Writing in a (post) pandemic world

I have a post-pandemic (ish) feature screenplay. I have the TV pilot also. One of my Gigs is screenwriter.  Another is producer. And I was smack in the middle of film development when the coronavirus pandemic hit. For my first feature film.

I rewrote a script that I have been entering in contests and pitching for the past year. Plus, I have been applying for film grants to get this into production. I have a producer who was working on the budget and script breakdown. And I even went location scouting in Chicago last August. Plus actor interest. That’s called Development. The budget breakdown is still happening.

One of my reasons for setting up this new gig-related business, Gena In General, was to not just write the scripts and hope they get produced one day. But to also work on getting them into production as producer-writer. Through GiG and my production company, Brown Dot Productions, that actually has some short film credits. Thanks to working on Ursula’s films.

My dream felt like it crashed for a moment. That’s happened before. But this was different. The coronavirus pandemic sent us all home. And all film productions were sent packing. TV too. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu productions included. Everything but TV talk shows and news shows. Many broadcasting from their living room. (I actually made a ‘pandemic’ film from my living room, plus bathtub and front porch, too, but that is another blog post).

But I attended a virtual screenwriting conference that I was supposed to go to in Chicago in April to do some networking. The quarantined, seasoned screenwriters said keep writing. So I picked myself back up, still in quarantine, and my dream did not die with the pandemic, even though most of the Film and Television industry has come to a halt. Productions stopped. Some films in mid-production. Some of our favorite TV shows wrapped up in March before the season end cliff-hangers were filmed. And nobody knows, at this point, when they’re going back into production as of May/June 2020.

From what I’ve heard and read, Hollywood is working on guidelines for this new normal of production. I’ve received some of them from film companies. Those shows and films that were in post-production, meaning already finished with actual filming on set, will be able to finish and be released. Animation can still go be produced. Oh, so much to consider about film production right now. I’ll save that for a different blog post.

In the meantime, I keep on writing. And keep on developing.

Rewriting a story to reflect a pandemic or post-pandemic world is new to me. Some book authors I know wonder whether to rewrite their manuscripts reflecting this world also if the story is set present day. Other writers have decided not to change the story. Many readers and viewers want escape from reality. My Chicago set story could not ignore it.

I felt my story dictated that our new world had to be included, even though we are not even sure what that future, long term or short, is going to look like as of 8 May 2020. I used the guidelines we have in place now for dealing with the pandemic and used the predictions for the upcoming winter, and then used my imagination based on that info.

My script is not about the pandemic but incorporates it into the story. And here’s why. The themes and issues it deals with.

Dealing with an empty nest and a politically ambitious husband, a wealthy woman living on the North Shore of Chicago has a midlife re-purposing as she begins to see the realities of other parts of the city through the realities of the homeless and those underserved, as she gets back to her roots of service to others from the ground up.

I wrote the first script four years ago. And wealth, poverty, homelessness in particular, homeless veterans, race, immigration, crime and other issues were things I wanted to bring into this story. Some very much in your face, and some oh so subtle. The two sides of a city, the greater Chicago area, and that I love. The adaptation I had last year to work with to go location scouting is now further adapted into incorporating our pandemic experience.

We are all affected by the pandemic in some capacity, whether you may have or had the virus and we all have been quarantining either way. Staying at home. Working from home. Schooling at home. Performing essential work in your workplace. Not to mention, unemployed or underemployed right now.

From distancing six feet apart and wearing a mask when you do go out, to not going out at all and having someone drop off your groceries at your doorstep. If you’re in a city environment, like New York City or Chicago, like where my script is set and where I have lived, or in Los Angeles, where my daughter lives, your restrictions are even greater because the population and virus dictate that.

No matter where we live, we all have a new vocabulary- a pandemic lexicon. How many times a day do you use or hear the word mask? Or virus? Or numbers, as in what are today’s numbers?

Mask up. Social distancing. Pandemic. It’s become common usage and I don’t see that changing when the holidays roll around in December. My script is set present day in December.

My script is not about the pandemic but incorporates it into the story. My characters might wear masks.

Financial Times

They social distance. They deny social distance. They do extra cleaning, especially in public settings such as a gym and church.

Plus, the subject matter of my story deals with populations that are either very concerned, such as the homeless population and those that serve them. And the somewhat worried but have enough wealth to not worry about some of the tougher virus-related issues, such as unemployment and food deprivation. Either way. This virus affects us all.

I have received good feedback and coverage about my script, OUT OF SIGHT. Some issues that I addressed are in the forefront right now because of this virus. I think I made the best decision for this story to include it but without focusing on it. My other stories are not affected by it right now. It will be interesting to see how writers deal with the pandemic, story-wise, in a non-pandemic story. I’m sure there are pandemic specific stories being written. I’m even considering writing this as a novella.

As a writer, I wish I could write the happy ending for us all right now. It would be over and all would be well. Everyone healthy and safe.

The End.

Lake Street Bridge Chicago

On a different note, my online shop, Gena in General’s We Stayed Home, features items to buy that will help assist food banks and food projects. One such is the Chicago food project, Fight2Feed. They rescue food and reduce food waste and get it to those in need. They have served over 8,000 meals since March 18, 2020. You may buy items from my shop and I will contribute or you may donate directly. Thank you!

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