I am deliberately keeping the identity secret and being vague about the particulars; even though I haven't signed an NDA -- that's non-disclosure-agreement -- I may wind up working in the universe, and no point in disqualifying myself by being a blabbermouth.
Now, for those of you who don't know what the term "bible" means when spoken of in shared-universe work -- movies, TV, game, comics, books, et al -- it has nothing to do with the Holy Writ, but with the generic meaning of "book."
Say, for instance you want to write episodes of an animated TV show. If you are deemed worthy of consideration as one of their writers, they will be willing to send you a sample script and a copy of their bible. The script shows you the length, layout, formatting and tone of the writing they want. The bible gives you background information about the setting, characters, and kind of stories they want, as well as backstory, and the taboos -- those things about which you may not write. It might include pictures or drawings, and in animation, almost always does.
Certain things will be detailed as off-limits -- could be connected to language or adult situations, and the bible might offer that the episodes are to be rated G, or maybe hard PG, or soft PG-13. Things a writer needs to know to establish the level of prose. "Motherfucker!" doesn't play well in G-rated kidvid ...
In the bible, character behavior will be defined, sometimes loosely, sometimes more exactly: Batman can punch people out, but he never tortures anybody. Or Conan can wave his sword around a lot, but he never cuts anybody with it. Chuck never runs.
Fight scenes might, for instance, involve a lot of aikido, but no karate -- i.e., you can throw somebody through the air to land mostly-unhurt on a couch, but you can't smash anybody's nose so that blood spurts, and like that.
Some eras of a character's history might be excluded -- the ages between fifteen and twenty, for example, because later on, they are planning on doing a Young Hero series, and they want to reserve those years. You can write before and after, but not during the prohibited period.
Book houses, game makers, series movie producers, comic books franchises, all may have a bible for their universes. Some are quite detailed, some only a few pages, it depends.
You by now should get the general idea.
So, I was asked if I wanted to pitch a story, and I said, Sure. Send me a bible and I'll come up with something.
Well, actually, no, we can't do that. You have to give us an idea of what you have in mind before we are allowed to send you a bible.
Shrug. That's the deal.
So I pitched an idea, couple three lines, called a "springboard" in the biz.
Um, well, that's fine, but, uh we, uh, can't send you a bible with just that. You, uh, need to flesh it out more. A graph or two.
Ah. I am assuming this bible they won't send me has the taboos in it?
Yes, it would.
Well, if I don't know what the taboos are, can you not see that such a lack of knowledge might have me spinning my wheels? If, say, you don't want any stories in which the Hero has Moments of Doubt, and I give him a couple, then I'd be wasting my time, right?
That if you want me to bake you a pizza, but there are ingredients to which you are allergic, that it might behoove you to tell me what they are, so I don't include them?
Uh, well, yes, I can see the, but ... that's the deal.
Okay. Here's my deal. I'm willing to risk a couple of paragraphs, using what I can find out about the universe online at my friendly neighborhood Wikipedia. Of course, once I have done that research, chances are I probably won't need the fucking bible, except, of course, as how it tells me that I wasted my time because I stepped in a big pile of taboo ...
The guy with whom I am dealing has his hands tied -- he's down the food chain only a link above me, and he doesn't understand it, either, but there it is.
They aren't like thee and me in the high levels of corporate media-land, nosirree ...
Once, I took on a novelization of an animated movie. Got the script, the bible, and a couple of model sheets, but for the most part, had no idea what anybody or anything was gonna look like in the finished picture. Kind of hard to describe a setting about which you have no clue.
The animation was mostly done, so I did the reasonable thing and said, Can you send me a video of what you have, so I can get the look right? I'll watch it, then send it back.
A video, mailed from LaLaLand to Steve's house. In this case, I had signed an NDA, agreeing not to talk about the particulars of the project, I work for them, so no problem, right?
Wrong. They wouldn't send it to me. It was apparently too hush-hush, secret, don't ask, don't tell, eyes-only, need-to-know.
If you don't want the tie-in to be an utter piece of shit, I need to know.
Yes, we can see that.
What, I said, you think I'm gonna go out on the streets of Beaverton and hawk copies on the corner? Getcha unfinished animated videos here! Step right up !
I'm a working pro, I've been involved in half a dozen major universes, doing TV, books, comics, game tie-ins, all like that, I've never spilled the beans before and it would be professional suicide to do so now. Why would you think I would?
Nope, sorry, no can do. But -- tell you what -- we'll fly you down, put you up in a hotel, send a car to pick you up and ferry you to the studio, and show you the rough cut.
One marvels at the thought process involved here. Ten bucks postage and you get the DVD back in a week, versus airfare, hotel room, a limo driver, plus the time of an assistant and an IATSE union projectionist to screen the movie for me?
I mean, I'm no accountant or anything, but it seems, you know, like your way would cost a lot more.
So I flew to L.A., checked into a nice hotel, was picked up the next morning and driven to the studio. With the assistant, but otherwise alone in a screening room that would seat a hundred, I watched the rough-cut of the film and took notes. We said our good-byes, the assistant and I. The limo drove me back to the hotel, I checked out, caught a cab to LAX, and flew home.
They really don't think the way thee and I do. Really ...