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.

A 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 tangible.

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. I 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 as 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 around hollywood.

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 Technically Pitchbooks

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.

For 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 podcast.

Another of my two favorite examples are "Exodyssey" by Steambot 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 hollywood, with the book with its story and artwork being used as part of the pitch.

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.

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