique as quickly as possible – something everyone can relate to without having seen your movie first. The easiest way of doing this is to use a comparison: “It’s like the lovechild of THE DAY OF THE JACKAL and JAWS.” It also helps people visualise the world you’re creating – ‘You’ve got the heart of UP in a blender with 3-D glasses on’ – so they can immediately see whether they’re interested in seeing more.
- Focus on who wants what from whom . If you think about it, every story is about a character trying to get something – be it a physical object, money, love or simply knowledge. In order for your pitch to function as a selling tool you need to emphasise this aspect over anything else. You can also consider using the Kieslowski triangle from “The Decalogue” as a guide:
- A person wants something but they’re not allowed to have it (the law says no).
- There’s a moral dilemma surrounding who should have it if both parties want it.
- Both people end up getting what they wanted in an unexpected way or ending up with much less than they initially aimed for – the trickster element of! Rather than trying to explain the whole movie in one go, try using this triangle as a guide to help you pitch your core idea. Remember, it’s about conflict (with the antagonist) and the protagonist’s journey for understanding (or lack of it).
The most important thing is that you don’t feel like you’re pitching; It should feel more like exploring an idea with the people you’re talking to. If they ask specific questions then take time to answer them but keep on track with your high concept pitch otherwise you’ll lose momentum!
FAQ about What is a High Concept Pitch?
1. What is a high level concept?
A high-level concept is a description for an article that sums up the main point of the story. It’s usually only 1 or 2 sentences.
2. How do you write a concept pitch?
It’s a short description of your story. It can be a single sentence or a couple sentences, but it should only cover the main points of the article.
3. What is considered a high concept film?
A high-concept film is a movie that can be easily described in only a few words. It’s something people will remember and want to go see, because it sounds interesting from the film description.
For example: Office Space, Oceans 11/12/13, The Hunger Games – Catching Fire, Avengers 2…
A high-concept pitch is a short, concise summary of an idea that can be easily understood by anyone. It should include the main point and key points about what your product does. This type of marketing technique was developed in Hollywood to help sell movie ideas quickly while still giving people enough information for them to decide whether or not they want to invest their time into seeing more details on the project. The same principles apply when pitching any other kind of business plan, so if you’re looking for investors, customers, or employees – this might just be what you need!