Steve on Screenwriting: Understanding Drama

Of all the genres, drama has the most emotional impact on screen.  Think about it.  Virtually every memorable film is a drama.  Examine the American Film Institute’s “100 Best Movies of All Time” and at least 90 percent of them are in the drama category.

So why are dramas so difficult to pitch?  It’s because dramas are execution driven, not pitch driven. The scripts have to be read to be fully understood and appreciated.  That’s why no High Concept films can be dramas.

High Concept films, by definition, are easily pitchable and understood by anyone who hears the logline.  High Concept premises are unique and clever.  Dramatic material is not.  High Concept is also meant for a wide audience while dramas have a more limited appeal.

Take the movie, Kramer Vs. Kramer. The pitch would be: a divorcing couple battles for the custody of their son. There’s nothing special about that pitch. It’s all in the execution on the screen.

Going further, there are drama’s that are virtually impossible to pitch. In Pulp Fiction for example the logline would be something like… two philosophical hit men are out on a job.” It’s obvious that the pitch is vague and unsatisfying. It’s not possible to grasp the depth of that story without actually reading the screenplay or seeing the movie.  All these reasons make dramas a difficult, though not impossible, sell.

Steve Kaire will be at the Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles this week.

Watch for Steve on Screenwriting the first Thursday of the month.

  1. Melody Lopez 6 years ago

    This is a really awesome point. I’m practicing with a bunch of people preparing to pitch to a producer next week during AFF…and I did write a high concept film…but I realize the “log line” to a true story…sounds sort of flat…but its cause of what you describe…you’d have to know the full story to appreciate its depth… thanks for the tip!

  2. […] Expert Columns: Steve On Screenwriting: Understanding Drama by Steve Kaire Top Comedy Movies by Steve Kaplan, Top Ten Lists by Tony Hastings, […]

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