Wednesday, August 04, 2010


HIGH CONCEPT: How to Create, Pitch, Sell to Hollywood
Steve Kaire
Audio CD

By Jim Cirile

How much would you spend to sit down with an industry maven for an hour and have that person share their secrets? Now imagine that those secrets are specifically geared towards helping you find the best, most sellable story ideas and showing you how to develop them. Then suppose that this information just saved you a year of your life that you would have spent writing and trying to market a new spec script with a so-so storyline you probably shouldn’t have wasted time on in the first place. NOW how much would you pay? I know, I know, I sound like a Ronco pitchman. But the fact is: Steve Kaire is the real deal, and that $29.95 you shell out for his disk may be the best money you’ve ever spent.

Kaire has been around forever and is well-known in town as “the high-concept guy” – he’s a regular at pitch fests and screenwriting events, hoping he’ll strike gold and find material he can then go sell (Kaire has indeed sold eight pitches to the studios -- without representation.) I remember meeting him at a pitch fest years ago and fired some ideas at him. I was a working writer with heat, and I thought sure he’d grab onto my ideas. Instead, he found flaws with each of them -- and he was right. I left reeling, but with a ton of respect for the guy. Simply put, Kaire has divined the secret of what Hollywood is looking for. And now he’s sharing this knowledge with us all.

The first thing you need to know is that this is an audio CD. While this might seem quaint in the age of BluRay and podcasts, it’s actually wonderful. I did not have to carve an hour out of my day to sit down and watch this thing. Instead, I listened to it in my car. Three freaking times. Even after 20 years in this business, I still learned a lot from Kaire, and his precepts really helped crystallize my thinking as to what projects I should be focusing on. Gojira-size thumbs-up for the audio CD format, and thank you, Mr. Kaire.

So what exactly does Kaire have to say? 63 minutes of advice, anecdotes and sage how-to. Kaire exhaustively details what “high concept” is and what it isn’t and why it’s so important (in a nutshell, it’s an idea that is rife with potential that you can visualize just from the title – for example, “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.”) He runs down movies with great concepts as well as terrible ones (“I Heart Huckabees.”) Yes, movies with weak concepts do get made, but they are generally executive or auteur-driven. For a baby writer trying to break in, your best bet is to find that great high concept idea.

Kaire chronicles a whole pile of both good and bad pitches he’s heard (you’ve gotta hear the “Great Balls of Fire” story) and even details how to find and best approach producers and representatives, how to compose your short or phone pitch, query letters, dealmaking and more. This is all good stuff to be sure, but where this disk really shines is when Kaire shares with you his high-concept development techniques. If you think coming up with a great movie concept is a bolt-from-the-blue thing, think again. Kaire details proven methods he uses to develop high-concept ideas and breaks down the five different kinds of high-concepts and shows how you can come up with your own. For example, “the ______ from hell.” You fill in the blank. Hollywood goes to this well all the time. The nanny from hell? That would be “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.” The psych patient from hell? “What About Bob?” Get the idea? Using Kaire’s methods, a half-hour of brainstorming could yield you a solid, marketable new story idea, instead of you sitting around on your keister for six months waiting for inspiration to strike you.

Kaire’s delivery is gentle and evenly paced, and his Brooklyn accent is sometimes amusing (and hey, I’m from New York.) I’m guessing he deliberately kept the fast-talking to a minimum so as to make sure that the material is readily digestible, and it works. So listen up and listen well. If you’re looking for that lightning bolt to kick-start your creative juices, Kaire’s “High Concept” may be just the ticket. Check it out right HERE.

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