Screenwriting & Storytelling In The Age Of Coronavirus

The Age of Trump made fiction-writing redundant. No one could write characters or a story half as batshit bonkers as what we were living through before coronavirus and get away with it. Now, we’re just out in the stratosphere of “Whatever!” Twists might surprise us as they happen but nothing really surprises us any more.

Stories will now exist “pre-coronavirus” and “post-coronavirus” — exactly like with a war. If you were writing a love story on December 6, 1941, you had to revise it the next day — after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor — because a war started and the world all your characters lived in were going to war too — whether you knew it or not. Any visual storyteller who shoots a video where people are dressed like they used to — without masks or other protective accessories — without social distancing — is telling a period piece. Everyone might as well be wearing petticoats.

Shows like Fox’s Empire — as of now — gave up on the idea of finishing. In Empire’s case, the show’s creators are bailing on shooting the series finale for that very reason. Their show takes place in the present. In the here & now. That is, Empire took place in the present that was — in the there & then. Having to choose between suddenly (but inexplicably) wrenching their story and characters fully into coronavirus world or building coronavirus world into their story (very inconvenient when you’re wrapping your story up and lots of what you planned relied on the characters living how we used to), Empire’s producers (I think wisely though my heart breaks for them) chose to just “walk away”. To allow their creation to end where it did when the virus struck.

Like the show itself was a victim of covid-19. Which it absolutely was.

Simple conventions that storytellers have relied on forever now have to be rethought. Bars and restaurants might open again but they won’t look like they did pre-coronavirus. There won’t be “packed restaurants” or “pulsating night clubs” or “crowded bars” here in reality for a while. That means it’ll be tricky to write about them. It’s pointless to write a scene in movie script that no one would ever shoot because it’s not how people act anymore. It’d be like our love story writer insisting on his love story taking place in a world where Japan never attacked Pearl Harbor or Corregidor or Nanking or anywhere else. It’d be like writing Casablanca — except everyone just “shows up” in North Africa for no reason — the second world war no longer being a “thing” for them to worry about. No need for exit visas or Nazis or Vichy French.

For reference — I’ve spent my career in the entertainment business. I’ve been a writer & producer in film & TV for over 35 years. I’ve run TV shows (HBO’s Tales From The Crypt & Showtime’s The Outer Limits), sold pilots to Fox, ABC, HBO and the old UPN. I’ve written and produced feature films (Children Of The Corn II fer pete’s sake, Demon Knight and Bordello Of Blood!) I’ve written stories that take place in the past, present and the future. I’ve had to imagine how humans might problem-solve in a future beyond my imagining.

That’s one of the challenges for all of us who’ve been cooped up in our homes, imagining new TV shows to fill the void now that everyone in the whole world has watched everything on Netflix and Hulu and Amazon for the thousandth time. What world will our new creations take place in? What are the rules? If we get them wrong, the “here and now” we’re describing will turn off our audiences.

It’s like getting a character wrong. Writers have to know people better than even their therapists do. We all have experienced the great story idea ruined by characters who don’t act like anyone we know. The moment a storyteller loses her audience, it’s over. The audience is gone for good — hoping the next story they decide to invest in pays them back a little more generously.

On the one hand, one can see the coming waves of infection-and-death, shut-down-and-re-opening as an obstacle. Or, one could see them as an opportunity to tell a story that’s never been told before — putting modern, tech-savvy humans up against a primordial foe who sees their bodies (and cells) as a cheap sex hotel where they can slum for a while and reproduce.

The very good news for the world’s TV audiences is that when storytellers are allowed to get together in the same place again to practice their art, the stories they tell will be amazing. On the one hand, they’ll be familiar because we’ve all just endured the same wrenching experience together. On the other hand, we hope, they’ll be eye-opening for what’s new in them: new insights into human beings and how we react to stress; that’s pretty much the basis for all storytelling.

If the writers get it all wrong and don’t come up with a single binge-able idea coming out of the coronavirus quarantine, there’ll always be reality. When all else fails, we’ll know, if we want real entertainment that can’t be beat for compellingness, all we have to do is turn off the TV and walk outside.

Japan’s Pearl Harbor Surprise Attack Wants To Teach Us A Lesson About Right Now; Will We Listen?

