The Pitch Deck is becoming an essential tool for Film and Television Writers. Nick Sadler explains what a Pitch Deck is and why you should create one.
Over the past year I’ve witnessed an interesting development in how film and television projects are being considered. Executives, agents, and buyers are asking if there is a Pitch Deck they can see prior to reading the script or even discussing interest in a project.
This is occurring with the studios and the networks, as well as with independent financiers. It’s transpiring across genres and budgets, with produced writers as well as those just beginning their career.
Why is this happening? From what I’ve learned from discussions with industry professionals, a Pitch Deck is frankly easier to digest and less time consuming than reading a script.
Here’s a brief summary of their takes: “An awesome pitch deck quickly gets my attention. An intriguing PD can be the difference between me loving your project and being just another attachment in my already way too stuffed inbox. I’m slammed with scripts. A deck cuts through the noise.”
This is not to say that your script is not important. It is. It’s essential. Your script must be magnificent. But it will not matter how brilliant your story is if you can’t get anyone to read it.
So, what is a Pitch Deck?
A Pitch Deck is a visual communication tool that’s been utilized in the corporate world for decades. It’s embraced by the start up culture for pitching ideas and raising capital. It’s a means of shaping a product or idea into a compelling story that you can see, be inspired by, and act upon.
Technically speaking, a Pitch Deck is a slide presentation typically created using the Keynote or PowerPoint app. (There are several excellent design apps on the market and to list all of them and review is a subject for another column.) The deck consists of 15 to 50 slides, with each slide consisting of a visual image, brief text, or an elegant combination of both.
The key difference with a script Pitch Deck is that rather than creating a slide presentation that you narrate in person during a meeting, the deck is exported to a PDF file that is reviewed by the reader (exec, producer, agent, etc.) at their convenience.
It’s often referred to as a Lookbook, but there are significant differences, which I will explain shortly.
An effective Pitch Deck introduces your project in a visually exciting and emotionally powerful way. It captures the reader’s imagination, allowing them to see and feel the story and embrace the characters. You’re giving your reader a comprehensive understanding of the fantastic potential of your project.
This is critical to understand. The design of the Pitch Deck allows you to share two narratives: The story of your film plus the added benefit of the story of it’s creation - your inspiration, your passion, your vision. From the moment you introduce your project, you control the narrative.
Most importantly, you’re priming them, raising their anticipation for reading your script. And then once they are reading, you’re enriching that experience - they are literally able to see the story thanks to your Pitch Deck.
The skill sets involved in creating a great deck incorporate the talents of the graphic artist, copywriter, narrative writer, storyboard artist, line producer, and art director, all guided by an overriding vision of the project.
There are producers and writers utilizing storyboard artists and marketing professionals to create their Pitch Decks. Many are turning to consultants like myself or taking a DIY approach.
In terms of creating a Pitch Deck, there are certain design elements and narrative principals I’ve found to be highly effective in eliciting a positive response. Here are some of the key elements you should include:
Depending on the stage of development, there are additional elements you could include such as comparable projects, market projections, and foreign sales track records. There is no set standard or formula to follow. The elements included should be true to the spirit of your project and you.
As I mentioned earlier, the Pitch Deck is sometimes referred to as a Look Book. But a Pitch Deck is different in significant aspects. The Look Book initially developed as a reference tool to share ideas with the creative team for how the project could look - in terms of setting, actors, sequences. One way to understand a Look Book in this capacity is like a Pinterest Board. In fact, I’ve had clients bring me these boards as examples of how they are trying to express the vision of their project.
The Pitch Deck utilizes elements of the Look Book - the striking visuals, the emotional tones, but incorporates this imagery into the narrative context of your story.
I cannot stress enough that narrative is key. You want to evoke the feelings of the characters and their world. The narrative is further deepened with brief, evocative text that guides the reader through the story of the script as well as the added benefit of the story of your project.
The visual elements can be original art work, images using creative common licensing, stills from existing projects, or an inventive combination of all of these. The guiding narrative principal should be that your are expressing the spirit of your project.
What’s truly exciting about this development is the opportunity for the control it gives to the writer and the creative dialogue it inspires with executives as well as the creatives who are joining your team. As you clearly express your vision, your feel, your tone - you make it easier for your creatives to, please forgive the awful pun, all get on the same page.
A client of ours, an independent producer who previously was a top studio executive, with over a billion dollars in box office grosses, recently retained our services to create pitch decks for two of her film projects. She’s been on both sides of the desk, buyer and seller, so she keenly understands the critical importance of having a persuasive Pitch Deck. As she expressed to me: “It’s truly one the best ways to see the project and have a laser clear understanding of your intentions. It makes for a stronger, healthier relationship in the development, producing and marketing process. So much time can be lost in misunderstanding the intentions of a project. And nobody has that kind of time to waste!”
As the business continues to evolve, creating new opportunities but also greater competition, it’s imperative that writers continue to empower themselves.
The Pitch Deck helps to accomplish this mission.
Whether you choose to DIY or seek out a professional, make sure your Pitch Deck has the following elements: Powerful visuals. Crisp, vivid, copy that inspires. A clear vision of your project and goals.
In the end, it’s always about telling your remarkable story.
Be sure you are using every resource available to you to make that happen.
You can check out examples of the Pitch Decks Nick has designed as well his services at www.awdwrks.com.