What Is An “Elevated” Genre?


Daniel Manus, nobullscript.net discusses a hot new expression bandied about by Hollywood creative executives. “Elevated” or “Heightened” genre.

There are actually a number of ways to create an “elevated” script, but in general, it means there is something more intelligent, complex and involved than most normal stories. It’s not just a down-the-middle, by-the-numbers plot. It’s about boosting the audience experience.

Elevating your script often means that you have combined two genres or hooks to create a more dynamic story than you’d have otherwise. Having one great hook may make your script commercial, but having two great hooks will make your script elevated. Silence of the Lambs, for example, was elevated because it wasn’t just that an FBI Agent had to track down a horrific serial killer – it was that she needed an even worse serial killer to help her.

Elevated projects are movies that will appeal to larger demographics because of the writer’s new way of approaching the story or subject matter. For example, if Scream had been a straight horror/slasher film, it would not have been as broad or successful as it was due to the great sharp comedy and wit worked into the script.

Making something “elevated” means the writer took a basic concept or story and combined it with something really interesting or original to make it completely different. Or they took a basic relationship and added a twist or dynamic to it we’ve never seen.

And sometimes it’s about the way the story is told or the twist of the story no one is expecting or the visual style set up by the screenwriter.

For example, if Memento were told linearly, it would be a pretty normal thriller. But because of the backwards way of telling the story, it was much more than that. 500 Days of Summer could have been a regular old romantic comedy but the way the story was told and broken up and structured made it much more than that.

Lovely Bones was an elevated drama/thriller because of the way it was narrated and how the story started. On page one, it set itself apart. The Sixth Sense could have been a horror movie about ghosts or a drama about death, but instead its huge twist and way of storytelling elevated it to one of the most successful movies of all time.

An elevated horror is usually one where it’s not just a base story about a killer and its victims. There’s something more to it. The Shining is a great example of an elevated horror movie because it’s so psychological and it makes you think. It’s not just a gore-fest, but a character study wrapped in scare. Cabin in the Woods is another great example – it wasn’t just a young adult slasher about kids in a cabin in the woods. There was an intelligence and complexity to the rest of the story that made it much more than that.

Perhaps it’s your location that makes your story elevated. Hollywood loves contained thrillers and contained action movies not just because fewer locations means the budget is lower, but because the sign of a great writer is what they can do with 2 characters in 1 room for 90 minutes. That’s why SO many writers break in by writing them.

“Contained” is another one of those great Hollywood buzz words, and that’s because if you can do something truly original with that one location and make it something no one has seen before, then you’ve elevated your story and made a small story much bigger. Look at movies like Cube, Buried, Phone Booth and Panic Room. All contained thrillers with high concept hooks and their locations – and how they are used – are what make them elevated and interesting.

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