We think of WWII starting for Americans the moment the Japanese attacked our Naval base at Pearl Harbor. That’s not entirely accurate.

The Japanese arrived at Pearl Harbor and started bombing it — killing Americans & doing grave harm to our navy. But the Japanese didn’t just suddenly appear at Pearl Harbor. They had to plan their attack. They had to move assets into forward positions in order to launch it. Then they had to set off on the attack itself.

The Japanese arrived at Pearl Harbor at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time. A Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings dove from the clouds above Oahu. But the Japanese task force that attacked Pearl Harbor — including six aircraft carriers, left Japan on November 26, 1941 — two weeks earlier. That’s really when Japan declared war on us — with the intention of attacking the base at Pearl Harbor.

In theory, a murder isn’t a murder until the victim dies. But, up to that moment, it’s still attempted murder. There’s still the plotting of a crime, too — both being criminal acts. The act of rearing back to throw a punch you intend to throw regardless is very much part of your attack. The instant you pull the trigger, the act is irreversible.

We’ll set the planning aside — too abstract.

But the moment the Japanese fleet left port — the attack was on. The only thing standing between the Japanese and carrying out the attack was time and distance. And then timing so as to arrive when the Americans living at Pearl Harbor would be least likely to expect anything — and most vulnerable to the attack’s intended outcome: the crippling of the American Pacific fleet.

We are under cyber attack. We’ve BEEN under cyber attack for nearly four years now. Donald Trump isn’t POTUS because he “won” election 2016 freely & fairly, he “won” because Russia launched the most successful intelligence operation in history — a CYBER WAR relying on, among other things, weaponized polling data and a steady stream of propaganda.

Anyone who thinks you need bombs or bullets to win a war anymore will lose every war they ever fight going forward. Cyber war is cheap and just as effective — if not more effective. Fact: Russia (or perhaps various other bad actors) could shut down America’s power grid tomorrow — and we would be forced to sue for peace — losing the war.

We are under attack. Russia has already put its asset into the White House. They’re using that asset — Trump and everyone around him — to actively undermine every facet of American Democracy. If our Republic goes away, there will be no backstop to Russian hegemony. Putin will have his Greater Russia back. The world will have more authoritarianism, more corruption, more darkness.

Until we — our news media especially — embrace this Truth — that yes, indeedy, we ARE under attack — this very well could be World War Three we’re living through — we will not stop it from happening.

It seems like a no-brainer. Someone’s hitting you — hard. Either you demand that they stop hitting you or you return fire — and you force them to stop.

That’s where we are. It’s where we’ve been — in the not-all-that-distant past. Can we not repeat yet another historical mistake because we refused to take any lessons from it?

Dear America — It Doesn’t Matter Whether We Know It Or Not — WE’RE AT WAR

We all know the story of December 7, 1941. At around 7:15 a.m. the Japanese Imperial Fleet attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Just like that — America was “at war”.

But, the Japanese had set their war machine in motion years before — designing it for just such a scenario. In advance of that date — December 7, the Japanese moved their war machine into place. We’re talking a naval fleet and a wide expanse of ocean. Then, once the order was given to attack, it still took the Japanese hours to reach Pearl Harbor so they could open the attack — and make the fact that they were at war with us “formal”.

Looking back at the timeline, December 7, 1941 didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. I wonder if anyone at Pearl Harbor asked themselves — as they ran for cover, the bombs exploding all around them — how was it they (we) were so horribly ill-prepared for a war they (we) should have seen coming…

Okay — the whole point of a surprise attack is that the guy getting attacked doesn’t see it coming. But, c’mon…

A deer happily walking through the forest thinks her life is going along just fine. If a hunter has her in his sights however, she’s fooling herself. Her life’s about to end abruptly. She’ll just be the last to know it.

America is a lot like that deer. We still have it in our heads that our Democracy works like it’s supposed to. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our voting systems are as compromised as a Trump because the makers of those systems are mostly Trump supporters. And one has to wonder why the makers of VOTING SYSTEMS don’t want to guarantee the INTEGRITY of their VOTING SYSTEMS by always creating a paper trail.

