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Happy Leap Day! 30 Rock and a Show Bible — By Jack

Happy February 29th every one. (Aka Leap Day!) And on this day of once every 4 year days I am proud to announce I have submitted my first TV spce script to a TV competition! Script Pipeline is $45 to submit so I hope to hell they’re legitimate.   I basically spent the last two hours combing through my 30 Rock script for typos. I read it once last night and just now twice. If you’ve ever read this blog before, you’ll probably notice an overabundance of them.  So I had to read the damn thing in hyper sensitive mode. It sucked and my eyes hurt.

When you’re writing you’re tearing through the script, as fast as you can. You don’t have time for proper grammar or spelling! Think of a writer as a badass cop in a car chase. Yea, knows how to drive, he’s the best. But he’s going to have to run a few stops signs, maybe brush up against a car or two while he’s pulling that 180 emergency break trick. But you know what? He just saved a school bus full of children with puppies (it was bring your puppy to show-and-tell day) from a psycho bomber. I think that gives him a pass. That’s what a writer is like. Editors are for cleaning up the wreckage.

Anyway, in addition writing my pilot script (my current project) I have to write what is known as…

The Show Bible

The show bible is a sales document designed to attract investors to my pilot. It also works a sort of play book for all ideas, characters, tie-ins, concepts, format, style, and about anything else you can think of. Once a show gets sold, the show bible becomes a very proprietary item. If it gets in the wrong hands, people get fired, and money gets lost.

Parts of the show bible:

1) Over view. A 1-2 page pitch, general plot, theme, etc.
2) Characters: Primary (characters that carry plot lines,)
Secondary(characters appearing in every episode, but don’t carry plot lines,
Reoccurring (characters that show up often,)
Occasional (characters that show up not too infrequently,)
Special Characters (characters that might show up given the nature of your show, i.e. Brian Williams on 30 Rock.)
Descriptions of each and how they compliment each other.
3) Time and Place
Time is more important in a period piece. Description need to be as specific as you need for your show. So The Wire needed to describe the despair on the streets of Baltimore. Gossip Girls needed to describe the glits and glamour of the Upper East Side. It is important to describe things that are not obvious.
4) Format and Style
Is it a multi camera comedy? Is it a single camera drama? Is it fast-paced? What’s the visual tone and style?
5) 1-2 page synopsis of the pilot episode.
6) Ancillary ideas
This is a big one. You can sell your show on this idea alone (almost.) What marketing tie-in deals can your show produce?
Can there be a Happy Meal Toy for your show? A ride at Six Flags? Mad Men has a Banana Republic clothing line. Glee loses money on each episode, but then make much more back by selling the songs on iTunes the next day. They’ve even started selling the Castle novels!
7) Demographic Breakdown
Who will watch it and why?
I’ve been told this one is actually worth skipping. The only thing that matters is if you can prove white males age 25-45
will watch your show.
8) Future Episode Ideas
Long lines of new episodes to show where your idea can go.
It’s best to do them in the number of episodes the network will order the show. (i.e. initial order of 6, or 13 for a half
season)

And those are the secrets of the Show Bible format. Now to get to work.

 

–Jack Out

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in By Jack, Writing

 

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Evil Vs Chaos: Meditations on Character — by Jack

As I’ve been writing my pilot, I’ve been wishy-washy on nailing down the aspects of my characters.  Character development has always been a scary word for me. When I used to act and it came to building my character, I always felt I never did enough. Not enough back story, I didn’t like to pick out their favorite foods, and creating memories…ugh! I even hated coming up with physicality.  I was always more focused on the script and what the character wanted, ’cause that’s all I was really ever taught in school.

Now as I’ve been writing I’ve let the story come out and the characters present themselves naturally. But for the sake of making my show bible (a document that fully encompasses characters, plot lines, back story, concept, etc) I really need to nail down the characters.

Furthermore TV lives on characters.  TV is formulaic, predictable, and repetitive. What we keep coming back for are the characters. Even reality TV is about our connection with the contestants. So now that I have my challenge, how do I accomplish it?

Well today I’ve been pondering Alignment.

“Alignment is a categorization of the ethical and moral perspective of people, creatures, and societies.”
Thanks Wikipedia! Essentially is your character good or evil? But extended to another dimension:  chaotic vs lawful.  Lawful means you follow the rules of the society in power while chaotic means you want to tear down that society. The grid looks like this…

So as you can see someone can follow the rules of society and can be evil, Lawful Evil. Darth Vader, Stringer Bell, The Capital in the Hunger Games. Meanwhile Chaotic Good would see a character that hates the rules of society and wants to tear it down, but is morally strong.  Rorschach, Malcolm Reynolds, Princess Leia. And from the chart there is a third category in both, Neutral (with respect to moral and societal alignments.) A neutrally societal character doesn’t let the rules of the world around them influence their behavior. Neutral good characters? Wolverine, Han Solo. Neutral evil? the Aliens from Alien, Boba Fett.

It is interesting to ponder what these character alignments are saying when we get behind them. When we identify with a chaotic character, does it imply that we feel disenfranchised by own system or society? Chaotic alignment embodies the rebel.

Is there a place for the Lawful Hero? Who wants to root for the guy supporting the establishment? When was the last time anyone was nuts over Superman?  But maybe there’s something about fighting for something bigger than yourself, (ideologies?)  even when others around your don’t understand it (John Locke, Professor Xavier.)

And how does a Neutral Good protagonist speak to us? They’re lost. They don’t trust the system, because they either don’t have the courage to tear it down or are too apathetic to care. Or maybe just only answer to themselves. Some would argue that Wolverine was chaotic, but I think he’s neutral.  At his happiest, he’s in a log cabin in Canada, chopping wood, and being left alone. But he’s not really torn between sides.

So what alignments do you most enjoy?

–Jack Out.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in By Jack, Writing

 

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