Interview with Screenwriter David Cooper (THE SURGE)

1. What is your screenplay about?

It’s the global tale of the dilettante son of an oil tycoon who sees a gold mine in a worldwide global warming catastrophe, but who loses his invention to a deep and deadly conspiracy.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Disaster drama.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

A feature film can move millions of “fence-sitters” to action in support of change. One example would be “Braveheart,” which energized a nearly-successful independence movement in Scotland that might yet succeed. Another example would be “The China Syndrome,” which energized the anti-nuclear power movement.

I’m convinced that a feature film that fully illustrates the consequences of a global warming disaster – and identifies the cause and cure – can mobilize voters and other actors to help reverse global temperatures before the planet reaches a tipping point.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Cautionary tale

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Casablanca (well, maybe The Princess Bride)

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Not quite three years.

7. How many stories have you written?

A dozen, including action, rom-com, a fictionalized true story, teen comedy, sci-fi, military action, and TV pilots. Many have made the cut at various script competitions.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

How can I compare the most powerful protest song against the most exciting love song against the most pulsating dance song against the most touching parenting song against the most exciting three-chords-and-a-cloud-of-dust song? Impossible. I will say that lately I’ve spent a lot of time refining my children’s protest song “Hurry Up (Waiting on You),” which appears in The Surge. It’s hard to sing it without choking up.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?/

It was brutally hard to live with the characters as they experienced the global warming disaster, knowing that our real world is teetering on the precipice of the real thing. Also, balancing the disaster elements against the protagonist’s emotional journey—particularly fighting to avoid turning the story into disaster porn while making the political elements compelling. The original ending was a tragedy, and I was advised through script coverage to leave the audience with hope. That was perhaps the biggest obstacle… finding a hopeful ending after a year of living daily with the early script’s devastating and abrupt finish. And, I’ll say that it didn’t help that I was working simultaneously on other scripts with different tones and scopes.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I ran for the US Congress in 2018 and for a state office in 2020, so I’m pretty passionate about helping America live up to its promise and correcting past injustices. I volunteered out of my state for 11 races in 8 states over the 14 years before I ran my own campaigns. When I came back from my deployment in the Middle East, I founded a humanitarian nonprofit that over about six years sent over 1,400 boxes of used and new school supplies donated by American students through our deployed soldiers, so I’m pretty passionate about education here and abroad. I’m a lifelong environmentalist. In addition to designing and building a passive solar home, I turned my next home into a test bed for energy efficiency materials and techniques. The test results from that building fed into residential construction standards that improved homes across the US. I’m a pilot and own a small plane that gets better mileage than any SUV or truck. Since prehistoric times, humans have always wished that they could fly, either to escape or to hunt. But no king or general or inventor could ever fly until the last 100 years—and now me, just a regular person, can do that. Amazing. Also, I play tennis.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

It was pretty seamless, as I recall.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I have struggled to find a way to market an environmental story, so your Environmental Festival seemed like the perfect match. The initial Festival feedback encouraged me to elevate the script. There’s an old saying by some famous director: “Movies aren’t completed, they’re abandoned.” After I submitted to the Environmental Film and Script Festival, I continued to revise and refine it. I probably won’t stop until I sell it, and if I’m very lucky, maybe I’ll get a chance to be on set to provide additional dialogue.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

John O’Neal wants to change the world to honor his dead mother and to spite his abusive father—while getting very, very rich. Following a worldwide Global Warming catastrophe, he loses his invention to a deep conspiracy and becomes an eco-terrorist—until he uncovers the truth.


Narrator: Steve Rizzo
O’Neal: Geoff Mays
Foster: Andy Camp


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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