Quick Life Hack? Any time anyone tries to hide the truth — no matter the tap dancing they do? It means they’re lying. It means they’re a criminal violating both the public trust and (probably) the law.

Russia declared war on us eons ago. It has been their intention going back to at least the Cold War to compromise us or neutralize us. We used to be much better at fighting back. Republican greed — for money and power — seem to have warn down their “resistance”. Seeing demographic extinction in their future, the Republican Party (their money) made a conscious choice to hitch their wagon to Donald Trump — even though they KNEW, for a fact, that Trump was a traitor.

That’s just stone, cold fact.

Russia declared Cyber War & Information War against us (they’ve certainly behaved as if they were at Cyber/Info War with us) and the Republican Party conspired with them as a means to impose permanent minority rule upon the majority.

Want to know why the GOP won’t say a thing to stop Trump when clearly Trump’s uvula is spackled with Vladimir Putin’s DNA? Their uvulas are all just as coated. They’ve all taken Russian money. They knew or suspected what was happening and said NOTHING. Why, even back during the 2016 convention Paul Ryan was telling Mike McCarthy to keep his suspicions that Russia was paying Dana Rohrbacher & Donald Trump “in the family”.

They knew we were under attack — THEY SAID SO OUT LOUD. Yet, did nothing. Didn’t call the FBI, for instance…

Wake up, America — please? Anyone who thinks you need bombs and bullets to wage or win a war will lose every war they ever fight going forward. Russia (or some other player) could shut down our electrical grid today and we’d be forced to sue for peace. Imagine: winning a war without firing a shot. It is absolutely possible.

The fact that we don’t KNOW — for a fact — that we’ve been under attack all this time is a tell that we’re living inside a giant FALSE NARRATIVE. Every time a TV talking head says about election 2016 that America voted for Trump, they’re spewing a false narrative. 1) the majority of Americans did NOT vote for Trump and 2) in the three states that put Trump over the top — Pennsylvania, Michigan & Wisconsin, Trump won by a combined 77,000 votes in states where Russia used proprietary polling data acquired from Paul Manafort (per the Mueller Report) to DIRECTLY IMPACT the voting in those states.

By the way, no one has ever done any forensics on any of the voting machines in those states. We don’t (may never) know what could have been done (easily by a committed actor) to those machines. Of course, if you don’t accept that you’re at war to begin with, you’d never think to look deeply at voting machines. You’d probably think it was absurd, over the top conspiracy thinking…

A spouse who’s being cheated on lives inside a false narrative that their marriage is secure. We live inside a similar false narrative — and marriage — with the Republican Party. They haven’t just cheated on us, they’ve sold the house out from under us.

Remember that deer I mentioned, the one being hunted? That’s us. Right here, right now. History is pretty consistent on this point. Being the last to know anything always works out badly.

We’re Living Through World War THREE – And Don’t Even Know It

Anyone who thinks you need bombs & bullets to win a war is going to lose every war they ever fight going forwards. Right now — that’s us.

We’ve been under intense Cyber attack ever since Donald Trump became part of our political process. That’s not hyperbole or conjecture — it’s material fact — contained right there in the Mueller Report. Russia didn’t just “meddle” in election 2016, they changed its outcome. They made Donald Trump the winner even though he absolutely was not.

Don’t tell me about voting machines — how if no voting machines were impacted, how can the vote be effected. That’s just as ignorant and troglodytic as thinking cyber war doesn ‘t happen. First of all, no official forensics have ever been done on any of the voting machines in Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin (that I know of). Those are three of the four states for which Paul Manafort handed over proprietary polling data to Oleg Deripaska — who then gave them to the GRU (Russian military intelligence) for weaponization. Unofficial forensics on the numbers by terrific citizen journalists like Mike Farb and Jennifer Cohen have pointed to numerous clear anomalies. Counties with the exact same percentages of Trump v Hillary vote tabulations. it doesn’t pass the “what a coincidence” smell test.

