Defining a Pitch Bible
What is a TV Show Pitch Bible?
A Series Bible, a Pitch Bible, or a Show Bible, is a key Television Scriptwriting document used by writers and producers to store important information about a show.
It’s most commonly used to help network or sell a show but is hugely important in the writers’ room of a production as it is the source of all information relating to the world of the show.
I like to think of the Series Bible as a mystical artifact and build a myth around it…
In a world where no television has ever been produced, suddenly, you come across this document, this bible in the wilderness. Within its pages, there’s everything you would need to create a TV Show from scratch.
There are characters, story, setting, and details on what the show should feel like, what it should look like too…
You gather this mystical artifact in your hands, and you collect your friends around you, ready as ever to create something brilliant!
Its title was chosen for a reason: the TV Show Bible should be worshipped by a writers’ room, or by a production team, and should be gospel.
Inside your Series Bible
What does a TV Show Bible include?
Your world is stored in this document. Think of it as if it’s your brain – and all of your ideas – collected on paper.
What is the tone of the series? Check the Bible.
Who are the main characters? Check the Bible.
What happens in episode six? Check the Bible.
Where did the protagonist go to school? Check the Bible.
Even superfluous information to the plot is contained within its pages, giving writers and the production team extra data to mine when it’s their turn to work on the show.
It might not be necessary for the audience to know a character’s entire backstory, but a lead writer or showrunner will have added it to the Bible for future reference.
Every little detail that can inform other writers why a character acts the way they do will be in the bible. Also other writers suggestions and ideas will also find its way onto a Bible’s page.
This also extends to setting – why is the town so rundown? What did it look like before? What type of spaceship is this? Is it important why the front door is painted blue?
Bibles are also maintained during production, with writers and script coordinators adding facts and information from the latest episodes to keep production up to date.
Did we find out that the spaceship is a Type-40 in the latest episode?
It’ll find itself in the Bible soon enough.
Other than character and setting, the most important information you should include in your Bible is of course the story.
What is the story? How long can this show last? Where is it heading? Where are the characters going? What are their arcs?
Answer ‘what is the story?’ first.
This is the story of…
Then, cover all the other ground:
It features these characters, in this place, doing this, with this, trying to find this, fighting against this, and so on.
In order to show where the series will go, Bibles also commonly include episode synopses for other writers to use as a base for their stories, or at least, to give them ideas.
For instance, by episode five, the main character should have found the smoking gun. In episode six, they should have cracked the case, etc.
Gather your information on your characters, setting, and story, and begin to compile it in a document in the best format for explaining your show.
Selling your idea
How to sell your TV Show Bible
Production-wise, a Bible can also be used to pitch a programme – hence it often being referred to as a ‘Pitch Bible’. Brought to a pitch, these documents should be able to explain a programme’s intended tone, genre, and even style – as well as its story and characters.
Therefore, each Bible will differ from one to another in a bid to ‘sell‘ the idea.
Bibles tend to be written in a more prosaic format than a treatment or screenplay itself. The idea behind this is that this document should be reflective of everything you want to put on screen – it should help producers, executives or other writers imagine the world and inspire them to be a part of it.
Are you writing a cartoon series, a high-concept sci-fi, or an otherworldy fantasy? Then why not include concept illustrations of your characters and locations in your document?
A historical thriller or period piece? Include some research or stock photos – explore the history and paint your world accurately. Share some real-world examples or influences.
What about an exciting new comedy? Then your Bible should match the tone and should be exciting – and funny to read. Throw in some jokes. Bounce some ideas around in it. Make your readers laugh and want to match your comedy. Capture the show’s voice.
Pitching your TV Show
Who can I pitch my TV Show Bible and screenplay to?
Many writers often aim for the BIGGEST and most reputable production companies in the world; companies like Netflix, Amazon, BBC (UK), ABC (USA) etc.
Although I admire your ambition, the head of the Netflix Television Programming said he listens to 50 – 60 TV Show ideas per week. That’s 200 – 240 per month!
Now you may be thinking that’s not that much and my idea is REALLY good… But these TV Show Bibles that get pitched to the likes of Netflix are usually of top standard. Big and established names names such as David Fincher with his TV Series idea ‘Mindhunter‘.
Our advice: Refine and get feedback on your TV pilot script and TV Show Bible pitch.
Get a well-known company or Producer interested in your idea, then leverage them to get the production companies attention.
Don’t target the biggest production companies but the lesser-known ones; you will just be increasing your chances of success.
Alternatively, if you win an established competition like ours, it will most likely get you a meeting.
But if you truly think that you’re ready to compete with the likes of David Fincher and other big industry names, we will of course advise you…
Pitching your TV Show Idea
How to pitch my TV Show idea to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu etc.
Now you’ve written a great TV Show Bible and along with it, a great pilot episode script. If you want to get the attention of these big production companies you need to bring something to the table, you need to stand out above the rest…
Attaching a Big Name to your Script
Whether it be a well-know (A-List) Director that wants to direct one episode of your series, or a well established Producer that wants to come on-board and is passionate about this idea, this will no-doubt get you a meeting at head office.
Big production companies don’t accept unsolicited* scripts. Having an amazing idea, an amazing TV Show Bible pitch unfortunately isn’t enough to get you seen. Having someone with a great track record and believing it, is.
*unsolicited – Not coming from and established and professional source; agents, companies, manger etc.
Pitch Bible examples
Where do you find great TV Show Bible Examples…
If you’re in the process of creating a Series Bible, make sure you look at the suggestions above, but most importantly – read examples of Series Bibles. I’ve included some examples of original and effective Bibles below and as links on the above images – take a look and think about analysing them.
What can you learn from them? What can you borrow from them to help sell your idea?
This ‘series document‘ gets straight into the story, characters, and their arcs – but the mysterious and quirky prose of the Bible also effectively establishes the programme’s quirky, mystery-thriller tone. I’m reading about these characters like they’re on the cast-list of a stage play, and it works.
In Fargo, these characters are the major players. They move in acts. Think about how you want to structure your Bible, and how you want to format your information to express your show in its most genuine way.
Stranger Things or ‘Montauk’ as it was known originally, includes reference material, photographs, and call-backs to the 80s Films, TV shows, and popular culture that the series is ultimately a love letter and a homage to.
There’s a lot of style in this Bible, giving readers a feel for the show, but also included are notes on the story and characters. These include backstory about supporting characters, such as Hopper, that we don’t even see on-screen in the first series.
Seek out more Series Bibles online and give them a read. Compare and contrast them, and determine what your Bible could look like.
When writing your Series Pitch Bible…
In truth, the only way to truly write a brilliant, interesting, and unique Series Bible is to know your show. You need to know your characters and your story inside-out and have a passion for both sharing it with others and working with them to expand it and bring it to life.
Explain your world in the exciting way that you would want it explained to you, and soon enough, others will be inspired to share in it with you.
Eden Luke McIntyre is a Scottish writer, editor, and script consultant. His qualifications include a Master’s Degree in TV Fiction Writing and Bachelor of Arts with Honours Degrees in Film & Media Studies and English Studies, specialising in Scriptwriting, Creative Writing, and Researching the Media. Besides consulting on scripts, Eden writes content for radio, stage, and online, and was appointed as a BBC Writers Room Scottish Voice in early 2020.