David W. Cooper is the writer and producer of the television show Professional Development:
Q: What is Professional Development about?
A: Professional Development is a television show about life in a high school environment. Essentially it’s about a new vice principal who is super enthused about doing his job and ready to make positive changes and revolutionize his world of teaching. Unfortunately, the staff is stuck in their ways and is less than enthused about making these changes. I took the term from the standard teacher phraseology of the days when the students stay at home and the teachers get to go to school.
Q: What inspired you to write it?
A: I had the opportunity one year to work in as a high school teacher. In many ways I thought it would be exciting, motivating and interesting. But in reality there were many obstacles to my work and when I discussed them when friends from private enterprise they simply couldn’t believe it. I left that school board and moved away. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.
Q: You have been a quarterfinalist in the Nicholl twice; what were your winning scripts about?
A: Now that I think about it, they are both about animals. One is about a sign language speaking gorilla and the whole concept of animal rights of sentient beings. It’s a tear jerker drama. The other one is a cartoon about a bunch of crazy geese trying to escape from a wildlife centre. More of a Pixar type cartoon.
Q: What are some common elements that scripts that place in the Nicholl?
A: I have the opportunity to read many scripts in my work and my writers groups. Hopefully by the time you place in the Nicholl’s you are able to remove a lot of the common elements that are hallmarks of bad writing. Hopefully by this time there is a solid act structure, active protagonists, visual elements to the writing. If you pick up a Nicholl placing script it should be an interesting page turner.
Q: You teach Media Literacy; what exactly is that and how does one teach it?
A: Part of the Language curriculum in Ontario schools is Media Literacy. It involves exposing students to various types of media other than ‘the novel.’ I play advertisements to the students to see how the world of advertising tries to convince them to buy products. We create ads. We also create lots of visual media like videos and comics. So having a job where you get to shoot video during the day and write comics is quite enjoyable.
Q: What is the major difference between the American film industry and the Canadian film industry?
A: Money. Budgets are lower, audiences are smaller. However, due to our similar culture Canada makes a great place to film and have it look American. And perhaps it’s that I am Canadian, but I think that Canadian movies aren’t as – what’s the term I’m looking for – “Americentric” as some films can be. There isn’t usually a film where the world is almost destroyed, but Canada comes in and saves the planet. But hey, maybe there’s a good script idea in here?
Q: Why do you think so many films that win contest never get produced?
A: Money. There are lots of great ideas and great stories, but I’ve discovered in my quest to get my own work produced that nobody is ever in a hurry to spend 50 million dollars.
Q: Who are some of your influences?
A: I always admire people who are multi-talented. Anyone who can do something like write and direct impresses me. Mind you, I feel that would be closer to the original vision. So Tarantino would fall under this category. But I’m also impressed with someone like Louis CK and his show. He writes, directs, stars, and edits. That has to be tough! Anyone that can also pull off a coherent story with a non-linear timeline also impresses me.
Q: What, in your opinion is the greatest screenplay ever written?
A: That is one tough question – I’m a sucker for Tarantino’s work. Pulp Fiction is great. There is something to be said for simply reading a script and being motivated by it. Shawshank Redemption is a also a great one. There’s also something about “It’s A Wonderful Life” that gets me every time.
Q: If you could rewrite the screenplay for any film, what would it be?
A: I might have to make a change or two to “It’s a Wonderful Life.” If George Bailey never born, sure the town wasn’t as good and everyone’s life wasn’t as great as it could have been. When it comes to his wife, if George had never been born, what fate befalls her? Well, she ends up being – shock and horror – a librarian. Oh no! What a horrible ending for her. Mind you, I am a little biased since my wife is a librarian.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)