Monday, October 26, 2009

The Freaky Stories Writers' Bible

Bear with me...

While I continue to search for "the original" 2 page pitch bible that actually sold Freaky Stories to YTV, I keep unearthing interesting stuff. Here's the Writers' Guide Bible. More on this below the art.

Interesting sidebar, this bible was borrowed, copied, studied and handed around by competing studios and shows as an example of what a bible should be like...

This bible was produced in 1996 (pilot made in '96, series production in '97) as a guide for the series' writers. This bible was written by our Executive Story Editor, Simon Munter, the art was by our Production Designer, Ted Bastien. Bible graphic design and layout by Heather Shaw. As you can see, if you know the show - what's in this bible differs from what got on the screen.

Bibles change and evolve. For example - in a particular episode, the first bible that you work to in designing funpacks, etc., is the script. Everyone follows the script. Once the episode is storyboarded (and approved) you throw the script away and work from the board. Likewise, once the project is filmed, animated or whatever - the editors' cut becomes the document that you work to. I remember sitting in edit sessions for a particular show - where the client kept looking from the screen to the original script and angrily noting the discrepancies. ...sigh...

Thursday, October 15, 2009


ROCKET RODENTS is a somewhat animated project. By somewhat, it started off as a live action comedy - starring live rodents. I have a thing for Guinea Pigs. I think that talking Guinea Pigs are about the funniest things in the world - especially if what they're talking is absolutely filthy.

This clip is from test footage that we shot as part of a pilot for Rocket Rodents. There was more - but it's not really suitable for polite viewing. Needless to say, the Rodents were talking trash. The pilot was produced under a developement deal with a local TV station. They saw the designs, read the script, knew the intent - and when they screened the finished film... well, everyone laughed their heads off - except the station's general manager who kinda flipped out.

I took the pilot - re-edited it (took out the nasty words) and Voila! instant kids show. YTV gave me a development deal and shortly thereafter, Breakthrough Animation came on board.

Here, the show went through the usual heartbreaking development permuations. Breakthrough introduced me to the good folks at Cuppa Coffee Animation. We were going to do the show in STOP MOTION. The designs that Cuppa Coffee produced were frankly AMAZING!!!

This was the original sculpt of our lead character Vic Vermin. They nailed the character right from the get go. When I walked into their boardroom and saw this, I knew that I was in the right place. All of their designs were equally amazing - but alas, the cost was too much for our budget.

Breakthrough shopped it around to other studios and we found a home at Atomic Cartoons, with whom Breakthrough had partnered on their hit series, Atomic Betty....

More on this development saga later...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The One That Got Away

I think that in everyone's career, there is "the one that got away". For me, it's this project - EGYPT SIDE ROAD. ESR was the spiritual offshoot of "The Suspect" series of shorts that I'd developed for Freaky Stories. It is a brassy sci-fi film-noir; detectives, femme fatales, psycho killers, flying cars, robots, jet-packs.

Each bible (8 1/2" X 14" - glossy, double sided, heavyweight stock) was custom bound with self-locking nuts and bolts to convey the "machine age" design esthetic of the project. I also created a series of Petty Girl inspired pin-up cels - all hand painted - most of which disappeared into the private collections of various broadcast and distribution executives.

Everyone - and I mean EVERYONE loved the project. If anything, EGYPT SIDE ROAD was ahead of its time. It was almost resurrected a couple of years ago - the broadcaster loved the art, design style and the pilot script - but opted for a mindless kiddie cartoon in its place.

The project is far from dead and forgotten. It's on my schedule - 3rd in line after my current show. Here's the pitch bible - deliberately small and blurry. Have a look...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Melvin The Magic Hotdog

Hang in there, gang. Visuals to come shortly...

In the Spring of '06, I was contacted by my pal and frequent co-conspiritor, Nathan Mazur about a small project. Someone at Walt Disney Television Animation had visited his site, liked what they'd seen and asked if Nathan would like to submit a pitch for a TV show. Nathan asked if I'd write the pitch, he'd do the visuals - and the rest was history.

(Hmmm... Use this link to Nathan's site - take a moment and check him out. He's really great and a pleasure to work with.)

Going back to the classics, I mined the Aesop's Fable about the Fisherman who catches a fish - which in turn promises to grant 3 wishes if the Fisherman sets him free. But in an oh, so perverse twist - I made the story about a boy named Billy who loves hotdogs. He purchases a hotdog from a local hotdog vendor... but just as he's about to bite into it, the tubesteak springs from the bun, grows to 6 feet high and is revealed to be that genie of a weenie, MELVIN THE MAGIC HOTDOG!

Nobody was more surprised then me, when Disney optioned this Freudian fantasy.

Nathan and I spent the next 2 or 3 months refining the bible and cobbling together a "Melvin VS Zombies" storyline that we were to pitch to the brass at Disney TV. The folks at Disney were great, providing us with advice and guidance - and free mouse ear hats (but no Disney cruises, like we'd asked).

Nathan also got singer/songwriter Parry Gripp to write a theme song to accompany our pitch.

Anyhow, the big day arrived - Nathan and I did the pitch by phone to the big Disney Kahuna's - and... they passed. They'd had a lot of submissions and Melvin wasn't exactly what they were looking for. Such is life. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off, cash the cheque and move on...

The layout and design of the bible were kept very lean and simple - in keeping with Nathan's ultra clean character design. I didn't want to clutter the page.

As for the writing - taking a page from James Ellroy, I used Melvin's con man style of speaking as the basis for the bible's writing style. I tend to stay away from "dese" and "dose", as that kind of character slang tends to distract from the story and derail the reader's concentration. You can't afford to have him/her say, "What is that?" in the middle of reading your pitch doc.

I've found that even in writing a script, it's better to write the dialogue clean and allow the actor to add the character nuances. Often times, they'll bring more to the words than you imagined.

Hang in there - more Melvin art and cool stuff to be loaded shortly.

Be sure to visit Nathan and Parry at their respective sites. Thanks!

All artwork is copyright by Nathan Mazur. All Music is copyright Parry Gripp. All words are copyright by Me.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Need a Pitch Bible?

Do you need a Pitch Bible?

And who doesn't???

If you're an independent animator, producer or small production house - or a large production company that will only settle for the very best - and you're in need of great development and pitch documents, why don't you drop me a line?

I'm fast, experienced & versatile. No job is too large, too small or too medium.

Feel free to drop me a line at steve dot schnier at rogers dot com or by phone at (416) 346-7228.

Selling the Dream

I sat in the boardrooms of two major companies this past week; a major bank and a very large public corporation. I'm in the process of finding sponsors for my new show, so I'm making cold calls, racing to appointments - and of course... I'm pitching.

But the pitching is the easiest part, because I have a great show bible. It's clear, concise, funny and laid out in a logical manner that explains everything about the project and their potential involvement in it. It's so good, that the first thing I hear in every single meeting - is how great my pitch bible is.

And it had better be, because pitch bibles are the lifeblood of my business. I have to sell the dream. Whether its a pitch to a broadcaster, production house or potential sponsor - I have to sell them on my dream before I can make it happen. So that's what I do, and over the years I've become fairly good at it.

And now I'm offering my services to the creative community. Pitch bibles, documents, presentations - very well done, at a reasonable price. More to come - including sample art, shortly... Hang in there.