Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006

david j. sperling BIO
speaking info

Sperling at the NEWPORT BEACH FILM FESTIVAL - 2006
Photo by Leonard Ortiz - O.C. Register

People Making A Difference:                     FILMMAKER DAVID J. SPERLING


The Orange County Register

David J. Sperling

Job: Newport Beach jailer, writer and filmmaker     

Age: 37

Family: Wife, Erica, and daughter, Cherise, 8

Born: East Los Angeles, CA

Education: Bachelor's degree in social ecology from UC Irvine, Teaching credential from National University, Certificate in Crisis Intervention/Hostage Negotiation from FBI.

Projects in the works: Book "Wrestling with Demons," collected observations and lessons learned from people encountered; screenplay "Horribly Normal" about his relationship with his mother; "Whiskey & Peanuts" about a capuchin monkey and a man, both decorated LAPD officers.

Hobbies: Fitness, nutrition, crisis intervention and suicide prevention

Jennifer Muir - O.C. Register

It wasn't your average film festival audience that packed Lido Theater last week for a screening of Newport Beach jailer David Sperling's film "Drunk in Public."

Sure, there were students and film buffs and Sperling's friends and family. But contingents from at least two local drug and alcohol treatment centers also showed up, and many stayed for hours after the film ended to learn more about Sperling's documentary - a 12-year window into chronic arrestee and alcoholic Mark David Allen's life. The film not only illustrates the harrowing effects of alcohol addiction, it illuminates the difficulty of finding solutions for people like Allen, who has racked up 423 alcohol-related arrests.

Q: What about Mark David Allen made you want to start filming him?

I think the first thing I noticed was his high number of arrests ... and once I got to know him a little bit, he was not only amusing in the way he spoke – he had some charisma – but he also had this kind of determined and sincere resilience about him. And that really jumped out at me, maybe tricked me at first because clearly he hasn't made any changes.

Q: What have you learned during the course of the 12 years filming him?

There's a bigger picture, and where we fit in this puzzle, we don't always have an awareness of. We always think we're in control of things, and I've had people come up to me and say that either this film or his story or reading about it on the Web site has somehow made them think differently about themselves or a relative.

Q: What's your hope for Mark David Allen?

Ideally having him get sober and find some sort of peace because he clearly seems to be someone who is in a permanent state of agitation, and he tries to drown this out with the alcohol. His ability to learn new things is so limited that I don't know if realistically I can assume that he could ever be sober. I think just to have a place that could meet his basic needs and maybe he could feel like he'd be somewhat useful. I have no idea what that would be though. The first things that come to mind are a mental institution or a permanent locked facility of some sort.

Q: What do you hope happens with the film?

Because of my experience showing various versions of this, the audience always seems to get it. Whatever they seem to need to get out of it, they get. Whether it's just a few laughs or it's something they can relate to or the incompetence of the system to handle a case like this. So I think just letting people see it is my main goal. After that, it's really not up to me. My hope, of course, is that everyone who saw it that had a drinking issue was like, "Wow, I'm going to quit." But maybe that's not always the way it's supposed to be ... . The other things that come out of it: the relationships you make, the people you meet, the compassion you might show to someone else after seeing maybe some of the compassion I showed here in a place that clearly a lot of people would argue doesn't deserve it.

Q: Are you done filming him?

I won't stop until he's either at a place where it seems there is no story any more, like let's say he gets sober or he does get into some sort of permanent place where his self-destructive behavior is not something that continues. Or, of course, if he dies. Then I would stop.

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