The Judges: Week 8

In 2011, each week 10 judges will review two short synopses from films that are currently in development.

The objective is to all (that includes us judges) learn from the exercise.

Please comment on our comments!

Creative Commons License photo credit: swanksalot

If you have an opinion on any of these synopses or the feedback from the judges, please share it with us in the comments below.

Please keep the discussion constructive. Even if your first instinct may be subjective, try to give us as objective a reply as possible.


“For Catherine the Great of Russia the big decisions of her youth plague her as her reign lengthens. Determined to sustain the ideas of the Enlightenment in the ‘Deadwood’ world of 17th century Russia, Catherine champions the courageous choice over personal happiness despite the forces railed against her and her own demons. Tony McNamara will translate his award-winning play with all its comedy, faux history and dirty political tricks in a genre subverting story about our contemporary world, politics and lives.”

The judges’ votes:

Do you want to see this film?

Yes: 30% – No: 10% – Not sure: 60%

Would Australians want to see it?

Yes: 0% – No: 30% – Not sure: 70%

Would it work in rest of the world?

Yes: 0% – No: 0% – Not sure: 100%

The judges’ verdict:

Margaret:I love the idea of a “genre subverting” film with “faux history.” It’s a risk that only people like Quentin Tarantino tend to attempt, and I’d love to see it done successfully.
However, I’m not really clear on what the film is about. If we’re talking about faux history here (and even if we weren’t I would still have to look in a history book to figure out the plot) the summary should state what the “courageous choice” is and what kind of “personal happiness” it risks. Simply making the hero Catherine the Great is not enough to make the stakes clear.

This is too long and doesn’t read like a synopsis

Nina: This is too long and doesn’t read like a synopsis; it should be a concise description that summarizes the story, I suggest leaving out the sentence promoting the author. He has chosen one aspect of Catherine’s life – the conflict between personal desires over public duty. Give us sense of who Catherine was. What was the decision that plagued her? What were her goals, and her conflicts? These elements give an overview of the story.

This logline suffers from a lack of specifics.

Kim: This logline suffers from a lack of specifics. Phrases like “big decisions,” “champions the courageous choice,” “despite the forces rallied against her” are all too general to garner much interest in this story. If those were replaced with specific details from the script, this may be an interesting logline, but as is, it seems very generic.


“1937, Rabaul, the last frontier. Aussie bad boy McGuinness steals a cache of gold in the throes of a volcanic eruption and heads for the jungle with his protege, Jimmy, and the sassy Shirley, pursued by greedy Japanese spies, mud men and treacherous ex partners who are haunted by his nickname ‘Black Cat’, because very few who travel with him ever come back alive.”

The judges’ votes:

Do you want to see this film?

Yes:  0% – No:  90% – Not sure:  10%

Would Australians want to see it?

Yes: 10% – No:  30% – Not sure:  60%

Would it work in rest of the world?

Yes:  0% – No:  70% – Not sure:  3-%

The judges’ verdict:

Steven: Sounds like a Crocodile Dundee version of Indiana Jones! McGuinness comes across as a boringly stereotypical character … A ‘Dundee’ version of the 1930’s huntr, Frank Buck.
Also there are too many antagonists here. And none of them are interesting! Best to have just the Japanese spies and the mud men. But, in that case, tell us something INTERESTING about each! For example, “Japanese assassins lead by a meglomaniac and relentless mud men who shoot with deadly accuracy”.

Sounds like a Crocodile Dundee version of Indiana Jones!

Jack: The grammar of this synopsis is atrocious. I have never seen a cache of gold erupt volcanically. And why are the pursuers haunted by McGuinesses’ nick name? It only affects people who travel with him, not after him. How about, “1938. Following the theft of a cache of gold, a young Aussie tearaway struggles to evade ex-partners, Japanese spies and mud men in the jungles of Rabaul.”

Also there are too many antagonists here. And none of them are interesting!

Robin: The first bit suggests the whole movie is just about the protag trying to escape which doesn’t capture me emotionally, The last bit is just confusing. Is it Jimmy and Sassy who are going to die? The ex partners didn’t die but now they are ex they’re still worried?

The Judges (click for details)

So what is your verdict? Would you want to see these films? Why (not)? Did the judges get it right? How would you improve the synopses/loglines and what do you feel might improve the stories behind them?

Please give us your opinion in the comments at the bottom of this page.


3 thoughts on “The Judges: Week 8”

  1. Wow! Very harsh on the Green Hell synopsis. Yeah it isn’t great and has many flaws but it does seem like a lot of fun and has piqued my interest to see a teaser/trailer. I agree it needs a lot of work on the concept but it seems more accessible than The Great.

  2. The Great could be something of a paradox. Elizabeth seemed to be running the same pitch and worked very well. It does seems to appeal to that demographic that enjoys a journey through history according to the directors vision.
    Green Hell is the colour your face goes as you watch the opening credits of the film. No thanks, sounds like a train-wreck in the making.

  3. 1. “award winning play” definitely a worthwhile inclusion.

    2. mm lets fund writers who can’t seem to write very well.


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