The premise of a movie is like a machine that generates entertaining scenes, setpieces and ideas. These are largely explored in the second act.

Your movie concept combined with the genre of movie creates the means by which entertainment is made. For instance, a time travel comedy would probably have a lot of moments where the existence of time travel led to funny set pieces. An avalanche action movie would probably have a lot of gunplay that somehow involved avalanches.

Generally, the concept of a movie is the implicit promise to the audience. If you went to see the new Godzilla movie, you’d be justifiably disappointed if Godzilla didn’t appear until the last twenty minutes. If you’re selling the promise of a giant monster wreaking havoc, it’s fair for an audience to expect a movie ticket price’s worth of giant monsters wreaking havoc.

A bad movie about, say, a vampire attacking Antarctica, would spend over half the script setting up the base, and then bring the vampire in after midpoint. This is kind of a cheat, and when I see it I feel like the writer is self-conscious about having enough ideas re: the core concept. The fear is understandable, but you shouldn’t have a problem coming up with 4-8 fun ideas off a high concept, if you have that much trouble, the topic might be too soft for development.

Scripts tend to work better when they explore one idea to the hilt, rather than explore two or more ideas in a more shallow way. So when you have a concept you’re proud of, set up the first act quickly, and then milk as much entertainment value out of the premise in the second act, because you won’t have much time for play in the third act, which is largely pro forma.

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