In a moment where there are still questions if and how to produce movies in the times of a deadly threat, Adam Goodman and Michael Bay announced “Songbird” a pandemic-themed thriller set in the near future. This sounds very courageous since there are so many open questions. We read in online magazines also “warnings” addressed to screenwriters not to write corona-themed screenplays. That’s completely wrong. First, nobody really knows what the industry or an audience wants. Second, it is crucial that we create stories about what really matters. In the aftermath of 9-11, there had been many US shows and movies dealing with the subject of a changing world in a very substantial way. What we definitely don’t need is meaningless escapism with masses of romantic comedies or affirmative culture products. These are political times and movies and series should help to a better-informed public. It should also work in a commercial sense as long as we avoid some of these pitfalls.
Where are the traps?
We are living in a fluent situation where nothing is for certain. We don’t know about economic development, there are uncertainties in science we even don’t know what kind of world we live in one or two years. Is it too early to start creating, filming, or writing about something which relates to the pandemic? No, it is the perfect time to start, because we need to “record” experiences as long as they are fresh. And soon, we need fictional products which help to cope with the changing world. The trick is getting not getting to close to uncertain facts or developments which could be wrong from a perspective one or two years in the future.
One way of doing this is to cover the conflicts and issues in science, politics, and society in a more general or broader sense. It must not necessarily a corona-dystopian-series or movie. We could bring it to the archetypical core of what it means. Furthermore, we could also show the challenges of scientists in another situation. Movies are about long term value. Therefore they should have a timeless quality.
Corona is not the only substantial crisis. There are a profound ecological crisis and a crisis in society with growing injustice and a growing poor-rich gap. Shows and movies can deliver deeper insights and can create a deeper awareness of the values at stake. If we do a pandemic-themed series or movie it’s not necessary to focus so much on certain facts but to know about what ethical values are at stake.
In the aftermath of 9/11 the envisioned sci-fi series “Battlestar Galactica” addressed the political issues and moral dilemmas in a very intelligent way. It also informed the audience about threats like a cyber-war. This is also what is needed now: Audiences need to be on alert since the risks are rising. This is why we need movies and series which addresses the big themes of our time. What we certainly not need is some sort of “feel-good pills” as we had seen it sometimes. The trick might be to present the challenges in different settings as sci-fi worlds.
The rise of conspiracy theories is proof that we need to foster the science and entertainment industry exchange. It is crucial that a broad public gets a better understanding of natural sciences and how scientists work. “Dr. House” is a prime example of how this could work and that these types of series and movies can also be extremely successful.