M W's Magdalene Sisters
Wat’s the big ide’?
Does British cinema need two-sentence concepts? Words: Gerard Sampaio
he l‘ilm (‘ouncil. the body responsible for the lottery cash drip-feed
that much of the British film iiidustry relies on. recently asked the
nation’s screenwriters for as many 25-word. ‘high concept~ script ideas as they could think up. High concepts are the haiku poetry of movie pitching. ideas for movies that can he conveyed in a sentence or two. ideally less. Speed is the classic high concept: "l'here‘s a bomb on a bus full of people. If the bus stops or drops below 50mph it explodes.’ Two sentences and the executive can already see the movie in their head. attach a star and. ten seconds into the trailer. you can see it too.
Yes. high concepts can turn into great films. but Hollywood‘s current obsession with them is all about making projects easy to sell from the initial pitch (to the studio) to the final marketing campaign (to the audience) and takes the emphasis away from the quality of the work. Who needs all that character development. deft plotting and finely honed dialogue when we‘ve got a sellable concept (and big name star) that will get people in the door for the opening weekend‘.’
The powers that be may want more Bil/v Ii/lints and l’ull Monty's but you can't repeat their success by simply repeating the formula: see the atrocious , Gabriel and Me and Pure/y lie/fer if you s are in any doubt. If anything. runaway ObseSS|on British hits prove that nobody really knows takes what will make a film commercial. best just I, to try and make them original. emphaSlS
We must remember that for all their away from
cutthroat commercial nous. onlv one in ten ..
films made in the [78 really'makes any Of money and only one in ten of those is any work
good. Hollywood survives because they can
afford to play a game of speculation and
accumulation that in the [K we simply cannot. We don't have the big studios. or the marketing budgets and distribution that come with them. We don‘t have. nor can we afford. the stars that Hollywood relies on to get bums on seats and this appears to be what makes high concepts work commercially.
Aspiring to he more like Hollywood is folly. Over the years. Britain has produced a lot of mediocre films by trying to ape Hollywood and a lot of great films by ignoring it. The state supports our film industry presumably because it regards cinema as an art form. yet it tries to mould it into something commercial. presumably so it doesn't have to fund it anymore.
Let’s not try to import what's worst about Hollywood lilmmaking. Let‘s instead have the courage to support films that wouldn‘t get made in Hollywood but might just be great. As our own l’eter Mullan wins plaudits and finds an audience around the world for the decidedly low concept (high quality) The Magi/alone Sisters. let's stop kidding ourselves that we can be a mini-l lollywood and concentrate on making films we can be proud of.
10 THE LIST :' ‘.v' in; 1mm
1 Flaming Lips
Music This hypnotic band can make people‘s heads explode or leave them whimpering in the corner with just a bucketful of tears for company. See preview. page 44. Barrow/and. Glasgow.
2 The Prime Of
Miss Jean Brodie
Theatre Siobhan Redmond is perfectly cast as the ambiguous heroine of Muriel Spark’s novel, an evangelical Edinburgh teacher who loves the sound of her own voice. Royal Lyceum. Edinburgh.
3 City Of God
Film A tough thriller set in the grim bits of Rio where children fight each other with guns to become the ruling drug dealer. See preview and review. pages 26 and 27. GFT. Glasgow; Cameo, Edinburgh.
4 Annie Proulx
Books She didn't start writing ﬁction until she was in her 503. but she quickly got a Pulitzer under her belt. That Old Ace in the Hole is Proulx’s latest gem. See feature, page 14. Fourth Estate.
5 1 1’ 09” 01
Film Eleven renowned directors have made films that last 1 1 minutes. 9 seconds and 1 frame to reflect their feelings about the attacks on America. See review. page 28. Cameo. Edinburgh.
6 Tori Amos
Music The ﬂame-haired, wild-eyed. bewitching one straddles her old joanna again, proving that motherhood hasn’t doused her tire. See the Big Picture, page 8. Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow.
7 Jerwood Drawing Prize Art Proving that drawing is not just pencil lines on paper or a second-class medium. the annual touring exhibition stops off in Scotland. See preview. page 67. Glasgow School of Art.
Drink There is an artistry to making mixed drinks and Dick Bradsell is one of the masters. The king of cocktails has come up from London and the passion is there for all to see. And slurp. See preview. page 91. Bamboo, Glasgow.
9 Dogtown and 2 Boys
Video This exhilarating documentary narrated by Sean Penn details the mid-1970s radicalism of Californian skatetmarders. See revrew. page 85. Columbia TI'ISlaI.
'I 0 Taken
TV Steven Spielberg keeps up his obsession with all things terrestrially extra in this potentially addictive slab of alien abduction telly. See review, page 86. 8802.