High Concept, narrative ideas and marketing in Hollywood Cinema  Audino Editore, 2009

The book is excerpted from my Ph.D research at the English and the Communication Department of Stanford University, the Film Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley, the TFT at UCLA and the Media and Communication Department of Fordham University. I need to thank these wonderful Scholars and amazing human beings for their unique help in this huge amount of work: Prof. Lew Hunter of TFT UCLA, Prof. Paul Levinson, Director of the Media and Communication Dept at Fordham University New York, (you might know him as he spends most of his time talking on tv networks like FOX, CNN, etc  as media advisor) Prof. Henry Breitrose of the Communication Department at Stanford, Linda Williams of the Film Studies Program at the University of Berkely, CA, Prof. Franco Moretti of the Department of English at Stanford, Prof. Kristin Thompson of the Wisconsin University, Prof. Tino Balio, Wisconsin University. The book is a case-study-in-depth analysis of a marketing-narrative phenomenon that in the U.S. has been very much underestimated and relegated in a sub-rank other than considered worthy of any kind of study. Indeed High Concept has been the subject of what my dear friend Harry Breitrose defines "cookbooks", indicating by this term those cheap books of screenwriting you can find in low-rent grocery stores. Although as I described in this article, http://bit.ly/cXAFqS it seems more than evident though that this underestimation is very very suspicious. Indeed through my research I found out that these supposed B-authors might have given Hollywood narrative an impressive contribution that is at present yet very far from being quantified. First of all I discovered through my work that despite what the industry claim or tries to demonstrate, Hollywood productions are all based on the very same narrative formula. The research indeed makes a real excursus in the Hollywood screenwriting know-how, by analyzing in what this know-how is made of. Basically it's all about a series of narrative parameters that all the Hollywood majors relies on when it's about evaluating a film project that always has to reach the same single goal: to make more profits. 

These parameters are defined pre-sold properties and they are used by the film financial backers at the beginning of the film process in order to evaluate what kind of chances a specific project has to make revenues. The book (and the research) was born after having verified the enormous difference in terms of quality level between European and Hollywood film productions. 

