SURGE: A Documentary Film

SURGE is a feature documentary about the record number of first-time female candidates running for office in 2018.

SURGE Documentary Art + Music
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Project Description

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SURGE is a feature documentary about this extraordinary moment, where a record number of first-time female candidates are running for office in 2018. Tired of being ignored, angered by current government policies, and anxious about the future of America, more than 20,000 women have stepped forward and are running to win. “I see women waking up like I’ve never seen them awakened before, ” says Patti Russo, executive director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale. SURGE follows several of these women from Texas, Indiana, Illinois, New Jersey and Florida on their exhaustive and exhilarating journeys to flip their districts blue on Election Day. Diverse in age, ethnicity and background, these candidates face similar uphill battles to raise money, beat incumbents and create history. SURGE explores the momentum of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that fueled a wave of candidates and gave a collective sense of urgency to the 2018 election.

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Hannah Rosenzweig

Hannah is a filmmaker, video producer, and teacher. She is President of Intention Media Inc., a social issue media company based in NYC. Since serving as Hillary Clinton’s personal videographer for her 2007-2008 campaign, she has produced dozens of TV ads and digital videos for women candidates and elected officials. She was a National Organizer for the Women’s March on Washington and is currently a Strategic Advisor to Women’s March Youth Empower. She produced the award-winning PUPPET film, which premiered at DOC NYC and was distributed on Netflix, iTunes and Sundance Selects. In 2017, she was awarded a JustFilms Fellowship from the Ford Foundation and the Rockwood Leadership Institute.

Wendy Sachs

Wendy is a modern multi-hyphenate. A passionate storyteller, writer and sought after speaker, Wendy is an Emmy award-winning network television producer (Dateline NBC, CNN, FOX), former Capitol Hill press secretary, editor-in-chief of, media relations executive, and the author of two critically acclaimed books FEARLESS and FREE— How Smart Women Pivot and Relaunch their Careers and HOW SHE REALLY DOES IT: Secrets of Successful Stay-at-Work Moms. Wendy has been recognized by MAKERS and was also named in 2017 on as a “40 Over 40 Woman to Watch.”

Tanya Selvaratnam

Tanya Selvaratnam is a writer, an actor, an activist, and an Emmy-nominated and Webby-winning producer. Most recently, she was the Executive Video Producer/Director for GLAMOUR Women of the Year and Planned Parenthood. She has produced work by Gabri Christa, Chiara Clemente, Liz Garbus, Catherine Gund, Hannah Rosenzweig, Mickalene Thomas, Le Tigre and Laura Parnes, and Carrie Mae Weems; and her films have played on HBO, IFC, PBS, Starz, and the Sundance Channel and premiered at the Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, and SXSW festivals, among others. She is the author of THE BIG LIE: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock.

Our Team includes Advisors Simone Ward, De’Ara Balenger and Michael Epstein.



As is the origin of many creative endeavours, ours was birthed both from a personal place and the need to tell an incredible story. The idea for SURGE became obvious a few weeks after the Women’s March in 2017. Like millions of others, we were horrified, anxious and depressed by the stunning election results and took to the streets in sisterly solidarity. But in the weeks after the inauguration and March, our misery shifted into excitement, by what we were witnessing across America.

Thousands of women were raising their hands, throwing their hats into the ring and declaring that they wanted to run for office. Over the next few months, those numbers reported by EMILY’s List and other women’s political organizations, continued to surge. A fierce grassroots activism, unlike anything we had seen in decades, was bubbling up. Women were not only gathering in convention halls and homes to write postcards and call their members of Congress, they were exploring their own run for elected office in unprecedented numbers. Something dramatic was happening. Something powerful and historic.

And we wanted to capture it.


We started shooting in June 2017 at the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, a bipartisan, week-long campaign boot camp in its twenty-fourth year. Patti Russo, its executive director, said that they had received a record number of applications for the program. We then began picking candidates and campaigns to follow. Our intention was to make the documentary bi-partisan, to showcase the wave of both first-time Democratic and Republican female candidates running in 2018. But what we found, was that among first-time candidates, nearly everyone running was a Democrat. The handful of Republican women we did identity, declined to be part of this project.

So far we have filmed in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, Washington DC, Connecticut and New York City. Not all of our candidates (including Lauren Underwood, IL-14) appear in the trailer, but they will be in the final film.

The goal of SURGE is to capture this historic moment by telling stories of women running for office in communities across the country. We want to demystify what running for office really looks like. We want to explore what has held women back and what needs to change to get more women elected. Historically, women have not had the same networks as men, access to campaign dollars, or even the confidence or emotional support to run.

That is all changing.

Last fall, when we first met Joanna Cattanach, a candidate for TX House District 108, she said, “There is a famous saying that you can’t be what you can’t see. So many of us are in races where a woman has either never run or definitely never won. So where is our example?”

Six months later, on March 6, Joanna won her primary in President George W. Bush’s home district.

To Joanna, we say, you are our example and to all of the women of SURGE we see you and because of you, US politics will never be the same.

Our hope is that this film inspires women and girls to fully engage in the political process, to feel empowered and to realize just how loudly their voices can be heard.