Pelée – a five-episode true story limited series about the deadliest volcanic eruption of the 20th century (3rd deadliest eruption in recorded history…..Vesuvius/Pompeii ranking 10th deadliest) where the greatest number of people died more quickly than in any other volcanic eruption ever known when it obliterated the once beautiful port city of Saint-Pierre - then regarded worldwide as the “Paris of the West Indies” – on the French Colonial Caribbean island of Martinique. When a story where fact truly is stranger than fiction comes along that has never before been told cinematically, that is so extraordinary, so unbelievable, so astonishing as to why 30,000 people refused to flee a city a mere 4 miles (7 kilometers) from the crater of the erupting volcano La Montagne Pelée, I realized early on in my three years of writing, research, pouring over hundreds of photos, reading through stacks of books, compiling piles of notes, and traveling to Martinique, that it was not necessary to take dramatic liberties by filling the story with a lot of irrelevant fiction. The events in my detailed true saga of those seven tumultuous days leading up to the eruption was filled with so much political hubris, scientific misjudgment, misguided religious faith, along with the hidden agenda of a deceiving press (that actually encouraged its readers to remain or seek refuge - despite apocalyptic warning signs - in the doomed city of Saint-Pierre for predominantly political reasons during a heated election season), all worked in conjunction with sealing the fate of the 30,000 people who perished that spring morning on May 8, 1902 - a date that Monseigneur Gabriel Parel, Vicar-General of Martinique is quoted as saying; “This date should be written in blood…”

With writing Pelée I painstakingly went to great extent in my research to separate fact from myth; assure that all the events and every scene are as they happened in correct chronological order; to do right to the memory of the 30,000 souls who perished on that fateful morning over a 121 years ago; and to never allow spectacle to overshadow its human drama.

All telegrams, letters, proclamations, and newspaper articles within the script are written as they appear on record. Throughout the final seven days of Saint-Pierre, Mont Pelée produced many varying stages of eruption - often times hourly or minute-by-minute. Where eyewitnesses documented these stages of pyrotechnic phenomenon associated with the eruption, it has been noted in the script. The order by which ships and people were struck by the powerful nuée ardent (pyroclastic surge) is written accordingly to where the ships were anchored in the harbor and the exact locations of the people in the city at the time of the eruption. All fatality descriptions following the eruption are depicted as they were described in numerous corresponding factual records. And in nearly every scene there is at least one person who survived to live another day beyond May 8, 1902 to recount the scenes represented in this screenplay.

All of the characters in Pelée are non-fictional. They are people who really did live... EXCEPT for the families Duval and Chopra (my only exception in my pursuit of maintaining no fictionalization). In my unyielding effort to do honor to ALL those who died that morning, I wrote one scene with a fictional East Indian family because by the turn of the century more than 75,000 indentured Indian laborers had traveled from the subcontinent to Martinique making it their new home, thus filling the void for cheap labor that was being created on the plantations when, after slavery was abolished, more and more black laborers were leaving the fields in great numbers to pursue their own businesses. "Habitation" owners turned to India. By 1902 four separate racial groups - Blacks, Whites, Mulattoes and Indians - shared the island, each with their own needs and ambitions. In Saint-Pierre alone nearly a thousand Indians, the largest Indian community on Martinique, died in the eruption. The Duval family I wrote as a composite of the average black working class that accounted for the majority of lives lost in the eruption. I wrote every scene with the Duval family based on factual documented happenings and conversations made among these people that I drew from the many historical letters, journals and diaries of these forgotten souls.

Because Saint-Pierre was a major thriving international port, on any given day there would be a great number of ships in her roadstead flying the flags of many nations. And so it is that the individuals that are portrayed in this script as playing a role during those seven days leading up to May 8, 1902 involve a truly international cast; Americans, Canadians, British, Italians, Indians, Spanish, and, of course, the greatest majority being French.

  • David Earle
    Life Is But A Dream
  • David Earle
  • David Earle
    A Road to Nowhere
  • David Earle
    Searching for Michael
  • Project Type:
    Screenplay, Television Script
  • Genres:
    Docudrama, Historical, Period, Drama, Non-fictional, Action, History, Disaster, Catastrophe, epic, miniseries
  • Number of Pages:
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
  • First-time Screenwriter:
  • Student Project:
  • Planet Cinema
    Los Angeles, CA
    Winner - Best TV Script
  • Cannes International Indie Cinema Festival
    Cannes, France
    Official Selection - Best TV Series
  • Le Festival du Film Fantastique de France
    Paris, France
    Winner - Best TV Script
  • PRIX ROYAL Paris Screenplay Awards
    Paris, France
    Winner - Best TV Script
  • PRIX ROYAL Paris Screenplay Awards
    Paris, France
    Finalist - Best Writer
  • Action On Film International Film Festival
    Los Angeles, California
    Winner - Best Period Piece Feature
  • The International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema Nice
    Nice, France
    Winner - Best Unproduced Script
  • The European Independent Film Award
    Paris, France
    Finalist – Best Screenplay
  • Cannes Screenplay Contest
    Cannes, France
    Official Finalist - Best Historical Screenplay
  • Madrid International Film Festival
    Madrid, Spain
    Nominated – Best Unproduced Script
  • Buffalo Niagara Film Festival
    Niagara Falls, New York
    Winner - Best Screenplay
  • Paris Play Film Festival
    Paris, France
    Nominated - Best Script Feature
  • Marseille CINEVERSE Film Festival
    Marseille, France
    Official Selection - Best Screenplay / Meilleur Scénario
Writer Biography - David Earle, David Earle, David Earle, David Earle

David Earle is a multiple award-winning screenwriter, playwright and novelist, born and raised in Anaheim, California, and lived fifteen years in the Los Angeles area where he worked at various entertainment industry companies; Taft/Barish Productions, New World Pictures, Rogers & Cowan, Hollywood Records, and Walt Disney in Creative Development at Disney Imagineering. He now resides in Charleston, South Carolina where he writes prolifically, varying from comedies to dramas, from novels to screenplays to plays, of which he has had four plays produced in the U.S. and Australia. Credits include - After the Wedding; A Road to Nowhere; They're Having a Deadly Good Time; and Postnuptials. Postnuptials, an adult farce, had its Australian premiere at the Parade Theatres in Sydney where it was chosen as the theatrical event for the 2013 Sydney LGBTQ Mardi Gras festivities. Both the Postnuptials stage play and its (unproduced) screenplay adaptation have been nominated or won a number of awards at film festivals internationally. He adapted his one-act stage drama, A Road to Nowhere, into a screenplay short (unproduced) that has received several international film festival awards. His sci-fi novel, Life Is But A Dream, is selling worldwide in 248 countries (notably on Amazon and Barnes & Noble). The (unproduced) screenplay adaptation of Life Is But A Dream, that he wrote, has won him many awards and nominations at a number of international film festivals while WGAW chose Life Is But A Dream for a full cast industry reading at the WGAW building in Los Angeles for its ethnic diversity of characters. His five-episode true story limited series, Pelée, currently in pre-development, has also won him numerous awards internationally. The most recent screenplay of his is another multi-award-winning true story drama titled, Searching for Michael. In addition, he has written the novelette, The Remarkable Travels of Billy Sparks, and short story, The Calla Lilies.

(photo: writing Pelée in Schœlcher, Martinique)

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Writer Statement

Proud member of:

Writers Guild of America West
Dramatists Guild of America