Your Show Bible

I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of the understanding that this is a business built on relationships. I also spend a lot of time talking about the importance of doing research so that your marketing is targeted, your plans are specific, and your understanding of your type and your vibe are aligned with your promotional efforts.

When I was speaking to a group of actors at the Creative Actors Alliance on Saturday, I saw some eyes glaze over as I got to the part about setting up Google Alerts on the casting directors you’re targeting based on your research about the projects on which you best fit. It’s not that the setting up of the Google Alerts or the keeping tabs on the folks who populate the projects most likely to consistently need your vibe and type is too confusing. It’s that the whole point of getting into acting — for many folks — is to avoid a lot of math and number crunching and stats and logic puzzles.

Ah… but in Hollywood, there is always math involved.

Let’s consider the show bible. From Wikipedia: “Show bibles are an optional part of the television series development process… they are meticulously maintained archives of everything known about a show’s characters.”

When you walk into the writers’ room for any major television series, you’ll see multi-colored index cards up on cork boards, outlining plot points and story arcs, character development and inciting incidents. And at the root of the information on those cards for any particular episode or season is the information in the show bible. The characters’ lives are there.

Who are the characters in your show bible? I’d guess they’re the casting directors who populate the shows you’re targeting, the agents and managers on whose rosters you’d love to appear, the folks vital to success in show business that you’ll encounter many times over the course of your decades-long career.

Back in 1992, when I came across the wonderful book An Actor Succeeds (the first casting director interview book I’d ever seen), I started keeping a notebook with a list of casting directors’ likes and dislikes, based on information right from their own mouths, as transcribed by the authors of this book. Each book, each article, each behind-the-scenes interview segment on an entertainment magazine show I saw after that was a source for information that would end up in my little notebook. I was an actor, and that meant these were my potential buyers. I needed to research them and keep up with what I learned about them. This one has a dog in her office. That one works from her house unless in sessions. This one hates perfume. That one loves postcards. This one started out in the theatre. That one was once an actor too.

Stands to reason that I would score a kickass survival job of interviewing casting directors for Back Stage West in 1999, huh? By then, I already had my own three-inch thick three-ring binder of pages of data about the casting directors out there. I knew who had worked with whom and for how long, so I could track which sort of audition experiences were a result of the boss’ choices and which were organic to the casting associate’s innovative approach. I learned which CDs were actor-friendly and which were downright unpleasant to all people. I knew before I ever walked into a room to audition exactly what I was about to get.

I had a show bible.

I just didn’t know it was called that, back then. And then that would become Casting Qs which has gone from a weekly column in Backstage to a book and now to a web-based series on Somebody’s Basement. Who knew!?!

So, how does your show bible look? The Actors’ Network has its squib book. Acting classes have private, web-based discussion forums with threads dedicated to the buyers out there, so actors can share information that may help when it comes time to get in front of any particular casting director, when nerves might be running high and anything that comforts you could make the difference in nailing the read. So, how’s your data-mining going? Are you keeping tabs on the folks you’re targeting? Do you note when you get a business card from someone where you met and which mutual friend did the introductions? And, better than that, do you transfer that information into your show bible so it’s always there when you need to look someone up before a meeting?

When a CD is interviewed in behind-the-scenes DVD extras, are you taking notes? When a director talks about the casting process in one of the various cable interstitials, do you keep up with the info and then look up whose office they were talking about, thereby connecting the dots and logging that in your show bible? When Google alerts you to a panel discussion on which your favorite potential agent is appearing, do you get there, take notes, and add that to the notebook or online database? Sure, it’s fine to pop on actor message boards like Hollywood Happy Hour and ask whether anyone has any inside scoop on so-and-so, but even better is the data you’ve put together from your own experiences!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m taking the fun out of the whole acting thing, by asking you to do homework (and regularly) about your potential buyers and teammates in this industry. But think of how much fun you’ll have — and sooner — when you get on set because you nailed the audition that your rockstar agent got you, because both the casting director and the agent were folks you researched years before.

What’s in your Show Bible? Or are you terrified to even get started with this? Let’s talk about it! Happy to help you get going. This stuff will totally pay off!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001180.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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