At a school assembly where parents shared stories about losing children to heroin, Webster University junior David Malone got the idea that would lead to his future independent film, The Dark Days.
“As I was watching these parents talk about their devastation, their pain and their loss, I was not only listening to them but I was also thinking about how to make this into a movie,” Malone said.
At that time, Malone was working on his first independent feature film, Hercules: The Brave and the Bold. He did not even think about making another film immediately after, but the idea never left his head.
Malone thought this film would give him an opportunity to tackle a sensitive subject.
The Dark Days, produced through Malone’s production company 5 Star Pictures, follows a character named RJ Saager, a young soccer player lost in the world who comes from a broken family.
The character eventually goes down a dark path of drugs and alcohol, and the only person who can save him is himself. The film and the character are inspired by actual events, a combination of both Malone’s and lead actor James Mullaney’s experiences.
Mullaney, whose middle name is RJ, has experimented with drug use and partying in the past, but never heroin. Many of the character’s relationships, including the troubled family life, are also based on some of Mullaney’s own.
“A lot of that movie was a part of my life,” Mullaney said.
Malone had worked with Mullaney before The Dark Days, and Mullaney told him his story, including how his parents were divorced and his father was an alcoholic. Malone found it so fascinating that it became the basis for the character of RJ.
“We had a good working relationship at that time and I told him, ‘you need to be completely honest and open,’” Malone said.
Malone had originally written a five-page draft for the script, and the film had a different title. He scrapped those five pages, calling them “the worst five pages I’ve ever written.” He instead worked with Mullaney and in that working relationship, they came up with the title and the character of RJ.
“His life is just so interesting and it’s one of those stories you really don’t hear a lot,” Malone said.
Mullaney said he wants to help young people avoid the mistakes he made in his past. What drew him to the part was that it did not portray the life of drugs and partying as luxurious.
Malone’s realistic approach to the subject matter coincided with Mullaney’s views.
“I have an insurmountable amount of respect for what he’s doing and what he tries to do for the film community,” Mullaney said.
Malone’s own life experiences can be found in RJ’s as well, with the most prevalent being the bullying the character endures, as well as peer pressure. He said he endured bullying in his grade school and early high school days.
When it comes to filmmaking, Malone said he wants his projects to tackle bigger social issues. His films have tackled subjects such as drug and alcohol abuse, homosexuality and homophobia, and friendships and relationships.
The Dark Days premiered at Chesterfield Galaxy 14 Cine Wed., July 27. This was not Malone’s first premiere, but what was different about this one was the inclusion of music. One of the musicians, Dylan Dunlap, was flown from Los Angeles to St. Louis to perform.
Malone said the premiere was a whirlwind, with 300 people in attendance. The premiere gave him a sense of how an audience would react. He would never sit down, judging his film and the audience’s reaction.
“With this film, because it touched on such a sensitive subject matter, at the end when people were leaving, people were crying,” Malone said.
Malone felt like he succeeded in getting his message out there based on the audience reaction.
In addition to filmmaking, Malone is also a residential assistant for the Webster Village Apartments and hosts two shows on the Galaxy Radio: one of them is Passport Cinema, where he talks about the latest in film news.
Malone said he is not sure what the future holds for him, which is something he said he is asked a lot. But, he does know one thing: he wants to keep making films. He is currently developing more content with his production company.
“For me, the future can take you anywhere,” Malone said. “It all depends on how you want your future to go.”