Concept, for some people, has a bad connotation. We think of high concept films - and these aren't everyone's cup of tea. If you look at the Wikipedia definition of 'high concept' you can see it includes "The plot of a high concept movie is easily understood by audiences, and can often be described in a sentence or two, and succinctly summarized by the movie's title."
For some films this is easily evident. Let's say "Sixth Sense" - I see dead people - etc. But what about "I Heart Huckabees" or "Eternal Sunshine" or "Pushing Tin"? We may choose to describe these as low concept if we are feeling a little mean. But all the same, they do have a concept.
So is this concept to do with marketing? It is. But that's not the point of this post. If anyone has going to have half a chance to market it (and by marketing I also mean you pitching) then you do need to be able to sum what the film is about. So that's the question isn't it? Before the marketing. Before the writing. Before dialogue. Before structure. Before story! What is it about?
And now to add emphasis rather than extra clarity - WHAT IS REALLY ABOUT?
Personally I aim for my films to be able one thing. What is the one thing you are looking at? It doesn't have to be a concerning the plot. It doesn't have to be about "There's a bomb on the bus". It can be about "What happens if you wake and discover you lost a day" or even "Its about isolation in the modern world". Once you have this one thing all other questions regarding your script become easier. Because you have that one thing to hang everything off of.
An additional comment: Make sure you really know what your film is about. The Full Monty may seem to be plot driven (Guys who become strippers) but is in fact issue driven (In a world of male unemployment how does man gain respect?).
Get your concept - and hold onto it tight.
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The Scriptwriter's Life diagram is by Tim Clague from a joint venture by Projector Films, South West Screen & MartonHouse.
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