The Judges: Week 1

In 2011, each week our 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.


To please his father and prove himself a good Muslim, Ali agrees to an arranged marriage, even though he’s already in love with the beautiful Dianne.

The judges’ votes:

Do you want to see this film?

Yes: 33%    –     No: 33%     –     Not sure: 33%

Would Australians want to see it?

Yes: 12%     –     No: 33%     –     Not sure: 55%

Would it work in rest of the world?

Yes: 23%     –     No: 44%     –     Not sure: 33%

The judges’ verdict:

Jack: I guess we have to assume the beautiful Dianne is not a Muslim.  The story is not original but if told well it could be very good.  It breaks the rule of not including character names in the logline.  An alternative might be: “To appease his strict Muslim father, a young man agrees to an arranged marriage, although he is in love with a beautiful woman of a different faith”.

The story is not original but
if told well it could be very good.

Karel: What is Ali’s strategy to keep seeing Dianne? Including the ‘how’ of his plan in the logline would give the intended audience a ‘promise’ of what type of comedy we can expect. “To please his father” points to a potentially interesting character journey.

“To please his father” points to a
potentially interesting character journey.

Kim: This idea, as written, doesn’t have enough inevitable conflict to spark the reader’s curiosity. From the logline, it seems that for Ali this marriage will simply be disappointing but not life-altering. Building in some clues as to what the stakes are in this story and the obstacles that will be faced should bring a more enthusiastic response to this idea.


“Spanning two generations, The Angst of a Lemming is a romantic comedy which explores the way people search for love and the mess they get into trying to find it.”

The judges’ votes:

Do you want to see this film?

Yes: 11%     –     No: 67%     –     Not sure: 22%

Would Australians want to see it?

Yes: 0%     –     No: 33%     –     Not sure: 66%

Would it work in rest of the world?

Yes: 0%     –     No: 33%     –     Not sure: 66%

The judges’ verdict:

Margaret: Who explores love and how?  This could be a really boring everyday story about awkward dates which lead to couples shopping for towels together.  Or this could be an extreme comedy about a guy who meets the woman of his dreams when his pet elephant goes for a swim in her pool (or something zany like that).  Other than the direct statement of “romantic comedy” I don’t have a sense of tone or how many characters might be exploring love or what kind of extreme messes they wind up in.

This could be a really boring
everyday story about awkward dates.

Kim: This logline is relying heavily on the story’s theme, so I am left with no sense of characters, obstacles or what is at stake. I realize the struggle is summing up in one-line a story that covers decades of time and presumably many characters. Is there one central relationship in the story that you can use to give a glimpse of the overall characters and conflicts? If not, consider bringing in more specific details, such as locale, time-period, story quirks, something to allow the reader to differentiate your story from other ensemble romantic comedies.

I am left with no sense of characters,
obstacles or what is at stake.

Dan: Not specific enough. What happens and who does it? Horrible title – do Lemmings really angst?

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 FG Segers

Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplayat age 17. Today he is a story analyst with experience in international acquisition, development and production. He co-wrote Danger Close, the biggest budget Australian film of the decade, and has trained and consulted all over the world, including award-winners and Academy Award nominees. Karel ranks among the most influential people for screenwriting on social media, and speaks a handful of European languages, which he is still trying to find a use for in his present hometown of Sydney, Australia

Comments 6

  1. Wow, I agreed with the polls. This is great fun. Thanks judges. Very helpful to me, as I’m trying to come up with a good logline for the thriller I just wrote.

  2. Thanks, this is very timely. I always find it helpful to learn from examples, to see in practice what works & what doesn’t.

    For now, I’ve got nothing to add to the judges’ comments. As usual, high stakes, conflict and specificity are crucial.

    I’m currently crafting my own logline, as well as a synopsis, title, etc. Just for fun, I’m also rewriting a screenplay to go with them :)

    Keep ’em coming!

  3. Second one stinks. The first one is great, and just needs the stakes outlined in the closing sentence to be a great log line. With a good cast (and script of course) I would be very eager to see it.

  4. In this article by Michael Ferris, http://ur1.ca/2ybs9, he illustrates how to write a formulaic premise proposed by some texts and how to sell your idea using Titanic as an example. Apart from the author’s writing style it does succinctly show why the above two examples fail. Thnxs

  5. Yeah second one is waste of time, telling us nothing except that it is something that exists in well worn territory. And yeah the first one depends on the telling because it’s classic.

    My contribution here is to say that the existing first synopsis suggests it’s a comedy because the hero is obviously weak and puts himself in a compromised situation. Jack’s alternative suggestion makes it sound more like a social realist essay by removing the character’s name and bringing the issue of faith into it. Sounds a lot less engaging, even though it ostensibly adds to the mix of elements.

  6. What a great concept for a recurring feature. I agree with the analysis. Even though I don’t care for the Angst of a Lemming title, it does make me curious to know what it’s about. Unfortunately, the logline didn’t help at all.

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