FRAPA’s latest members-only initiative — the Format Bible Generator — launched at MIPFormats in April, underlining FRAPA’s mission to deliver services that are relevant, accessible and help to promote, protect and exploit IP.
Conceived, developed and road-tested by The Format People — format broker and FRAPA board member Michel Rodrigue and content specialist Justin Scroggie — with input from veteran ‘flying producer’ Bruce Starin, the Bible Generator is essentially a template of what, in the words of Rodrigue, “a format bible should be but so often isn’t”. The skeleton structure, which includes comprehensive checklists, guiding notes and best-practice examples, comes in three industry-standard templates: game shows; reality and factual; and scripted formats.
Bibles — a cross between a DIY production manual and a style guide — are increasingly seen as a central plank in the legal protection of franchises and formats. Strong bibles not only facilitate the transfer of expertise from original producer to adapting producer, so safeguarding the legacy and branding of a format, but they also help to secure a continuous revenue stream for the creatives behind the original concept. Seen in this light, they are powerful protectors of intellectual property.
For this reason alone, Scroggie observes, FRAPA was the obvious home for a Bible Generator tool. “We were initially developing the concept for our own use,” he explains. “But it quickly became clear that it would be better for the entire formats community if FRAPA were to create and endorse an industry standard in this area. And there really needs to be one. It’s scandalous that we, as an industry, are allowing people to sell formatted shows with either no bible attached, or with bibles that are so inadequate as to be useless. There needs to be some sort of security for the people who are buying these products sight unseen.”
Rodrigue adds: “The transfer of expertise is one the most important aspects of the format business. This new tool will allow format producers to create bibles that can help shows travel further, faster and more efficiently — which has to be of value to our entire industry.”
The Bible Generator’s journey from light-bulb moment to workable tool has taken Rodrigue, Scroggie and Starin the best part of a year. “The first challenge was working out from the various bibles we’d all seen what the ideal standard content would be,” Rodrigue says. “The second was working out the simplest form in which to present that content. This tool needs to work for producers from Ecuador to Germany, so we had to keep the technology accessible to all. In the end, we opted for simplicity — a fairly basic word document they can be personalised with the minimum of fuss.”
Then there was the fact that production bibles are, by their nature, secretive documents. “Persuading producers to let us include their closely-guarded bibles in the template was another interesting challenge,” Scroggie notes.
Looking forward, Rodrigue says the Bible Generator is, and will remain, a work in progress. “We’re asking FRAPA members for feedback,” he says. “If it’s to remain relevant, the Bible Generator has to adapt and evolve, reflecting changes in technology, business practice and legislation. But we believe we have succeeded in providing producers with a trigger that will make bible-writing easier and, importantly, significantly cheaper. The Format Generator won’t write your bible for you, but it’ll give you all the help you need to write a great bible yourself.”