The Judges: Week 9

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.




“In 1946, Australian soldiers and nurses enter the ruined city of Hiroshima to take their place in the occupation of Japan. Many of them carry revenge in their hearts for the war-time atrocities of the Japanese army. But in the ashes of Hiroshima, as a damaged human society goes about the task of re-inventing and renewing itself, young people from opposing sides are falling in love.”


The judges’ votes:




Do you want to see this film?

Yes: 20% – No: 50% – Not sure: 30%

Would Australians want to see it?

Yes: 30% – No: 0% – Not sure: 70%

Would it work in rest of the world?

Yes: 20% – No: 30% – Not sure: 50%

The judges’ verdict:



Nina: My first question is how many stories will we have to follow? It would be more interesting to follow one main character with a specific goal whose story weaves through the subplots of the other characters, with perhaps one of these other characters as the antagonist. My second question is do they all fall in love? Is this the goal of all the characters – to find love? I would suggest the synopsis be more specific in order to describe the central story.

There’s definitely potential for a great film here but this logline needs to be more specific


Dan: There’s definitely potential for a great film here but this logline needs to be more specific to offer a glimpse of what that film will concretely be. As written, it’s a general post-war love story, but a more detail-driven logline, highlighting characters and their stories, would work better to elevate interest in this film.

It would be more interesting to follow one main character with a specific goal whose story weaves through the subplots of the other characters


Steven: Great setting, but no clear sense of who the key characters are going to be. Apart from being some Romeo & Juliet story amongst ashes and rubble, what will this film offer to the viewer? At a minimum, tell us specifics about each of the two “opposing sides” lovers and the person who most stands between them. Give us three specific characters and then we may care.




“In 1988, an Australian family relocates to Papua New Guinea after the death of its youngest member. In this hot, humid climate, in the wake of their collective grief, family loyalties become as tangled as the jungle that encroaches on the barbed wire of their gated community.”


The judges’ votes:





Do you want to see this film?

Yes:  30% – No:  50% – Not sure: 20 %

Would Australians want to see it?

Yes: 0% – No:  20% – Not sure:  80%

Would it work in rest of the world?

Yes: 0 % – No:  50% – Not sure:  50%

The judges’ verdict:



Margaret: This just sets up the circumstances of the characters lives, but then doesn’t say anything about what actually happens to them. It’s not even clear if one member of the family is the protagonist or if the plot focuses on all of them. This sounds much more like the set-up for a TV drama or soap opera than the plot of a feature film.

This sounds much more like the set-up for a TV drama or soap opera than the plot of a feature film.


Dan: Good logline. It gives specific information about the main characters and holds lots of promise for inevitable conflict. I now want to know how this story will play out and that should be the ultimate goal for a logline. Due to the logline though, it does feel there’s a chance this film will be preachy. Perhaps removing the last line would lessen the tone of impeding didacticism and keep the focus on the strong characters and story.

It’s a great premise which could be terrific or terrible


Robin: It’s a great premise which could be terrific or terrible, depending on the script. But my first thought was, perhaps unfairly, ‘do I really want to see a sixth-form debate play at the movies?’


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.



4 thoughts on “The Judges: Week 9”

  1. Jungle… a question. Can you think of a film about grief over a dead relative who is never really a character in the story, especially one that dies offscreen, that succeeds in getting us to care? I feel like there must be one but I can’t think of one.

    PS I’ve just watched nothing happen for 100 odd minutes in ‘The Tree’.

  2. Actually I want to submit a short synopsis for review myself here you go:

    “Sara is a teenage girl obsessed with Voodoo. She hears voices and has weird dreams. Sara’s school friends make fun of her, her foster brother is a pervert and her foster parents want her committed.

    Then one day a young man named Boli Shah contacts her. Shah warns her that she is in danger, that a man named Baron Samedi, guardian of the underworld, has risen into the world of the living and wants to bring about the end of days.

    Sara is Ogunte, the warrior path to Yemalla. She is the only one who can cross over to deadside, she is the only one that can stop him.”


    • Firstly, I see there too many details in this story that are unnecessary and ineffective. The foster brother and foster parents subtract value rather than add. I advise get rid of them entirely, even if it means some of your intended cast members are out of a role.

      Secondly, why the Voodoo detail? Making Sara interested in Voodoo (or Wicca for that matter)degrades the story. It’s much harder to take the concept seriously if you have either in the story. [Both motifs are almost as overdone as vampires … PLEASE do not have vampire characters in this story!!!]

      So far I’m assuming that this story is some drama or thriller type of picture (with a bit of fantasy thrown in). If, on the other hand, this is supposed to be a blatant send-up or satire movie, then you really need to radically change the tone of the synopsis to reflect this.

      My suggested revision of this story would go like this: Keep Sara as some unpopular teenager who has dark & disturbing dreams she can not make sense of. Her parents, though loving and kind, cannot ‘get’ her and have no idea how to cope with her ‘episodes’.

      Then arrives the messenger being [which, if I was directing this pic, I would make it unclear to the viewer – at least at first – if this entiity is ‘real’ or a delusion of Sara’s]. Give him a more serious name, such as “Bollsharn”.

      Bollsharn tries to convince Sara [and the viewer] that he is real and that the threat of “Baron Sarmed” [name change deliberate] is imminent and world-shattering. Sarmed feeds off the doubts, negativity, fears, ignorance, etc of the collective majority [sort of like the “Great Nothing” in Never Ending Story]. And if he were to prevail, then art, inspiration, innovation, progress, etc would be snuffed out of the human race.

      Sara could still be a latent “Onide” [potential warrior for the life-affirming side of the collective unconscious], but the image would be more her learning psychic karate than it would be her being a striaght ‘Buffy’ clone. Which is NOT to say that she would lack physical combat competency, only that stylistically her fighting technique would be, shall we say, the difference between a surgical scalpel versus a lumberjack’s axe. [You would be surprised how much more effective/impressive a character will come across to the viewer if she has less ‘biff-bang’ and more finesse against dark minions.]

      If you are knowledgeable about Jungian psychology you can really make this story work with many deep layers – and wheels withing wheels – without having to have an American budget to make it. Kind of like an ‘Inception’, but without the crash-bang of vehicles and shoot-outs.

      I don’t mean to shred your ‘baby’ heartlessly, but I do genuinely believe that the story could ultimately work … But only if you seriously rework the details you have in mind. Please accept my critique in the best possible spirit.

      Good luck with it, David!

      • Hey Steve,
        Thanks for taking the time. It is interesting the assumptions you make on the concept based on the synopsis. Most of the suggestions you have made regarding the actual concept and story are close but not exactly to what is in the series bible – but very close. So I won’t disagree with you there since they are sound story suggestions.

        SInce I was after feedback on the synopsis itself – whther it makes it clear who the central character is, her “current” reality and that a change is about to take place, and who the villian is so to speak. The use of the voodoo motif is to imply what the obstacles might be – and considering your suggestions it seems it has made you imagine many possible situations (which I might add are close to what is actually in the series bible).

        So if you have specifics on the synopsis structure rather that the concept itself I would love to hear them. By the way come to the party this Thursday at the city hotel:


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