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Creating a Film Pitch Deck: How to Get Production Houses on Board

Updated: Apr 17

Escape to the ethereal short film cover photo

All the hard work is done - a gruelling few months have been spent penning down something special, with multiple passes and rounds of tweaking and improvements made based on the opinions of friends, colleagues, and family. Finally, "final_screenplay v23 FINAL" is ready to be copyrighted and printed on 80 gsm quality paper... Great, what's next?

A few weeks ago, I was here, googling what a screenwriter does with a finished script. Turns out, the real hard work begins now. Selling a spec screenplay or finding producers so that you can direct your film can be daunting - there are avenues such as participating in contests and fellowships that are ridden with competition, reaching out to production houses, which is obviously very challenging without an agent, or participating in overwhelming levels of networking by attending festivals, gatherings and events.

Ultimately, if there's interest in the screenplay, we'll need to pitch the film to producers using a tip-top pitch deck.

I didn't do any of those critical things between finishing the screenplay and making the pitch deck (except copyrighting it lol). But I couldn't help myself from jumping the gun and getting to the fun stuff because of this 'keeda to create.' So, I spent some time on Google, browsing through film pitch decks and reading up on them. Based on my experiences, I thought it would be useful for others who are new to this process (like myself) if I could share a straightforward framework that worked for me.

But First, a Little About Pitch Decks

Back in the 90s, selling your screenplay meant delivering a killer pitch in person, complete with creative visual aids. But as more and more scripts flooded in, the industry had to adapt. So, they ditched the pitch meetings and instead looked for a solid logline, synopsis, and treatment to review. And that became the new way for screenwriters to get discovered. But guess what? Things changed yet again! Now, on top of nailing your logline, synopsis, and treatment, you also need to put together a great pitch deck, one that sets you apart from the crowd.

The goal of a pitch deck is to present your project in a clear and engaging way, making a compelling case for why it should be produced. A callout - do not confuse pitch decks with series bibles. While there may be an overlap, series bibles are generally extensive documents made for television shows, with elaborate information on the setting, main characters, tone, and style, to provide writers and producers with a framework for consistency.

To summarize, a pitch deck is a concise and visually appealing presentation used to sell your project, while a production/show bible is a comprehensive document with a detailed overview of the world, its characters, and storylines.

Getting to the Point

After checking out numerous film/show pitch decks, I noticed that most of them include a brief overview of the story, marketability, target audience, genre, and visual aids such as concept art, location photos, and character designs. However, there's no one-size-fits-all approach; the structure, content, flow and length varied from deck to deck. One key aspect that stood out to me, though, was the importance of maintaining consistency in the art, imagery, and color scheme throughout the pitch deck.

A consistent look-and-feel establishes a clear and cohesive theme for the film, and creates a strong impression on the viewer.

Starting off with the pitch deck's title slide, this is an opportunity to make a strong first impression. It should be visually appealing and capture the tone and atmosphere of your film. Think of it as a poster for your project that will grab the viewer's attention and set the stage for the rest of your pitch. With that aside, here's the framework I followed for the pitch deck I made for my short film, Escape to the Ethereal (working title) -

1. Logline

When it comes to pitch decks, the logline slide is your best chance to hook your audience. A logline is a brief summary of your film in one or two sentences that should intrigue the reader and give them a sense of what the film is about.

Logline for ethereal short film

2. Synopsis

Synopsis for shortfilm

Think of this slide as a sneak peek into the world of your film. It's your chance to bring your story to life and entice the reader to want to know more. This slide should provide a brief overview of the plot, highlight the main characters and their motivations, and give a sense of the tone of the film. Keep it engaging, and focus on the most important plot points that will leave the reader wanting for more. I'm not sure how much of that I was able to achieve with my synopsis, but that was the intent.

3. Characters

Character desciption for short films

Use a couple of slides to introduce the main players and how they fit into the story. These slides can also subtly hint at thoughts on casting, to further bring your characters to life for the viewer. Remember, compelling characters can make or break a film, so make sure to highlight what makes your characters stand out and why they are integral to your story. Add a hard-hitting quote or two, too. Focus on what makes your characters unique, keep it concise, and avoid overwhelming the reader with too much information.

4. Story origin

This slide provides a glimpse into the creative process behind your idea and showcases the personal connection you have with it. This slide can include information on what inspired you to write the story, how you developed the concept, and any personal anecdotes or experiences that influenced your approach. By sharing your creative journey, you can help the reader connect with your story on a deeper level and understand why it's important to you. A great story is not just about what happens on screen, but also the passion and vision behind it. To quote a tiny part from this slide on my pitch deck -

The constant argument between my inner voice and me of wanting to achieve something in life or whiling it away doing nothing, is what translated into this experimental script on existentialism.

5. Mood board and concept

Creating a mood board and concept slide can help set the visual tone for your film and give the viewer a glimpse into the world you are creating. This is where you can showcase the visual style and aesthetics of your film through concept art, storyboards, and location photos. These visuals can help convey the mood, atmosphere, and overall vibe of your film, making it more tangible and exciting for the reader, so make sure to reference other films and shows you've drawn inspiration from as well.

Concept and mood board of ethereal

6. Budget and team information

Think of these slides as the last piece of the puzzle in your pitch deck. This is where you can provide some practical details about the project, such as the estimated budget split between pre-production, production and post-production, as well as shooting timelines. You can also include key Box Office metrics of the intended genre and demographics by displaying the budget and other popular films similar in genre. Including this information can help investors or collaborators understand the scope and feasibility of the project. Also, add key information about the current team members involved, along with their relevant experiences and accomplishments (my pitch deck has some information about just me with a picture of my unruly hair, so thought it'd be best to avoid sharing it). Be sure to add your contact details like you do with your screenplay.

In Conclusion

Conclusion image for ethereal

To end things, creating a successful film pitch deck is all about presenting a compelling story that captures the imagination of the reader. By following a clear structure and including key elements such as a logline, synopsis, characters, story origin, mood board, budget, and team information, you can ensure that your pitch deck stands out from the crowd. Having said that, this isn't the only framework you have to stick to, as mentioned before. A few other slide types that didn't seem very relevant to my pitch deck but felt important enough to call out were -

  • Executive summary - a single-page breakdown of the main elements of the film like runtime, genre, and theme

  • Production - some surface level notes on production schedules, locations and required equipment

  • Distribution - a section based on market research that talks about the demographics, target audience and the potential of making such a film (this is critical for feature films and television shows)

Remember to keep your slides engaging, and visually appealing, while also highlighting the unique and marketable aspects of your project. With a well-crafted pitch deck, you can attract investors, collaborators, and ultimately turn your vision into a reality.

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