Zac Hug on Endings that Satisfy, the Importance of Legos, and Joke Pitching His Way into Hallmark

by | Jan 10, 2022

As you all know, we treat our writers like family and when a new member of the family shows up, we’d like you to get to know them. Introducing Zac Hug.

How Did You Discover Screenwriting?

I got there via playwriting. I like anything where people get to play pretend, and I wasn’t a super good actor, so I started writing in college. I liked the simplicity of playwriting. You really are just listening to characters have their heart changed over the course of the story, and screenwriting always felt a little bit of a mystery to me because everyone scared me to death about formatting a script. Then I sat down with a scripting program and went, “Oh, this is… calm down everyone.” From there, it was a long time of me trying to figure out how to END stories while I worked as a digital exec at Disney. Then one day, I was just sorta done? And so I went to grad school, where they VERY adeptly were like, “Here’s how you end a story in a way that’s really satisfying.” And I’ve been writing professionally since.

What Do You Love About Writing RomComs?

At the end of the day, these movies are about joy. We think that the common denominator in a rom-com is love. But really, both people find something new about LIFE as they go through the story. The love parts of it are interesting, yes, sure. But ultimately, the things that the characters pursue while falling in love are what’s most important. They’re always stories where people end up better off than they were. It’s hopeful.

What Do You Wish You’d Known About Writing TV RomComs When You First Started Writing Them?

I wish I’d known that the key to doing it well was to write something I cared about rather than what I thought was expected of me. The biggest mistake I see people make in writing Hallmark movies is writing the idea of a Hallmark movie. No matter where your story ends up, someone is going to put their branding on it and tell you the intricacies of what it’s going to take to get it on air or through production. It’s going to be a better movie if you work with them and trust the things they’re saying, but also to trust yourself as the person who has to tell the story and find a way to work it all together. If you try to get ahead of it and write what you THINK someone wants – that way madness lies.

How Did You Get on Hallmark’s Radar?

I was on a show called Shadowhunters, and I sat next to Hollie Overton a lot. One day she told me her sister Heather worked at Hallmark, and I said, “Oh, I have a terrible idea for a Christmas movie that’s sort of a re-telling of the Three Wise Men?” Hollie laughed and told me to send it to Heather in an email. That idea turned into the script for Road to Christmas. And Heather and I have worked on nearly a dozen movies together since.

What are You Working on Now (if you can talk about it)?

I am writing a bunch of Hallmark movies for next year. I am fortunate enough to know what the work will be for the next year. A lot of them are Christmas, and one of them is not at all Christmas and also really close to my heart and a real stretch for Hallmark. So, we’ll see how it goes. Otherwise, I’m working on a pitch for a TV show that I’m excited about and getting ready to start taking that out. And I have a couple of loose projects I am not sure will ever get off the ground but seem to be circling each other in the same realm of ideas – if that makes any damn sense. I know I want to talk about forgiveness and privilege and apologies, but… I’m not quite sure how yet. So one of those projects will likely bubble up the answer.

Do You have a Celebration Ritual for When You Finish/Sell a Script? What Is It?

This is gonna sound lame, but it’s either cleaning or Legos. I’ve built a lot of Lego sets in the past few years. But I like having a prize for myself at the end of a project that also serves as somewhat of a palate cleanser for the brain. I want to think but not very hard, and also I want something I can finish. So, it’s usually a lot of “Oh good, I’ve turned something in,” and then while I wait for notes, I clean out a closet, or I build something.

Do You have a Go-To Screenwriting Snack or Drink?

It’s mostly coffee. But I’m someone who gets up early, writes as much as they can, and then burns out by around noon. I’m worthless for the early afternoon, and then I usually come back in the later afternoon to make a plan for the next day. I also feel like I had to figure out how to NOT snack all day? So, I keep a pretty tight lid on myself when I’m writing and eat everything I find when I’m not.

What Makes You Excited to Crack Your Computer and Get Writing?

It’s so theater-kid dumb, but I really do like the characters I write. And I enjoy spending time with them. I feel like a lot of my process employs being open to a character begging me to let them do stuff. And me trying to accommodate them or tell them to stop asking for so much. I dunno, the world is run by Scooby-Doo villains, and the news keeps telling us we’re going to be 50% and on fire any second, so… escaping into a really pleasant world for a few hours every morning? Some days, I can’t believe they pay me to do it.

What’s Your Best Advice for Someone Just Setting Out On Their Screenwriting Journey?

Write a bunch. And watch and read a bunch. The ideas you have in your head are probably really good. They will find their way out of you much more easily if you can identify the elegant and speedy, and delightful ways that other people have gotten their ideas across. Light up as many parts of your brain as you can. And know that the way YOU end up being successful is something you define yourself. The path you’ll walk to get there will have a lot of good and bad advice, but it’s going to happen the way it does, so stay loose, learn to adapt, say yes and no as judiciously as possible.

We all know you will join us in welcoming to Zac to the ProPath family. We hope you’ll pull up a virtual chair and learn all he has to teach. Join Zac in his 10-week RomCom workshop beginning February 1st.

ProPath Screenwriting