Blog regular Shawn Parrish asks: “What is in a show bible? A treatment, the pilot script, character and world histories?”
Show bibles differ from show to show but, in general, they include – at minimum – a Series Overview, Character breakdowns, and Episode Summaries. This is in the case of an existing series. I recall that when I joined the writing staff of Stargate: SG-1 for its fourth season, I was handed a show bible that included all of the aforementioned in addition to a deep dive section on the SG-1 mythology covering everything from Abydos to zat guns. The SG-1 bible updates were eventually discontinued when, as Brad put it, the document became bigger than the actual Bible.
If, on the other hand, you’re crafting a sales document, you’re going to want to include the aforementioned (Series Overview, Character Breakdowns, and a few Episode Summaries) as well as your First Season Arc and broad stroke plans for Season 2 and beyond. Again, this is your base, but you could always add anything from Column C, Column C being everything I cover in a series pitch…
Start with a detailed rundown of the PILOT TEASE
Discuss the WORLD of your show
Introduce your main CHARACTERS
Offer a summary of your pilot, including that awesome end-of-episode beat that will hook your viewers and compel them to keep watching.
Present your game plan for season one including all major story and character arcs and that awesome end-of-season beat that will compel your viewers to tune in next season.
Offer a summary of your plans for season 2 and beyond.
Discuss the show’s tone and themes, what makes this series unique and spectacular, and why you should be the person to bring it home.
Visual aids can also help. In the case of Dark Matter, I didn’t use any visuals in my pitch, but I did incorporate them into the show bible, using images from the original comic book.
I’m sure you’ll notice that, between pitch and production, a lot can change, usually for the better.
The original Dark Matter pitch bible also included a section titled “The End” which laid out the conclusion of each character arc and the series as a whole. It’s something I wound up abandoning as the show progressed in favor of another planned ending. Still, it’s interesting to look back and consider what could have been.
Remind me tomorrow and I’ll post the fate of the Raza crew as presented in that original show bible.