How I Hijacked Hollywood or: How To Sell A Screenplay

This clever tale of Imposter Syndrome in action (hey, we’ve ALL got it so what the heck) is packed with wisdom and attitude, and as regular TVWriter™ visitors know, we’re hardcore admirers of both.

by Zack Ford

On a hot spring day in 2013, I exited the Kips Bay brownstone in Manhattan where I lived in a rent-controlled studio apartment with my girlfriend and a white cat, walked west to 5th Avenue and then south to 23rd Street, to one of the few remaining Radio Shacks in history. Here, I bought an item just as outré as the store itself: an answering machine for a landline telephone. I had a plan to hack Hollywood.

I sat in cafes in the orbit of Union Square and brainstormed names for my phony management company – which would, essentially, be a phone. The primary qualification was that it must sound strong and uncontestable to the assistants answering my calls. It needed to command authority by means of hard consonants, to strike eardrums like a war drum. I sketched a grinning skull on a pike and I came up with “Barbaric Media”. After all, this was a takeover. Like a barbarian, I was going to raid them – then sell to them.

I’d grown up on stories of Hollywood in the 1990s. Back then, cold calls worked, and pitches written on the backs of martini-splotched cocktail napkins were sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the gold rush was over, and spec screenplays were now nearly impossible to sell.

I’d written my first screenplay when I was 12. It was called Hospital, about a group of miscreants who take hostage the President of the United States after he’s airlifted to Walter Reed. Then, I kept writing – two or three screenplays a year. At 16, I entered the Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship competition with a script called Things Left Unsaid in Pittsburgh, and it reached the top 16%.

I considered screenwriting a holy calling. I’m not kidding….

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