What Is A Pitch Deck?
If you’ve been asked for a pitch deck and thought ‘WTAF is that??’, you’re not alone. One of the biggest issues with this screenwriting malarkey is the terminology seems to change every five bloody minutes.
Put simply, a pitch deck is a short document that helps sell your story ‘off the page’. The idea is an agent, producer or script reader can assess your idea BEFORE they read your script. You may have seen them described online as …
- Series Bibles (for spec TV pilots)
- The Package (for spec and movies in production)
- A Sizzler
- The extended pitch
Done well, a great pitch deck should make them EXCITED to read your screenplay … Done badly, your pitch deck may make them NOT read your script at all! Harsh but true.
So what exactly should you include in your pitch deck? Here’s a quick overview:
1) The Story (mini version)
Give a short overview of your story … yes, you guessed it! Start with your logline. (Download your free logline cheat sheet HERE).
2) The Story (maxi version)
Next up, we need more details of your story, so that’s your One Page Pitch. (Grab a free one page reference guide HERE).
3) Character Bios
Ensure the reader knows the role functions of the major characters AND their motivations. (In other words, WHO is doing WHAT and WHY in the story). Don’t take too long: 2-4 sentences is enough, plus don’t include minor roles or cameos.
4) Extended Pitch
Are you writing a speculative TV series, or a movie? Because this next part will depend on what your story *is*!
i) … If it’s a spec TV series
Do NOT write a page or more for each episode. Instead, write a logline / short blurb for each episode, taking us from the pilot to the finale. You should aim for somewhere in the region of 60-100 words maximum for each episode’s loglines.
ii) … If it’s a movie
Write a ‘blow by blow’ synopsis of your movie, start to finish. 2-3 pages should do it. (How is this different to a one page pitch? Well, a one pager is as its name suggests: A PITCH, not the whole story. This means a one page pitch usually encompasses Act 1 and Act 3, aka set up/pay off, not major plot details).
This is where you include the storyworld details. Remember, storyworld is for ALL stories, not just fantasy and sci fi worlds!
Storyworld refers to the space in which the story operates, which impacts on how it is told … this means stuff like:
- Other thematic elements
All of the above may all be important. For more on Storyworld, CLICK HERE.
5) Writer Vision (And The Rest of The Team, if applicable)
This is where you write a short piece about why YOU are the right writer to tell this story. Again, don’t go overboard – 200-ish words tops should suffice.
Also, don’t fall back on cheesy stuff that describes AROUND the story like ‘it just means so much to me‘. Tell us WHY this issue, subject matter, location, time period, real-life person etc has captured your imagination!
If you have any attachments – directors, producers, actors etc – you should list them here too. A director’s vision is also a good idea, so get them to write a short piece too if you can.
6) Target Audience
Who is your speculative TV series or movie FOR? It’s no good saying ‘everybody’, because that’s bullshit. No story in the universe is ‘for everyone’. Even stories for mass audiences like Disney or Marvel are not for everyone.
You need to make a decision and back it up with evidence. One of the easiest ways of doing this is by finding comparables. You do this by …
- Identifying produced stories ‘like’ yours
- Seeing who liked them and why
3 major pieces of advice though …
i) DON’T pick comparables that did badly in terms of $$££!
This is one of the best ways of not only turning producers OFF your idea, but they will also think you are clueless about the industry. Read the damn trades and follow the blogs and pay attention to the BUSINESS of screenwriting! (Like it or not, this biz is about commerce – deal with it).
ii) DON’T pick comparables you’ve never seen
I’ve lost count of the number of pitch decks I’ve seen where it’s clear the writer has just picked a comparable of IMDB because it *sounds* like their story (but isn’t really). Never forget people in the industry watch a LOT of TV and movies (duh). If you want to get taken seriously, you need to as well.
iii) DON’T pick wildly-inappropriate comparables
If your target audience is children, don’t pick a comparable that is R-rated or an 18. Or if your screenplay is serious in tone, don’t pick a screwball satire as your comparable. If your drama is lighthearted/feel good, don’t compare it to a devastating one like Blue Valentine.
These might seem like no-brainers because they ARE … yet I have seen all of the above screw-ups MULTIPLE times. Gnash!
So, What Makes A Good Pitch Deck?
Agents, producers, filmmakers and investors see literally thousands and thousands of pitch decks each year. So, what makes a good one?
i) Your pitch deck should be clear and concise
You want to make sure that your key points come across quickly and easily. Remember, you only have a limited amount of time to make an impression. Don’t make your industry pro ‘search’ for what your pitch deck is about. Its primary job is to sell your story ‘off the page’.
ii) Your pitch deck should also tell a story
Another no-brainer, we’re writers after all! Make sure it is easy to follow and laid out in logical way. There should be a clear beginning, middle, and end. This will help keep your audience engaged and invested in your screenplay’s story.
iii) Finally, your pitch deck should be visually appealing
Use high-quality images and graphics to help illustrate your points. This will make your deck more memorable and increase the likelihood the industry pro will WANT to read your screenplay. Just don’t go too fancy and OTT – minimalist is always better.
The one caveat to the above however is DON’T make your pitch deck a MAHOOOSIVE file. Most submissions are done via email now, so you need to ensure they’re not too big (ooh matron) to open.
This means DON’T use MS Word to make your pitch deck!! It looks like crap anyway. Instead, use software like Designrr or a site like Canva. If you are rubbish at design, think about hiring someone on a site like Fiverr.
Want Help With Your Own Pitch Deck?
Taking the time to craft a well-thought-out, logical and engaging pitch deck can make all the difference in the submissions process. I’ve seen good ones get writers meetings and deals … and bad ones that sink writers’ chances of getting off the starter blocks.
It’s one of the reasons I work very hard with my Bang2writers to ensure their pitch decks absolutely ROCK. If you want to work with me on yours or on anything else writing-related, B2W’s books are now open! CLICK HERE for details.