What Is A Pitchbook?
By Neil Blevins
Created On: Sept 19th 2020
Updated On: Feb 8th 2022
A little while ago I mentionned a pitchbook online, and
several people hadn't heard the term before. So for this lesson I will
discuss what it is, what you can find in one, how they are
used, and some examples.
You have two choices with this lesson, watch me discuss the issue in the video below, or read the full text.
What Is A Pitchbook?
A Pitchbook is generally a short booklet that contains a proposal for a
TV show, film or videogame, using words and images, which you use when
pitching your idea to an executive. Then you leave it with them so they
can consider whether they want to fund the project. In the olden days
of film production, you'd tend to write a script for the film, and then
send it to the film studio hoping it'll get picked. But with many
modern films (and most AAA videogames) having a strong visual component
(especially in scifi and
fantasy), it's more common now to include images along with your
written presentation to immerse the executive in the world you're
trying to sell.
A Pitchbook can also be called a Show Bible or Pitch Bible. However, a
Show Bible can also mean a document you create after
your show is already in production to help clarify the show, in which
case you don't need to pitch it because the executive has already
agreed to the project. This is why Pitchbook is the more common term.
related idea in videogames is
called a Pitchdeck, but rather than being a more detailed book, its
more often a powerpoint presentation talking about your game idea, and
includes images to get people excited.
A Pitchbook usually contains the following...
While you could keep this content as a pdf or email, there are
advantages to producing an actual book, there's something nice about a
physical thing you can hold in your hands, it makes the project
- What the project is About
- If scifi / fantasy, a description of the races / species or Factions in the world
- A description of the World
- The Characters
in the project and their bios
- The basic Story
the characters will experience in the world
- Sometimes a sample of the Script
- Sometimes backstory, such as a Timeline showing major
events that happen in the project's universe and when, like a little in
universe history lesson
- Images of the
Characters, Factions/Species, Creatures/Robots, Environments, Props,
- Some Key Art
exciting moments in the narrative
- Sometimes some Style
Guide info, like for example all of Species A is organic shapes,
all of species B is box like, species C has brutalist architecture,
etc. If the project is stylized, some artwork showing how it will be
stylized. For a pitchbook this is usually quite short, a
deeper discussion of this material would appear in an Art Bible after
the project is greenlit.
A Fictitious Example
So an example would be, I have an idea to do a reboot of the classic
scifi film Forbidden Planet. I write the first scene to the film as a
script. I then hire 3 concept artists to produce artwork of the
characters and environments, and some key moments like the scene where
the space explorers are fighting the "id" monster with the force field.
then have a layout artist create a 30 page book with the art, the
script, and the written information of the pitch. I then have 40 copies
printed. I then get a meeting with an executive at a major film studio.
I go in
with the book, I give them a verbal pitch of what the project is,
showing them artwork in the book. I then leave the book with them. They
mull over whether they'd like to produce the project, maybe even forget
about it for a few weeks, but then one day they randomly see the
pitchbook in a pile somewhere in their office, grab it and flip through
it, say to
themselves "You know, this project is an excellent idea", then they
call you and the project gets funded.
It's of course far more complex than that, but that should give you the
basics of how a pitchbook fits into selling your project.
Real World Examples
As far as I know, one of the first pitchbooks was made by filmmaker
Alejandro Jodorowsky who decided to make an adaptation of the book Dune
a film in 1974. He hired Jean Giraud (Moebius) to create story
boards for the entire film, make a book of them, and shopped that
See the documentary Jodorowsky's Dune for
more information on this Pitchbook. It's a great film about a film that
never got made.
Since then, many films have been sold to studios using Pitchbooks. In
fact, some companies produce Pitchbooks as part of their normal
business for directors and producers.
Another recent example is a Pitchbook that was made for the TV series
"Dune: The Sisterhood" by Denis Villeneuve. Here's a photo of the cover
that showed up on Twitter.
Another recent example is from Javier Grillo-Marxuach, producer and
writer at The
Jim Henson Company who worked on shows such as Lost and The Dark
Crystal: Age of Resistance. I did some Pitch Art for one of his
projects called "Skyborn",
which was successfully sold to Universal, before being sadly canceled.
Check the link for the Pitch
and Lookbook to get some idea what
the insides of a Pitchbook can look like (not sure if this material was
ever created into a physical book, but it has the same format).
Pitchbooks That Aren't
There are many examples of Pitchbooks that don't follow the standard
Pitchbook format, or Pitchbooks that serve dual purposes, and
Pitchbooks that were never meant to be Pitchbooks.
example, artist Simon Stalenhag created a series of Narrative Artbooks
that started with "Tales
from the Loop", which contained both narrative and art that
represented the story. Then the book was sold to the public. But then
the book was handed
around hollywood, and
eventually Amazon picked up the rights to it and produced a TV series
based on the books.
Says Simon: "I
never expected TFTL to be handed around in Hollywood, I would never
have had the stamina to finish it if the goal was to impress studio
people. I created it as an independent piece of fiction and it took me
about three years to complete. The tv show was an unexpected bonus!"
So while not exactly the format of a Pitchbook (but still a combo of
written word and images), and never intended to be used as a Pitchbook,
it ended up doing the same job. The fact that fans worldwide loved the
book I'm sure was also a factor, a film / tv studio is more likely to
buy something if they know it's popular and has a built in audience.
So if you are making a Pitchbook that you want to use with executives,
you could also consider releasing the book or a variation of the book
publicly to get fan support.
Another example is "Timeless"
by Armand Baltazar, who wrote and
illustrated a young adult novel that is available for sale, and the
work served as a pitchbook and got him a film deal. In fact, the film
deal happened before the book was even completed, check out Armand's
amazing story in this interview on The Art Department
Another of my two favorite examples are "Exodyssey"
studios (published by DSP) and "Robota"
by Doug Chiang. Both were used to
pitch films and videogame projects as well as being sold as actual
books. Sadly, neither has gone beyond their book form.
My narrative artbook "The Story Of Inc"
which I made with Bill Zahn, Stephan Bugaj and a whole ton of great
artists is the same thing. The story
portion of the book is formatted somewhat like a film script, the first
half of the book contains paintings of key moments from the story. Then
the back of the book has design paintings of all the characters
and the world. The book was published and is being enjoyed by the fans,
but at the same time, the project is being shopped around
with the book with its story and artwork being used as part of the
Anyways, hope that clears up what a Pitchbook is, and maybe you'll see
the advantage of making your own one day if you want to try and get
your project sold.