Why the Bible?

'Give me any two pages of the Bible and I'll give you a picture'
Cecil B DeMille

Here’s where we explain what makes our adaptation challenge unique. You can also find examples of stories that might work as films, plus tips for how to explore your story.

The Bible has also proved a foundation for modern storytelling, inspiring everyone from Shakespeare to Martin Scorsese. Several billion people believe it to be true, so it’s also worth engaging with even if you personally don’t.

The Pitch is an adaptation challenge – a challenge based around this particular text. Or, really, a collection of texts: the Bible is a collection of books recounting the story of humanity’s relationship with God.

At least that’s one point of view. Another is that it’s purely mythical, allegorical, or just some old shaggy dog (angel/prophet/messiah) stories getting really out of hand.

But you don’t have to have a faith – Christian, Jewish or otherwise – to think there are some great stories here. From the creation in Genesis to the life of Jesus in the Gospels (the books MatthewMarkLuke and John), stories are crucial to the Bible. Jesus used them all the time, in his parables (stories with a message, though some may take a while to figure out).

We’re all about the potential of these stories, so entrants can be of any faith or none — The Pitch is an adaptation challenge, where story, not your background, is the key.

The Pitch is backed by individuals and company sponsors, as well as trusts and the registered charity Bible Society – a charity dedicated to keeping the Bible as part of public life.

'I don’t believe in anything in the Bible,' says Craig Mazin, screenwriter of Emmy award-winning miniseries Chernobyl. 'However, the Bible is evidence of something. And it is evidence I think of deep seeded instinctive narrative patterns in the human mind. They are expressions of these things that are in us. They are not always sensible or logical, but they are there.'

(To be clear, Craig is not involved in The Pitch, we just really like the Scriptnotes podcast he co-hosts with John August. For the context of the above quote – a discussion about the story of Job and suffering – check out the episode and subscribe regardless, it’s really useful).

Examples

Two pages to a picture. That’s the Cecil b Demille challenge. Below are some ideas to get you started getting your ideas down on. You can also check out our produced Pitch winners for examples of how other filmmakers have done this.

The Bible is like a library, full of different books. Below are some ideas to get you started thinking creatively.

(Genesis 49.1–33) A tear-jerker. An elderly widower with failing eyesight gathers his sons around his deathbed to pass on his final advice. Some of them have pleased him; others have been a big let-down. But which one will get his blessing – and why?

(1 Kings 3.16–28) A courtroom drama. Two prostitutes battle for custody of a baby.There’s a tragic death, bitter rivalry, the drama of a court case and a twist at the end. But who gets to keep the child?

(Proverbs 7.6–27) A neighbourhood tragedy. A curtain-twitcher spies on a neighbour as she seduces a local lad while her husband is away. The story features a desperate housewife, a hunky young man and a nosey neighbour. But does it end in a tragic death?

(Numbers 22.21–39) A surreal road trip. An independent inspector travels to inspect a remote bio-tech facility where new chemicals are being designed for telepathic communication with the animal world. He is joined by the chief scientist of the facility and one of the tested animals. During the journey the chief scientist makes suggestions of bribery while the inspector begins to hear another voice in his head. Is it the donkey or something else? Remember to cast Eddie Murphy.

(Ecclesiastes 9.13–18) A war story. A small city is besieged by a powerful enemy army. A penniless but intelligent man comes up with a plan to save the day. However, after the war, his success is quickly forgotten. But what’s the plan and why did he fall by the wayside?

(Jeremiah 31.15–17) A wartime drama. A mother is devastated when her children are deported by enemy troops and taken to a foreign land. After initially refusing to be comforted, she is given concrete hope that one day they will return.

(Micah 7.5–7) A family drama. A man is betrayed both by neighbours and members of his own family. He is sustained only by his faith. The text deals with issues of trust, shame, hope and patience. But who are the enemies? And how do they betray him?

(Hebrews 13.3) A prison drama. A woman befriends a prisoner who is under lock and key. She learns that he is being tortured and begins to closely identify with his sufferings. But why is he in prison and what can she do to help?

(Acts 27.1–44) A vessel sets out on a long voyage, but one of the passengers is upsetting the crew with dire warnings. It's full of life-threatening action and ethereal messengers. How would this story have looked in say 1800, or look in 2500?

Explore

From epic action films to intimate dramas, the Bible has been the direct source material for many movies – as well as inspiring allegories and themes in countless others. From Ben Hur to Jesus of MontrealThe Last Temptation of Christ to The Matrix.

The Pitch asks you to engage with the source material, explore its meaning and discover the characters and stories that can inspire and entertain audiences.

While you’ll need to stick broadly to the original biblical story or text, there’s also lots of room to be creative. This might involve filling in the blanks when things are left unsaid, exploring a key theme in more detail, or revising certain details for the twenty-first century.

When reading a biblical story or text, try to boil it down to its essence. How would you sum up the story or passage’s key thought in a single sentence? If you feel drawn to a single verse, make sure you read it in context, as this will help you. If you’re struck by a particular story, think how it could be retold for a modern audience.

You can use various versions of the Bible to inspire your pitch. You may want an easy-to-read translation like the Contemporary English Version, Good News Bible or The Message. You might prefer to look to some of the great phrases that have entered the English language, such as ‘the writing's on the wall’.

There’s a massive amount of material at your fingertips. All of life is there, ready to be retold.