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Packaging Your Screenplay Part 2 – Revising and Shaping Your Bible

Once the logline and treatment have been revamped, you can focus other aspects. Any screenwriter with a vision will want one for when their big moment finally arrives. But once the revising and editing process has slowed down, revisiting the bible is a must. In today’s blog, I’ll tackle a screenwriter’s best friend – the series/film bible.

If loglines and treatments are the mission statement and slogan for your vision, then the story bible is the handbook of your well-crafted vision. It’s the foundation of your screenwriting. Your bible sets the tone for your story will be for the next 90 minutes or 5 seasons.

For me, my story bible has shifted quite a bit since I first wrote my pilot. The same premise has remained in tack, but episode orders, plotlines and more have changed as my needs for the overall story have. Remember to always keep your premise even as your story shifts from time to time.

With that said, let’s explore how to repurpose your story bible.

series bible

Retooling a story bible can be a daunting yet rewarding task as you want the bible to be in sync with your pilot. With that in mind, a series/film bible is described as:

a reference document used by screenwriters for information on a television series’/film’s characters, settings, and other elements that keep the content consistent throughout its course.

With loglines and treatments are short and concise, a story bible tends to vary in length depending on what stage in the process you’re at.

There are two schools of thought in television and film about story bibles. As mentioned by Screencraft, there are more traditionalists like screenwriting master Jacob Kruger who puts it as:

What they’re really asking is proof that you know what you’re doing, and that your series pilot not only has a fabulous premise and collection of castable characters we’d want to spend our time binge-watching, but also has the kind of engine required to run for at least five years.

He feels many producers and studios still have the mentality of world-building as king. He suggests the tried-and-true structure listed below:

  • A series logline (including all the elements from your original pitch).
  • Short character bios for each character detailing who he or she is along with their wants, and what they will do to get it.
  • A short overview paragraph describing the story arc of the first season.
  • Summaries of each first-season episode, including a title and a nutshell description for each episode by restating the characters’ wants and needs and the rising conflicts.
  • A short summary of seasons two through five (with short being the keyword; leave the producers and executives wanting more).

On the opposite end, there is producer/script editor Lucy V. Hay who feels the traditional method can be boring and long. Hay champions brevity as she states, “Knowing this helps you focus your vision and your pitch to the right network.” She suggests this four to five-page format:

  • A one-page pitch
  • One page of character profiles for all characters
  • Short synopses of all episodes following the pilot
  • A page or so detailing the format (who the returning characters are, intended channel, intended slot, and so on)

 

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Courtesy of Bang2Write

I have to admit I fall more into the traditionalist lane as I craft TV scripts with a series being the goal. I love the idea of world-building and giving background to every aspect of my script. While it is a challenge, I love having the vision to be fully planned out before someone sees my hard work.

The revising and editing process can make it hard to stare at your meticulously planned bible and say “I need to start over.” That moment can be a heartbreak for any writer especially your average screenwriter. It means you have to go back to the drawing board and go through the shaping and plotting all over again.  But it’s okay because you have shifted your vision, and your story bible needs to reflect that. You can still keep the bones while you lay on the flesh.

I’m going through the process as I write this blog. After rethinking my spec script, I figured out some of my issues are related to the bible I create. Now, I am reconstructing what my episodes and modifying my series trajectory.

When redoing your bible, you have to keep your screenplay in mind. It has to reflect what the themes, characters, plot, settings, and etc. are now rather than the previous revision(s). As I have gone through the revising process, I have found myself looking back at the story bible every time to see if it still captures the premise of my script. Now as I make some changes to it, I have to let the past go as I reshape my vision to its true form.

 

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The goal with this writing staples is to help shape and mold your vision to what your endgame is going to be – optioning your idea for film, television or the web. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Hopefully, reading this post will relieve your anxiety about tackling your series/film bible. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week for registering your screenplay and preparing it for submission.

Packaging Your Screenplay Part 1 – Revising a Treatment and Logline

Once free from the creativity drainer known as writer’s block, the preparation for shopping and optioning your screenplay will commence. Even before writing your screenplay, two key elements are needed – a logline and treatment. But once the revising and editing process has slowed down, revisiting the logline and treatment is a must. In today’s blog, I’ll dive into redoing your logline and treatment for your big moment.

Loglines and treatments are like the mission statement and slogan for your vision. They set the blueprint for what your story will become once you begin writing/typing your script. Even though your story might change course here and there, your logline and treatment are there to keep you from veering too far off course.

For me, my logline and treatment have remained the same since I first wrote my pilot. Of course, there have been some minor tweaks along the way, but pretty much the same premise has remained in tack. Remember to always keep your premise in mind when redoing your logline and treatment.

With that said, let’s explore how to repurpose your logline and treatment.

logline-hdvp

Logline

Retooling a logline can be both amazing and challenging. As the definition states,  a logline is

a brief (usually one-sentence) summary of a television program, film, or book that states the central conflict of the story, often providing both a synopsis of the story’s plot, and an emotional “hook” to stimulate interest.

Being short and concise is the key to crafting a great logline. So once you’ve come up with one, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

The revising and editing process can make it hard to look at your well-crafted logline and think “this doesn’t speak to the story I have now.” That moment can be a heartbreak for any writer especially your average screenwriter. It means you have to go back to the drawing board and go through the brainstorming process all over again.  But it’s okay as now you understand your plot and characters better. Writing the new one will be a little easier.

When redoing your logline, you have to keep your screenplay in mind. It has to inhibit the plot and characters as they are now not from the previous revision(s). Just remember to keep the setting, characters, inciting incident, conflict, and goals in mind. As I have gone through the revising process, I have found myself looking back at the logline every time to see if it still captures the premise of my script. Every revision causes a tweak to the logline in some form or fashion. Keep calm and go with the flow.

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Treatment

Long before the first word of your screenplay is typed or written, your treatment plots out how your story will come together and take shape. Treatment follows its definition to a tee:

a piece of prose, typically the step between scene cards and the first draft of a screenplay, longer and more detailed than an outline that reads like a short story, but describes the events as they happen in the present tense.

The treatment allows you to write your screenplay without worrying or over thinking every little detail. Trust me that’s a godsend for a type A personality like me and my racing thoughts. It provides structure while allowing for wiggle room where needed.

The revising and editing process can throw your well thought-out treatment for a loop. It feels like your world is coming to an end as you go back to start tweaking dialogue and rearranging scenes to best fit the story in its new form.  But it’s okay as now you understand that all the moving parts are now working in tangent with each other. Writing the new one will be an undertaking but so worth it.

Like your logline, retooling your treatment make you refer to your revised screenplay. It has to follow the story’s new course instead of the previous one. As I’ve gone through the revising process, I found myself tweaking the treatment as I rewrote and edited my script. The same vision I had, in the beginning, did not reflect the current state of my screenplay. Every revision trickles down to the treatment in some way. Just remember to keep your vision in tack.

script-revision-photo-copy

The goal with these two writing staples is to help shape and mold your vision to what your endgame is going to be – optioning your idea for film, television or the web. Keep your eyes on the promised land.

Hopefully, reading this post will aid you in rethinking and revising your treatment and logline. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week for more on deconstructing and reconstructing your film/series bible.

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