About six weeks ago, I joined the ranks of Quivalon, a female-led, international creative collaboration that covers several different types of media. The primary focus is a gender-swapped Robin Hood retelling TV show set in a near-future dystopia where magic exists. As the production coordinator, I have my hands on many different aspects of the various branches of the project. And as someone with digital design experience, I was brought on to work on the pitch deck. As with my TV bible post, I wanted to give a bit of an overview about what went into the pitch deck and why we made the decisions we did.
(BTW, Quivalon is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to shoot a sizzle reel featuring our 7 main characters. We’ve hot 100%, but once we reach our first stretch goal we’ve got behind-the-scenes content to offer. Check it out.)
What is a Pitch Deck?
A pitch deck is a visual introduction to your feature or series. It takes the form of a Powerpoint or other slide presentation, though is often distributed as a PDF. As is the case with so much of screenwriting, the goal is to say as much as you can using as few words as possible. But the advantage here is that you get that chance to communicate a lot through images as well as the text. This document could be used to woo actors, producers, or other financiers.
What is the Structure of a Pitch Deck?
There are many, many examples of bibles floating around, but not nearly as many pitch decks. The ones I could find to use for reference were always for features rather than TV and were for projects that didn’t include an elaborate, fantastical world like HOOD. Pitch decks can range a lot, but we were aiming for something between 15-20 slides. We made a plan before I ever laid out a single slide, and the order of things did fluctuate some along the way. In the end, the order and number of slides for HOOD broke down to:
Slide 1 – Poster
Slide 2 – Character art for our main character
Because this is a non-traditional take on the character, we thought seeing a female Robyn Loxley would make an impression. Chances are good you wouldn’t need this in your deck.
Slide 3 – Logline/inspiration
Slide 4 – “Mood board” type collage of images
Slide 5 – Themes
We opted to boil down our three most important themes into three questions, each with an accompanying image. Other theme slides I looked at were much more text-heavy.
Slide 6 – World
For us, this included a world map because the “England” of HOOD looks different after climate change. We explained the presence of magic and the major war the happened immediately before the story begins.
Slide 7 – Story
This is where we explained the remaining context and location for the series, and the main conflicts of the first episode.
Slide 8- Nottingham visual
Showing what we just told in the previous slide when it came to the setting of the story.
Slides 9-10 – Three main characters
Everyone knows that Robin Hood, The Sheriff of Nottingham, and King John are the three most central characters of any Robin Hood story, so we introduced them and what makes our version different. We were especially sensitive to the fact that casting would be race-blind, so we didn’t want to use an real actors or models to illustrate our characters.
Slide 11 – More Story
We wanted to give more of an idea of where the season would go without having too many text-heavy slides in a row, so we put this one after the characters rather than following the first story slide. If you are doing a deck for a feature, you probably don’t need more than one story slide.
Slides 12-13 – The rest of the characters
Quick character introductions of our remaining cast, which included some spoilers for the season as a whole.
Slide 14 – Tone and Comp Titles
Slide 15 – The Team
Our team is so big, we opted for a summary approach with pictures instead of giving each person part of a slide for intros. Other teams with bigger names attached will likely spread this over multiple slides.
Slide 16 – Closing image/call to action
A strong visual plus our contact information and social media handles.
Slides We Didn’t Include
Some of the sample decks also included information about production, such as budget and timeline. We aren’t far enough down the line yet to include those kinds of details, so we left them out. I also saw at least one that had multiple pages of comps that included the budgets and box office returns for those comps. We preferred to focus on four titles that touched on different aspects of our themes and style.
This deck had three main people working on it, me, a writer, and the showrunner. There were a couple other people who also weighed in on visuals. Having a team rather than going alone had both costs and benefits. It certainly took longer to get 16 slides by committee than if I were working alone. But I also think the final product is a lot better looking and more professional than if I hadn’t had their feedback. And some of the discussions surrounding themes and branding were really valuable for me at this stage of learning about the industry.
I was able to do almost everything I wanted to do using my Canva Pro subscription, but there were a few things here and there that required someone else to do something specific in Photoshop for me. The poster and the character silhouettes, for instance, came from outside that program. Still, the “Presentation” template in Canva was perfect and easy to use, so I’d recommend it for the actual layout if you don’t use Powerpoint.
Now that I’ve got this one under my belt, I am excited to create pitch decks for my own series! I’ll be sure to post again once I’ve done more.
What about you? Have you ever made a pitch deck? Thinking about it? Got resources to share?