The point is, we don’t KNOW if machines were attacked and their vote totals altered — we’ve never asked the question. It’d be easy enough to DO the forensics and put the conspiracy theories to bed. Wonder why they don’t…

If you honestly think a changed vote at the point of purchase — a voting machine — is the only way to flip an election, you will lose every election you run in going forward. That, too, is contained within the Mueller Report — how weaponized social media works — and rest assured it does. If one — ONE — single voter (their voter data stolen, weaponized and turned back on them via an ad on THEIR Facebook page) changed their vote or changed their mind about voting in the first place — that, too, is like changing their actual ballot. If you LIE them into NOT VOTING, their non-vote aids the opponent — it’s as good as a vote that’s been stolen because it directly impacts the election’s outcome.

One vote can change an election’s outcome. That means our tolerance for bullshit here can only be ONE VOTE. That is our margin for error.

Trust me on this — please — more than ONE VOTE was changed via weaponized (stolen) voter data. This virtual attack on our voting system was meant to directly alter the election’s outcome. It was meant to circumvent the will of the American people in order to put Vladimir Putin’s candidate — Donald Trump — in the White House instead.

Every word of that is true. And — it’s right there in the Mueller Report, too — Every member of the Trump Crime Family, their entourage and every member of the Republican Party knows it too. What else could you call this BUT an ACT OF WAR? If Putin shut off our power grid tomorrow — something he CAN DO apparently — we’d sue for peace immediately on whatever terms he dictated. We’d have to.

Imagine — a war fought and lost without a shot being fired.

Sound horrifyingly possible? Well, BE horrified — it’s happening. We’re living in. We are that frog slowly being boiled to death, completely unaware. Problem is, it isn’t us that’s being boiled away, it’s our Democracy.

Donald Trump knows the only thing standing between him and indictment for multiple crimes is a stupid Department of Justice rule meant to keep Spiro Agnew from pardoning Richard Nixon back during Watergate. Once out of office, Trump will be instantly indictable — and indicted. He has to fight tooth & nail to remain in office forever because the alternative will be criminal charges, prosecution and — cos he’s SO incredibly guilty — asset forfeiture. It’s a fact, being such a ginormous criminal, Trump has no incentive to leave power EVER.

It’s maddening that we’ve been so slow to see this — though Trump’s been sociopathic about it from the get-go. He’s projected every last bit of it (with remarkable candor actually) — that his presidency was totally illegitimate, that his election was “rigged”, that he is Putin’s bitch. He’s also projected from the start that he intends to stay in power forever. He’s told his followers that — and they love the idea.

Want to know the worst part of living through World War Three? It’s seeing so many Fifth Columns already fanning out (like in, say Oregon where armed militias SHUT DOWN THE STATE CAPITOL). It’s knowing that one of our broadcast networks is a propaganda wing for Trump — and therefore for Russia. What — it’s not bad enough we still have cable systems & satellite providers pumping RT into our homes? We need a “news” network propagandizing, too?

I think of our situation as being akin to the Hawaiians living at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941. The Japanese attacked at 7:22 a.m. — that’s when their first airplanes arrived and began dropping bombs. But, if we visited with those people at, say, 6:45 a.m. — and asked them — “Hey, are you at war with anyone?” They would have said no. That included Japan.

Just because you don’t know you’re at war doesn’t mean you aren’t. And just because a war wasn’t formally declared — well, bullets and bombs don’t care about your semantics. They’ll kill you even if you want to call them something kinder and gentler. You can call a bullet a marshmallow but when they bust that marshmallow inside your head, you’re dead.

HELP! We’re Trapped In A False Narrative & Can’t Get Out!

The most painful part of listening to or watching the news channels these days is the constant barrage of false narratives.

The biggest false narrative of all, of course, is that Donald Trump got elected. He may have been given the victory but he lost the popular vote by over 3 million votes (it would have been lots more if not for voter suppression); as for Trump’s EC victory, the Mueller Report hints at what became of the internal polling data Paul Manafort gave Oleg Deripaska in August 2016. Deripaska and the Russians weaponized it and turned it back on Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

We don’t know empirically if Manafort giving Russia proprietary polling data resulted in any votes being changed. That is, we don’t know if we know. No one outside of Twitter, far as I can tell, has bothered to ask. No one’s done any official forensics on the machines in those states. We don’t know if they were hacked and their vote totals tweaked. We do know there are anomalies in several Pennsylvania counties (keeping in mind that between PA/WI/MI Trump eked the win by less than 70,000 votes combined!) There are counties in northern Pennsylvania apparently where the vote totals are suspiciously similar, defying mathematical probabilities.

