The pandemic will change Hollywood — forever. Five writers and actors predict what’s next.

The covid-19 pandemic has put pop culture on hold indefinitely. “Tenet,” the Christopher Nolan thriller that was supposed to welcome us back into theaters this week has been delayed yet again. Studios and networks are confronting how they can safely resume filming, a process that involves bringing together large groups of people in confined spaces for extended periods. The result may be not just a summer without popcorn blockbusters, but a fall television season without new shows and an Oscar season devoid of contenders for those coveted golden statuettes.

But someday, the pandemic will either subside or scientists and governments will find better ways to help us live with it. And when that time comes, we’ll need stories to help us understand — and manage — what we lived through. I asked five writers and actors to tell me what genres, plots and ways of telling stories might emerge from the covid-19 era. Their answers aren’t a substitute for a seat in an air-conditioned movie theater on a blazing summer weekend. But they are a promise of the movies and stories that will transport us in the future.

—Alyssa Rosenberg

Paranoid thrillers and body horror will come back

Stephany Folsom • writer, “Toy Story 4,” as told to Alyssa Rosenberg

When we come out the other side of the pandemic, we’re going to have to understand what we went through and what it means. And I suspect that we’re going to see a lot of paranoia thrillers, like what we saw in the 1970s coming out of Vietnam and then mistrust of government post-Watergate. We’re going to see a lot of that in our storytelling and in unpacking how we’re reacting to the situation with our federal governments and local governments.

And I think we’re also going to see a lot of body horror, because it’s a safe place to explore all this fear that we’re having about our health and our safety. I don’t think people are going to want to see on-the-nose plague dramas or anything like that, because we’ve lived through all of it. … There will be a lot of haunted house movies, that sort of monster-in-the-house movies. I wouldn’t doubt it. But I think you’re also going to see a lot of movies that explore scenarios like, What do I do if I have this thing growing on me? Or, you know, What do I do if part of me is turned into a robot? I think we’re going to see a lot of just weird things like that. Because we’re going to be unpacking what do I do with a virus that attacks me and I can’t see it.

We’re just really exploring: What does it mean to have circumstances beyond your control? And how do you process that? It’s going to be a lot of “North by Northwest” kind of storytelling: average guy gets thrown into a situation that’s beyond their control. We’re going to want to see characters manage that and be able to grasp for whatever they can to win the situation.

It just depends on how things progress in the next six months. If there’s a way out of this, I think they’re going to want to analyze the experience. If there isn’t, we’re going to want to have pure escapism.

Kids will need reassurance that they aren’t alone in their anxieties

Zack Stentz • writer, “Rim of the World,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Thor”

“Write what you know,” may be a cliché, but it has a deep element of truth to it as well. And with movie and television writers stuck in our homes, what we currently know are the familiar feelings of claustrophobia and the strange new normal of life under lockdown. While the temptation will be to write stories dealing directly with these issues, I think it might be more fruitful to wrestle with covid-19 more obliquely and through allegory — especially when writing for kids and families.

While this certainly isn’t the first world-shaking event that the entertainment industry has had to react to and contextualize for kids — 9/11 and Sandy Hook, and other school shootings, both come to mind in recent decades — covid-19 is unique and unprecedented in how deeply it’s disrupted everyday life for an extended and indefinite period of time. Kids don’t just need Big Bird reacting to his shattered nest or Mister Rogers telling them to look for the helpers. They need the kind of entertainment and stories that are produced during times of severe, ongoing changes to their daily lives. As the abundant and enduring family entertainment from World War II reminds us, sometimes Bugs Bunny mocking a Nazi can be as important as an earnest lecture on planting a victory garden.

I’m in the middle of revising my own feature right now, and while there are no viral menaces, my script is fundamentally about teens coming together after a long and enforced separation and wondering if they can still be friends after time spent apart. I’m studying the culture, but more important, I’m watching how my own kids are coping with covid-19 and trying to turn their struggles into drama. Echoing my youngest child’s struggles with remote learning and being cut off from friends, one of the film’s protagonists is dealing with crippling fear and anxiety around leaving his comfort zone. Another young character, meanwhile, deals with the challenge of trying to reconnect with friends he’s been physically separated from and wonders whether they still have anything in common, a fear I’ve seen crop up in my own children.

My hope is that viewers, especially younger ones, will get to see their own emotional struggles reflected in the characters and realize they’re not alone, and that their feelings and challenges are real and important but also things that can be overcome or lived with, whether they’re caused by an invisible virus or menacing aliens.

Outsiders are going to be the new insiders

Aisha Tyler • star of “Archer,” “Criminal Minds” and “24”

Making movies and television is inherently intimate: Hundreds of people work in close quarters for long hours to produce the shows and films we all binge and love. The covid-19 pandemic has punctured that paradigm: Imagine making a romantic comedy in which no one can kiss, or a horror movie in which the killer stays six feet from his victim. In a town that believes it knows everything about everything, we’re all stumbling our way through uncharted territory.

