Alien, Jaws, Godzilla… man vs. creature. Earthquake, Titanic, Twister… man vs. disaster. Face Off, Speed, Die Hard… man vs. man. High Concept. The title alone tells the whole story.
In Hollywood, the term High Concept refers to a movie that can easily be described by a succinctly stated premise, but also is considered easy to sell to a wide audience because it delivers an easy to grasp idea. Marketing, cross-promotional advertising, and merchandising is all part of the package. Back to the Future, Night at the Museum, Jurassic Park… Toys, T-shirts, amusement park rides. You get the idea.
Any genre can be High Concept. Supernatural: Ghostbusters. Crime: RoboCop. Family Comedy: Home Alone. And it’s true that many studios pitch and develop High Concept movies almost entirely upon a premise rather than complex character study, but there’s nothing stopping you from doing both. If you’re going to go High Concept, make it original, and that starts with character. Nobody really cares about Vin Diesel’s Riddick, but there’s no doubt that Indiana Jones will live on past the iconic actor who plays him.