Larry Brody Answers – Do You Need a “Bible” to Sell Your Series to a Network?

BibleLightRayby Larry Brody

Time now to answer a question because now’s when I’ve got the time:

CB wants to know:

Hi Larry. Do you have any bibles for recent one-hour drama series? I actually have a producer interested in a contest winning series pilot…but she wants a ‘traditional series bible’ as opposed to the 9-page summary I’ve done. I have the bible for Lost, which is really a guide for staff writers, and she says that should not be used.

I’ve searched but can’t find anything, which seems odd but maybe they are just not as available as pilot scripts or I haven’t looked in the right places. Any help would be sincerely appreciated.

To which I have to reply:

Congrats on the interested producer. I’m afraid, though, that I can’t help you on the bible front. I think the real reason you can’t find any on the web is that they don’t really exist – at least not the way the interweb seems to think of them. The only bibles I’ve written or seen have either been for fantasy and science fiction shows, animated shows, and soap operas, and they ran anywhere from 50 to 200 pages.

The fantasy and science fiction bibles have all been labeled and used as “writers’ guides” because let’s face it: Every member of the writing staff needs to be on the same page regarding the universe they’re jointly creating, especially the (hopefully) weird, wild, and wacky elements that give them their genre appeal.

The animated bibles have usually been called “production guides.” I’ve written a few that were designed to help sell the series, but those were more in the 9-page vein you mentioned because how the hell can anyone expect a network executive to stay off the phone long enough to read anything longer? The majority were at least 50 pages and featured character and set models so everyone could visualize properly as well as story and character arcs so that the various production departments could know what was coming up and lay some groundwork for it.

As for the soap bibles, they were – and are – very specific documents for which soap opera head writers are paid a great deal of money. In fact, theterm”bible” is an official, WGA term used to cover the extremely detailed episode by episode plan that ensures that all aspects of the production that depend on what’s happening in the scripts run smoothly. Especially the scheduling of actors, locations, and new sets.

In short, by their nature, bibles of all kinds are for internal use, and it seems to me that any producer asking for something called a “traditional series bible” has no idea what she or he is saying and probably wouldn’t know a bible from Rushdie’s Satanic Verses.

If the person you’re dealing with can’t understand what your series is going to be from what you’ve already written, then either you need to do a substantial rewrite to make things clear, or she needs to go back to school for her GED.

Gotta go now, but please keep the questions coming.



Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.