The Judges: Week 3

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.


When their friend and mentor dies
and leaves a final request in the will,
three heterosexual cross- dressing men must decide whether
to come clean about their secret lives and fulfill his last wish.

The judges’ votes:

Do you want to see this film?

Yes: 22% – No: 45% – Not sure: 33 %

Would Australians want to see it?

Yes: 11% – No: 0% – Not sure: 89%

Would it work in rest of the world?

Yes: 0% – No: 33% – Not sure: 67%

The judges’ verdict:

Kim: I can envision the struggles that can arise from revealing their secret cross-dressing and it has piqued my interest. This logline could use a further glimpse into who these men are (thereby illuminating the stakes) and into what the request is or the journey they’ll have to take (internal or external) to fulfill it. The goal is not to give away the entire story but to differentiate your story from other life-at-a-crossroads tales and to give a sense of the tone of the film.

This logline could use a further glimpse into who these men are.

Nina: The genre of this screenplay is not clear to me; it could be funny but then again not!  Do they have to come clean to the antagonist? Why is this dramatic and/or funny? I would also include the theme (moral) of the story and perhaps hint at the nature of the mentor’s final request so we have some idea what is at stake and what these men must overcome in order to achieve their goal.

Why is this dramatic and/or funny?

Karel: Without knowing what ‘his last wish’ might be, I’m not interested. With the ‘last wish’ left out of the logline, I’m suspecting it wasn’t strong enough in the first place.

I’m not interested. Too vague.

Steven: This is a typical, local, ‘quirky’ effort.  Apart from the titillation factor of the three men being cross-dressers, this story has nothing special or original going for it.  And the cross-dressing bit will have gag value for no more than 20 minutes.
Even for a comedy, more dramatic meat is needed.  In particular, the reader needs to know about what compelling obstacles will the three men face.

More dramatic meat is needed.

My suggestion is to put more emphasis on the difficulty of fulfilling the mentor’s last wish, and simply add the cross-dressing bit as a bonus later.  Example:  “A dear friend and mentor of three flamboyant men dies with a last wish unfulfilled.  The eccentric mentor wants his ashes delivered to his long lost daughter, a woman who has shunned him for twenty years.  The three travellers set out to find her and along the way they must decide if they should at last come clean to the world about their cross-dressing and other secrets.”


A teenage assassin living in the slums of Columbia finds himself ordered to do a hit on his best friend. Choosing between loyalty to his friend, and the loyalty required of him by a merciless drug lord, Juan Pablo is a normal boy caught up in a ruthless world. Based on the best selling novel by Nam Le.

The judges’ votes:

Do you want to see this film?

Yes:  33% – No:  0% – Not sure:  67%

Would Australians want to see it?

Yes: 55% – No:  11% – Not sure:  34%

Would it work in rest of the world?

Yes:  50% – No:  0% – Not sure:  50%

The judges’ verdict:

Dan: I’m going to presume he chooses not to kill his mate or there isn’t a story so what happens when he makes that choice? Isn’t that when the film starts?

What happens when he makes that choice?.

Jack: Juan Pablo is described as a normal boy but he is a teenage assassin.  Isn’t that a bit unusual.  It is probably a very good story but it needs a much better logline.

It needs a much better logline.

Karel: Clumsy wording. It would have been better with just the first sentence. I guess he’ll end up killing the merciless drug lord but this question should not be the focus of the logline. What is the boy trying to achieve before it becomes a life-or-death game between him and the drug lord? What is in it for him if he kills his best friend?

Margaret: For this one I have to do a breakdown of the logline itself.
Teenage assassin + slums + hit on best friend = great set-up and high stakes.

The clarity of this concept dies the longer the logline gets.

But . . . the following sentence about choosing loyalties, duh!  That was already implied by the first sentence.  Don’t waste words.
Juan Pablo is a “normal” boy?  You just said he was a teenage assassin.  How is that normal?  The clarity of this concept dies the longer the logline gets.  If the previews meander and backtrack as much as the logline does, you’ll lose you’re audience before you release.

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 below!

1 thought on “The Judges: Week 3”

  1. These are great, very helpful! I don’t have much to add, as my first thoughts, in short form, were:

    1 – Genre? Consequences? Obstacles?

    2 – Repetition.

    It’s a great exercise, allowing me to check against the logline for my own work in progress. Thanks!


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