BIBLES VS. PILOTSComplications Ensue
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Sunday, April 10, 2005

I'm feeling a little dumb about pilots and bibles.

In Canada, where I work, you sell a show off the pitch bible, a ten page document like a short version of the show bibles of eld. That's because the government subsidizes the development of scripts.

In the States, though, it appears you can sell a show off the pilot episode. You don't have to have a bible at all. Many shows have no bible. Marc Cherry sold Desperate Housewives off a pilot. Josh Schwartz, apparently, ditto. Medium has no bible, except what's in Glenn Caron's head.

On the other hand, and this is where I'm confused, you read things like this post, from the brilliant, not-terribly-incognito writer of Why Television Sucks:
12. When pitching your pilot to the brand new head of the Network, who came over from FEATURES, do not get angry when she stops you two minutes from the end of said pitch and says, "I'm sorry, but I have other meetings, can you just get to the pilot story?"
13. Then, when everyone gets all panicked because she has just insulted you, and they gently explain to her that "That's not how it's done in Television. We have to sustain 100 episodes, so we start with a world and the characters." And then, when she turns to you and says, a little snottily, "Sorry, this is all new to me." DO NOT SAY, REALLY SINCERELY, "Oh, really? What... what did you do before? (Perfectly timed beat) Sell shoes?"
Which strongly suggest an oral bible, at least. And where there's a long involved oral pitch, there's usually gonna be a leave-behind. Which would be a bible. Wouldn't it?

But then, she's comedy.

Thoughts, guys?




In my experience in Hollywood (pitching sitcoms), it depends upon how you get in front of your audience. If you have a completed pilot script, you may be brought in to pitch the concept, with the script serving as your "leave-behind". In the event they like your script, you may then be asked to submit a proposed bible for the series. On the other hand, if you are brought in to pitch a concept that has yet to be scripted, your leave-behind is often a 3-5 page document that includes a brief synopsis of the concept, a description of the series through-line, a description of the main characters and some sample episodes. Then, in the event they like the concept, you may be asked to submit a pilot script. At least that has been my experience to date. Hope it helps.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:29 PM  

My understanding is that sitcoms don't usually come with bibles. And dramas don't have full bibles in the pitching stage usually, either, but some dramas use them in later stages for people who will be writing the show. (This is especially helpful for sci-fi shows.) The word "bible" suggests something lengthy to me, an in-depth take on a show, and not the same thing as a short leave-behind.

Selling shows off a pilot is very unusual although at least two shows in development for next season were done that way. I suspect that this may come in part because Marc Cherry has been so outspoken about how Desperate Housewives came about because of a spec script. Josh Schwartz has said he pitched The O.C. in November 2002 and had a script by January 2003 so he did the whole pitching thing too.

By Blogger Peter, at 10:41 PM  

I'm a feature guy, but I've pitched a few TV shows here in L.A. My agent had us prepare (1) a strong, clear concept that the execs would feel could carry the show (i.e. let them know the key characters and underlying conflict that would drive the series for 100 episodes) and (2) the fully developed beats for the pilot. We pitched it all verbally, no leave behinds. This was to both network execs and cable execs. No one complained. Then again, no one bought the pitches....

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:11 AM  

I write for television and I've also been given conflicting info about who wants to see scripts, who wants bibles and who just wants to see a brief leave-behind. So, to save time (and my sanity) I compromise. I introduce myself and my series concept with a one-page (snail mail or email) pitch. If the execs want to meet with me in person I bring along a 3 to 5 page leave-behind. And if they like that, I then give them a hard copy of my series bible or direct them to the online version, such as I have here at .

That way, everyone (including potential actors and writers for the show) has a very clear vision of the series and its long-term (artistic and financial) potential.

However, I don't write a single word of the script until the contracts are all signed and the production finances (i.e. Telefilm) are in the bank.

By Blogger Kelly J. Crawford, at 3:37 PM  

Just a little info on pitching for animated shows. the guys expect a pitch bible which is detailed (15-25 pages) which can be your leave behind.Eventually if they are interested things wont go beyond until they do see a pilot. One of the ways to cut out the wait is show them a pilot right off. which is easier said than done...

By Blogger Gaurav, at 5:38 AM  

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