The Judges: Week 6

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.

DEATH IN CANTON


“A young man is forced to travel to China
to deliver the body of a man whose accidental death
he was responsible for, only to discover that
the family have disowned their son and
want nothing to do with his remains.”

The judges’ votes:


Do you want to see this film?

Yes: 30% – No: 40% – Not sure: 30%

Would Australians want to see it?

Yes: 20% – No: 20% – Not sure: 60%

Would it work in rest of the world?

Yes: 30% – No: 10% – Not sure: 60%

The judges’ verdict:


Steven: Nothing is said about the protagonist other than he is “young” and has some sense of moral responsibility. We need to know more than this so we can get a concrete sense of him. If the image of the protagonist is vague, your story concept will always appear weak. At a minimum, we should know the protagonist’s race (which makes a real difference in picturing what he will face in China). Even better is some relevant extra character trait. For example, is he a stutterer? Is he physically uncomely looking? Is he normally shy? Or whatever.

While the disowned family bit is interesting, we need to be told more about what both drives

If the image of the protagonist is vague,
your story concept will always appear weak.

Jack: I think it captures the essence of the film in one sentence.  It is a good logline for an interesting story.

It is a good logline for an interesting story.

Margaret: And then what happens?  Was the journey to deliver the body the main part of the story?  If so, that’s a rather sad and disappointing ending.  But if the story starts when our protagonist is abandoned with the body, then what does he do?


THE DETECTIVE


“Into the war zone that is Afghanistan, arrives lone wolf Australian Federal Police Detective, Larsson, on a errand of professional mercy to bring home the body of his friend and police colleague Paul Reeves. But when the detective looks at his dead friend’s body and knows that no suicide has taken place, he descends into an unstoppable odyssey to find the truth.”

The judges’ votes:


Do you want to see this film?

Yes:  70% – No:  0% – Not sure:  30%

Would Australians want to see it?

Yes: 60% – No:  0% – Not sure:  40%

Would it work in rest of the world?

Yes:  40% – No:  20% – Not sure:  40%

The judges’ verdict:


Robin: This is good, fraught with conflict and potential action. To further improve, consider bringing the idea of the suicide into the logline sooner. As it reads now, the reader has to process that it was believed to be a suicide but it’s not a suicide in one thought. Putting some space between those ideas should heighten the “no suicide” reveal at the end.

This is good, fraught with conflict and potential action.

Dan: This one is too specific? Unless those people are real why do we need their names? It looks like it’s going to struggle to transcend the clichés so it needs to make really good use of the Afghan setting. Why Afghanistan and not, say, Alice Springs?

Unless those people are real why do we need their names?.

Nina: Make the style of the synopsis simple and concise, to give it more impact. “He descends into an unstoppable odyssey to find the truth” – in other words, his investigation – is typically in the 2nd Act; we need to know the Hero’s objective in the 1st Act. There is no mention of the antagonist, if that should remain a mystery, hint at the opposing forces working against the detective so we know what is at stake for him.



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!

About the Author

Karel Segers

Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in international movie rights acquisition, script development and production. He has trained and consulted to filmmakers all over the world, including award-winning screenwriters, and Academy Award nominees. Karel founded this website, as well as Logline.it!, ranks among the most influential people for screenwriting on social media, and speaks more than a handful of European languages (which should come in handy in his present hometown of Sydney, Australia).

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