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Synopsis: Drunk In Public is a feature documentary directed by award winning filmmaker David J. Sperling. This final and complete film spans and chronicles the last 18 years in the touching, tragic and thought provoking life of Mark David Allen, a man arrested more than 500 times. This documentary provides a non-judgmental objective long term look at alcoholism. Nothing produced captures the progressive nature of addiction like this film…It is somber, educational, and sometimes funny. Audiences seem to respond to this unique presentation on an issue that affects nearly everyone. Therefore it is ideal for rehabilitation programs, teenagers and their families, law enforcement training, churches, counselors, schools and anyone else touched by the trauma of addiction. Since the first version, Drunk In Public has screened and collected awards in a number of festivals. This is an independently produced film with a gritty and realistic nature that is determined to open your eyes and challenge your heart.


Not Rated, alcohol abuse



Run Time

120 minutes


Mark Allen (Subject)

Directed by

David Sperling

Director's Statement

My film, Drunk In Public, did not start out as a planned documentary. It started as a simple attempt to help a man I met while working in jail. Mark David Allen, had been arrest 93 times and whatever attempts to change his course had failed. With the new availability of an affordable video camera (1994 VHS) I thought I could show Mark a reflection where he was headed and a snapshot of his current state. At the time, my only goal was to spark some sort of change. 18 years later I ended up with a document that has impacted countless thousands of people. The journey was unexpected and the wisdom gained was invaluable.

Director's Bio

David J. Sperling worked 28 years as a Custody Officer. During this time he also completed 15 screenplays and 2 award winning documentaries. He also worked for 8 years as a chemical dependency instructor at Pacific Coast Recovery under Dr. Daniel Headrick. While at the police department, he was a member of the Peer Support Team as well the instructor for the jail portion of the Citizens Police Academy. He has trained in crisis/suicide prevention/intervention as well as receiving certification by the FBI as a crisis/hostage negotiator. Sperling speaks regularly; online and the old fashioned way (LIVE! in person) on his well known film, “Drunk In Public” which documents 18 years in the life of Mark David Allen, a man arrested over 500 times.


Boulder International Film Festival - United States - 2007

Best Editing (David J. Sperling)


"The best documentary on alcoholism of all time." - Alan Beeck, Boulder International Film Festival

"'Drunk in Public': This is a great little documentary. It is a completely amateur production, but it tells a fascinating story about Mark David Allen, a severe alcoholic, and the one man who has always been there for him. Mark’s constant companion is director/editor David Sperling, a police officer who books Mark, every three days or so, for being drunk in public. The cycle of drunkenness, arrest, regret, and promises had been going on for 8 years before Sperling started shooting footage of Mark. Since then, he’s been recording Mark’s downward slide for twelve more years. The resulting footage is an incredible portrait, more sociological study than documentary movie. Try as he might, Sperling can’t keep himself from appearing in the film. He never shows his own face, but his voice and his hands often appear. More importantly, his unwavering, unfaltering presence in Mark’s life appears. After twenty years of the ugliest behavior, they still keep coming together, and there is still concern and friendship. Maybe this is a film about love?" - Marty Mapes,

"Another excellent resource focused on this issue is the documentary Drunk In Public, which chronicles the sad life of Mark David Allen, a man who has been arrested over 480 times (at last count) for public drunkenness and related offenses. The documentary effectively manages the balance between pathos and analysis, while maintaining a genuine respect for its subject." - Robert S. Pezzolesi, MPH, Upstreaming Alcohol Policy

"The e-mail that changed things came on May 23rd.
Sperling screened early versions of “Drunk In Public” at the Newport Beach Film Festival in 1997 and then in 2000. Since then, he’s given away about 40 copies of the DVD and sold 20 online.
“Dave, great movie on MDA (Mark David Allen). ... Left me very sad. I have decided to quit drinking as of 5/23.”
Sperling cried, stunned.
“OK, I get it now,” he says. “Maybe it’s not just about getting him sober. Maybe it’s the person I become dealing with him.”
Sperling can already see the changes: The patience, compassion and tolerance he practices with Allen is spilling into the rest of his life, into the way he treats other inmates, the way he treats his family and friends.
So as Allen hobbles away from the Newport Beach Jail after dark, Sperling shakes his hand, hugs him goodbye. Then he watches him walk down Jamboree Road, sure he’ll choose the liquor store – the 750-milliliter bottle of 100-proof blue label Smirnoff Vodka washed down with a Diet Dr Pepper – instead of his little blue AA book.
Still, Sperling will keep on filming, keep on pulling for his friend. Because somewhere along the way, he saw something in Allen that he respects. Even admires.
“He’s resilient, doesn’t blame anyone else. He’s physically tough,” Sperling says. “Anytime I’ve ever had success in my life, it’s because of those qualities.”
- Jennifer Muir, Orange County Register

Production Year


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