Everybody knows American movies are way better than European ones, you can tell it from the box office success. You understand it from a single meaningful data: the trade deficit in the audiovisual sector between Europe and US, that amounts to $10 billion in advantage of U.S.
Then when the street man investigates the very causes of this success, the answer is American movies relies mostly on gigantic budgets that American companies can have access to. Unfortunately, if we ask then the same man in case American and European companies having the same amount of budget, WHY American movies always score way better at the B.O. than any other? To this question, the street man start babbling and maybe explain the cause through the presence of Hollywood movie stars. But if this successful american production does not have any famous actor? What the street man would answer? My book answers to all these questions and many many more, by explaining to the reader that the main cause for Hollywood production's economic success and the consequent failure of European failure it's all due to the fact that American movies are by default successful because of their complex narrative structure, that is its screenplay structure. Because in Hollywood, despite what they say, movies are all based upon the very same narrative formula, a two-thousand-years old formula that was born in Greece at the times of Aristotle and his Poetics, that afterwords, those real genius of American Screenwriters have implemented and enriched with new narrative solutions while in Europe they were watching with their mouth wide open. In the second half of the 70's after the opening of Star Wars ( at today the entire saga made more than $1 billion) and after its enormous success and mostly after the audience understood its screenplay was a spec script, in the U.S. there was a sort of a new gold race among screenwriters and all sort of writing wannabes who all were willing to sneak George Lucas secret in structuring such a fascinating and engaging story. Interviewed by a journalist, Lucas revealed he had to give credit for his success to the reading of a book while recovering in the Hospital: "The hero with a thousand faces" by Joseph Campbell. Immediately, Campbell's book received an unexpected sales increase and since that day Campbell's book made the beginning of a real literary movement of "storytelling theories", narrative theories that began to take place mostly in the Hollywood screenwriting circles. 
The first clue of how in Hollywood this movement of screenwriting theory took place and eventually developed following this direction, is represented by the publishing of a professional screenwriters' guide: "A practical guide to the hero of thousand faces" by a certain Chris Vogler. This guide was written by Chris Vogler while he was working as Story Analyst at Disney and initially it was just a text for "internal use only" exclusively destined to the Disney readers. The guide was a bible to help the Disney readers on how to evaluate the presence of those narrative properties that are crucial to be considered for production: three act structure, protagonist's want and need, internal conflict, psychological struggle, climax and conflict resolution. These structures indicated in the bible were intended to separate the storiest hat had those elements that Campbell considered of "secure appeal" to any audience because it's "material" already present in the collective unconscious imagery since the beginning of human history here on planet earth. In the end, the mechanism on which this narrative formula relies on is a mechanism that allows the screenwriter to build up a story that arouses in the viewer a sensation of "familiarity". From the structural point of view, the bible consisted of practical advices on how to write a script and mostly to understand the complexity behind the construction of a film narratives, in particular in the building of characters. Vogler's guide became soon very popular and it went from being a text for internal use only, to a bestselling essay among both professional screenwriters than among non professionals who just wanted to try to sell a screenplay to Hollywood. Thanks to Vogler's bible, soon other authors started to write screenwriting manuals and the movement of "storytelling theories" was born. In my book this literary movement is named  "High Concept"  After Vogler, the movement was enriched by distinguished figuers who then became of even more importance for the development of narrative theories of American movies. Authors like Robert Mckee, Syd Field, Linda Seger, John Truby and Lew Hunter, (with whom I had the great honor and privilege to work with.) All these authors have given (unfortunately for now in my modest opinion only) an immense contribution to the evolution of the Hollywood cinema narrative structure. Just think to the fact that the majority of Hollywood awarded screenwriter have gone through the work, the seminars or the courses of the authors I just named. Regarding Lew Hunter, the two Oscar winning screenwriters: Jane Campion and Alexander Payne, they were both former students of his now legendary 434 course. (the code 434 comes from the UCLA course code number).
Since 1984 the seminars of Robert McKee have been attended by more than 50.000 students and companies like ABC, Disney, Miramax, PBS, Nickelodeon and Paramount, still at present they send their creative department people to his writing seminars. 
In Italy (read Europe) the phenomenon arrived ten years later, in 1995 with the publishing of Luigi Forlai's book "How to tell a great story". Forlai, an Italian famous screenwriter-producer and a John Truby former student was able to option his screenplay while he was in L.A right after he finished his first screenwriting course. Luigi Forlai's publisher in Italy is Dino Audino, a man who was the first and still at today the only publisher who understood and promoted the phenomenon of the storytelling theories and indeed on the track of Forlai's book, my book followed. 
However, even if the storytelling theories begins with Chris Vogler in the half of the 70's. High Concept as a narrative theory starts on the field almost ten years before that, specifically in 1969 when Barry Diller was named Programming Exec. at ABC. At that time, the tv audience wanted to see movies on tv every night but no tv network could allow to broadcast movies already seen at the movies, simply because these movies costed a fortune. Just keep in mind that the average pricetag of a movie for a tv network was of about $800.000, while the networks had at top a weekly budget of $350.000. How to solve it? Another big problem was also the ruthless competition with the other networks  that maybe in the meanwhile could have reached better deals making your deal completely useless. Competing with famous film already gone to the theaters was ridiculous. Yes because the tv viewer-consumer operated a product-choice through the bible of the famous tv-guide that for every programmed film on tv there was a little description (usually just a line) with a little image on top. Barry Diller's smart intuition was to understand the necessity of structuring an original narratives that could have been summarized in a single sentence, to insert then in the tv guide one-line-ad  the viewer could have been able to immediately recognize and then picking the movie on the basis of that description.
Throughout this smart move, Diller solved not only the problem of the tv promotion of films but he introduced (without consciusness) a fundamental narrative model: the high concept. A narratives that was entirely structured aiming to film promotion it became itself a real narrative-coherence control tool. Because as in a sort of magic, the narratives that is able to be summarized in a single sentence it automatically possesses all the necessary and fundamental elements to have a strong appeal to the audience. (To understand why you should buy my book)

In general the most important element of the all hig concept structure, it's the fact that starting from scratch, you can manage to create a spec script that can be as successful as the adaptation of a bestselling novel or a broadway hit, just by following this simple premise.

The book High Concept describes this formula by rebuilding the entire historical-industrial background in which this formula was conceived, the authors who contributed to its development and in what way they did it. But most of all the book explains in detail how to build up a story that owns all the fundamental necessary narrative elements (or pre-sold properties) to be producedor purchased by a Hollywood studio.   

Purtroppo dovuto all’enorme e inaspettato numero di richieste il libro è andato esaurito, per acquistare il volume contattare direttamente gli uffici della Audino Editore: 06 6865608
High Concept
Titolo: High Concept
Publisher: Dino Audino
Year: 2009
108 pages
Isbn: 978-88-7527-066-7

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