If just ONE vote was changed because of this? That’s a crime same as if it were MILLIONS. The fact that we may not see it that way — it’s on us. You don’t get to a what we’re living through without the steady drip-drip-drip that starts with us shrugging off ONE vote being illegally denied.

“One altered vote doesn’t matter” is a false narrative. It does matter. Of course it matters!

Our problem is, we live in so many false narratives already that we’re inured to getting sucked into one more. Think about it — think about all the false narratives that we take for granted. The most obvious one is religion.

A person who earnestly believes that a sky deity had magical sex with a human female and produced a man-god whose job it was to “absorb” all the rest of the humans’ sins is living inside a false narrative. No such thing ever happened. To pretend that it did — and then live your life a certain way because you’re determined (lack of evidence be damned!) that this thing did happen — is living inside a false narrative.

If you make life choices based on that false narrative — you’re doing it for the wrong reasons and it could very easily bite you in the ass. Would you agree to let a surgeon work on you who’d never been to med school but knew his beatitudes almost by heart? Of course not — that surgeon’s living inside a false narrative — that he’s a surgeon.

A person unaware their spouse is cheating on them (they think their marriage is just fine) — false narrative.

Same goes for a guy who doesn’t know his business partners are cheating on him. False narrative.

The inhabitants of Pearl Harbor slept the morning of December 7, 1941 believing we were at peace with Japan. We weren’t. Japan had unofficially declared war on us. The fact that we didn’t know it didn’t mean it wasn’t so. We were living in a false narrative.

If you get right down to it, Christmas is a false narrative — the story it celebrates never happened. Ditto Easter. And Passover. The story the seder’s rituals tell never happened; Jews as slaves in Egypt, though it sounds good, simply doesn’t appear anywhere in the historical record. It’s a false narrative.

A lot of America’s history is false narrative. We tell ourselves we’re a bastion of freedom — but that’s only true if you’re a white, Christian man. For everyone else — that’s a false narrative. The Thanksgiving story? Mostly false narrative. The Salem Witch Trials? Extremely false narrative.

“All men are created equal”? Nice words but no one actually lives that way. Anyone who thinks they are? False narrative. How could that narrative NOT be false when our Constitution (written by the same clique of men) allowed for slavery? A slave isn’t a citizen’s equal — not in the citizen’s eyes.

Manifest Destiny? Rubbish. The White Man’s burden? Only in the White Man’s racist mind. Racism itself is a false narrative — racists think their race is better. No, it ain’t. But your narrative sure is false.

We’ve lived inside a false narrative from the instant Donald Trump was declared the “winner” of election 2016. We knew at the time that something smelled rotten — Trump winning felt like a false narrative. It’s never stopped feeling that way.

Mitch McConnell refusing to give Merrick Garland a hearing wasn’t a false narrative — though it was bullshit. The false narrative was every bit of McConnell’s determined lie that he was justified in doing it. It’s a false narrative that McConnell is any sort of patriot; he’s a traitor who sold out America for the benefit of the Koch Bros, his backers. Mitch hitched his wagon to Russia because the demographics spell certain doom for Republicans.

Every day, our news media act as if Donald Trump is a normal potus doing normal potus things. They continue to explain away this madness with a shrugged “but America voted for him”. Did we? I seem to recall it differently. The majority of Americans did NOT vote for Trump – or any of this bullshit.

The fact that Trump won the Electoral College (did he though — I believe that’s under investigation; it says as much in the Mueller Report?) points to the fact that our Electoral College, by its nature, tells a false narrative. By handing a presidential victory to Donald Trump, it seems to be saying that the majority of Americans chose him over Hillary. It’s not even remotely true — as we know.

The Electoral College creates a false narrative in our minds — that the Will Of The People is being done. it’s not true.

I genuinely believe we’re living inside the Giantest False Narrative of all that Donald Trump “won” the presidency. The publicly available evidence says Donald Trump conspired with Russia to steal the presidency. That means — per his own projecting — his presidency has been illegitimate from the get-go. That shouldn’t be a revelation.

The fact that we’ve so willfully refused to vacate this false narrative — that should be shocking to us.