Now, more than ever, we need diversity in storytelling, and unflinching honesty from our storytellers. This global pause has provided a real opportunity for artists to create projects that are fully and singularly their own, outside the traditional system, and take them directly to viewers without the long development process they typically endure. And without the typical economic gatekeeping that filters out new voices, my fervent hope is that an army of underrepresented voices with new visions and perspectives will break through.

As we figure out how to continue telling emotionally affecting stories under novel restrictions, we are taking new risks, and using unusual tools to tell stories that wouldn’t have gotten attention in the tentpole-focused culture of pre-covid Hollywood.

For me personally, this has meant shooting projects on iPhones with skeleton crews of just a handful of people, moving quickly and letting unexpected moments dominate the work. During lockdown, I’ve shot several digital projects in a fraction of the time they typically take (employing best prevention practices) — some in just a single afternoon. And I’m developing several longer-form projects that delve deeply into race, gender and identity in a streamlined context. No explosions, no thunderous action sequences or computer-generated monsters — just emotionally rich ideas delivered by strong characters in lean, contained settings.

It’s been energizing and freeing. At a time when the world is changing dramatically from moment to moment, the old way of doing things feels latent and stodgy.

We’re always going to love our superhero movies, and there’s no way to make an “Iron Man” movie with an iPhone. But during this long interregnum, enterprising, driven artists are making exactly the kinds of projects they want to make in exactly the way they want to make them, and that’s the most disruptive development of all.

Audiences will have a new experience in common

Adam Pally • star of “Indebted,” “The Mandalorian,” “Happy Endings”

My instinct is to acknowledge the pandemic in my stories and my comedy, though not to focus on it too much. I do think that, when the world goes through something like this all at the same time, it makes storytelling a little more universal up front. We can all empathize with how it feels to be socially distanced, so we can all empathize with characters in stories set during this time. It levels the playing field in a way in which more people are sharing similar perspectives, meaning a good joke will actually touch more people.

That said, what’s funny to someone is offensive to someone else and sad to another. That’s what makes comedy so entertaining: the idea that someone may go over the line, say something you’ve been thinking, or crystallize a thought you haven’t had. That ability to evolve is why comedy will adapt to this time more quickly than other forms. Look at “Saturday Night Live”: It’s inspiring what they are doing with the limitations we all have. Their work has given me hope that I’ll be able to make people laugh no matter what is going on in the world — we all will. No matter how bleak or weird it gets, jokes are always there.

Pop culture is going to get weird — and that’s great

Paul Scheer • star of “The League,” “Black Monday,” “The Good Place” and “Big Mouth”




There’s been so much negativity in all my conversations with people about “the changes” that are going to happen in Hollywood. But as someone who has been routinely forced to work under intense time and budget constraints on project after project, I can tell you that restriction is the mother of creativity.

So I think that entertainment post-covid is going to feel free and unstructured and experimental. Some stuff is going to be terrible — and some movies and TV shows will be more exciting than anything we’ve seen in the past decade, because everyone will be working outside of their comfort zones.

Look at all the people who said, “Forget waiting! Let’s just make something: Who cares that we only have a ring light and an iPhone microphone? We’ll get it out there.” And it’s working. From Howard Stern to Will Smith, people are being forced to create and carry a load bigger than they have had in years because they know how important “being there” is to their fans.

Are these solutions perfect? No. Are they better than what we have come to routinely expect from a production standpoint? Absolutely not. But, in a way, seeing the seams in a show or movie might make it more endearing. Established performers are getting back to their roots and learning new skills — me included.

Since the pandemic started, I’ve hosted events on Instagram Live and YouTube, improvised live online and started a book club over Skype. I even have a text number that people can use to ask me for a nightly movie recommendation. And I’ve been editing a new show I produced pre-coronavirus completely online while still doing two podcasts a week. I couldn’t have done any of this if there weren’t people who said “YES! How can we help?”

In the past, BIG NAMES and BIG BUDGETS dominated our entertainment landscape. But maybe now the new shows and movies that get the green light will favor those who can roll with a 5-to-10-person crew. The people who multitask. Actors who can do their own makeup or go without it. I’m actually excited to work with people who see this as a challenge they want to tackle, rather than the end of world for their profession.

Read more:

Sonny Bunch: Want to know how badly we’ve botched the pandemic? Consider the plight of movie theaters.

Alyssa Rosenberg: ‘Hamilton’ wasn’t just timely. It’s timely over and over again.

Sergio Peçanha: The pandemic has forced me into an endless staycation

Alyssa Rosenberg: Need a pick-me-up for your fight against the pandemic? Watch these ’90s disaster movies.

The Post’s View: Schools need to reopen. The question is how.

Alyssa Rosenberg: Want to know when life will get back to normal? Keep an eye on Hollywood.