Pandemic Movie

How to Write Your Pandemic Movie

Fresh from my gig as the editor of the North Bay Bohemian, here’s a bit from my Press Pass column for screenwriters and those who love them.

Why wait for the inevitable pandemic movie deluge when you can script your very own COVID-19 horror film right now? Every filmmaker worth a roll of gaffer’s tape is plotting their pandemic feature right now—don’t be left out like you were during the Great Burning Man Documentary Deluge of the early aughts.

Lights, Camera, Quarantine

Stay home, lock the doors and start your screenplay with our free Instant Pandemic Movie Plot Thickener. How does it work? Like this: If your house was haunted, wouldn’t you just leave? Normally, yes, but the pandemic plugs this age-old plot hole by promising a slow, painful death if you go outside.

Boom—you’re trapped! And … the wifi is down! If that’s not frightening enough, use the following screenwriting prompt to add more chills: In the dead of night, your partner whispers in your ear “I think there’s someone in the house …” Remember, this is a movie, not reality. In reality, everyone is so utterly bored with each others’ company that you’d welcome the intruder with open arms and a bottle of wine. But in the horror-show version of your quarantined life, the moment has to be bone-chilling. Choose one of the following:

1. Someone is surreptitiously living in your attic, a crawlspace, or the secret room that is discovered when the blueprints are examined in a dramatic second-act revelation.

2. YOU are surreptitiously living in the attic to avoid your family.

A Star Is Bored

Now add one of the following tried-and-true tropes:

1. A malevolent spirit inhabits one of your child’s toys, preferably a doll, especially the kind with eyes that suddenly open for no reason.

2. Your kid has an “imaginary friend”—with an Edwardian-era name like Gwilym—that they “talk to” through the closet.Pick one, then get jealous that the kid has someone to talk to who isn’t related to them. Start talking to Gwilym yourself.

Write down what you say. Presto—your screenplay is practically writing itself! At some point in your script, write a character who works in a spiritual capacity (a priest, exorcist, bartender, etc.) and have them attempt to purge the evil spirit through a Zoom call.

At a crucial moment, have your screen freeze and then run to every room in the house with your laptop trying to get a better connection. When you finally find a signal and resume your video call in the darkened bathroom, have the kid wander in and turn on the light … revealing—Aaahhh!—you’re just talking to yourself in the mirror!

Originally published in the North Bay Bohemian.