The Production Bible.

By Rob Anderson

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Or: there are more than ten commandments in this one.

There are many bibles that exist in a production, with many more rules than the ten from the Christian bible. I prefer to call them Manifestos. These Bibles/Manifestos are used to create a baseline or fundamental guide for everyone involved in a production to follow. Ignore them at your peril.

The most common versions are made for writers and designers of a series. The Writers bible will detail the overall story arc for a series as well as specific details of the personality of each of the major characters in the show. A detailed bible is very important when you get multiple writers involved, as you want them all to write in the same style. This can be quite a heavy document depending on the series.

The design bible works much in the same way but is for details on the artistic style of the series. What the locations look like, the design of the characters, usually with detailed turn-arounds and so on. This is sometimes also referred to as the style guide.

I have worked on many shows where we have taken this further and made a bible for animation. This would include details on the type of walks, expressions and details on specific actions that the characters need to make. This can also be used on how the setup for shots are done and would get pretty detailed on how to breakdown the characters for animation. Very important on projects where teams are out of house. There are many Features that create guide books for each individual shot that have huge amounts of information contained within. On Joseph, King of Dreams we were given these huge bound books for each shot that had everything from colour theory for the shot to camera moves and specific details on effects. There were hundreds of them! It was way beyond a normal scene folder.

A bible that gets overlooked much of the time is one for production. This would give details and expectations for what each department head is supposed to do and would cover everything from the PA to the Producer and all the team leads in between. The usefulness of this bible can be ambiguous at times. I find it very useful when everyone on a team has a solid understanding of exactly what their role is on a project though. Tends to reduce confusion.
Of course when you have this much paperwork wandering around a production, folks tend to ignore the noise of them. Too much to read so I will just assume that I know what is going on. And we all know what assume spells, of course.

While at first glance these documents may seem like a waste of time they can save you huge amounts of headache and problems further down the road. These should also be seen as “living” documents. What I mean by that is the start of a project has a certain amount of assumptions created based on what we know then, and as the show progresses what we know now will change. When it does it is important to let everyone know what that change is.
Each project is different and will have slightly different guides, and, in some cases, VERY different guides. It really is worth your time to read them and understand them. It might seem like time better spent on something else but if they are done right then the time taken will pay off in spades.

Look me up.

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