Ideal Concept: Matching Concept To Budget
What is an ideal concept? When discussing film budgets in business terms, it is a script that fits its potential cost. Balancing your concept to an appropriate budget can help save that script. As screenwriters, we all tend to think our scripts should be made, otherwise why bother writing them, right? It’s tempting to shrug off the commercial considerations of your project.
“I’ll just write a great script, and the rest will take care of itself.”
But let’s say you’re writing a movie that can't be produced for under 30-50M dollars. That’s a studio movie, with rare exceptions. Now let’s go a step further, and you manage to get a studio onboard. They’re going to drop tens of millions in P&A (Prints and Advertising) to market that film. Once the film is theatrically released, they must share some revenue with the theaters. The pie gets cut up quick. Here’s where ideal concept comes into play with films and the business of producing them.
As the writer, it’s more appealing to chase your own interest. If a subject is engaging to you, it should be engaging to others. In theory, this makes sense, but in practice, it’s applying an indie mindset to a studio movie.
If your script is a studio movie, they need to sell it on the side of a bus in 3 seconds, as someone sees the ad go by – again, ideal concept. Does your concept sell that quickly? In many of the spec scripts that come into contests and script coverage services, this isn’t necessarily the case.
And it all comes back to budget. There’s nothing wrong with having a concept that isn’t the next THE SIXTH SENSE – just line it up with an appropriate budget. If your movie can be produced for less than five million bucks, chase your bliss. It’s a different equation at that point. The audience you must reach isn’t as large, nor as expensive to acquire through advertising.
But what we end up seeing too often in screenplay contests, coverage services, and other avenues for aspiring writers to submit their material are big, expensive movies with relatively familiar concepts. It’s the equivalent of the “airport paperback” in the types of premises. That’s not going to cut it for a studio movie, and if the CONCEPT isn’t there on a script budgeted at 30M plus, there’s almost no point in writing it (from a commercial perspective).
Scrutinize your concept, and relate it to your budget. Do the two make sense together? Is it an ideal concept for its budget? If that match isn’t there, you either need to tweak the concept for higher irony (the 3 second bus test) or lower the budget. Scripts are hard enough to write already, by matching your concept to your budget to create an “ideal concept” (financially-speaking) a screenwriter can give themselves the best chance to maximize a script’s commercial potential.
Do you consider the market when developing screenplay concepts?