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Who is a criminal and who is not in the war on prescription drug abuse? 'Easy' tackles the subject

Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

Two filmmakers who were born and raised in University City have returned for the St. Louis International Film Festival to screen their short film “Easy,” which tackles the issue of prescription drug abuse.

“It’s the leading cause of death in young adults,” said director Nyk Schmalz on Friday's "Cityscape." “Every time I say that, someone is like ‘Yeah, I know, the heroin epidemic is outrageous!’ There is a clear sign that they’re not even hearing what they’re saying. It is not heroin…it is prescription drugs.”

Related: St. Louis International Film Festival highlights local issues

Schmalz worked with screenwriter Greg Sporleder to produce the 28-minute short and both of the filmmakers act in it. The short will be premiered on Nov. 11 during the festival and is described as a story of what happens when “a good guy with a bad drug problem meets the girl of his dreams.”

Sporleder had worked as an actor for the past 25 years and Schmalz just returned from three years at the Doha Film Institute in Qatar, where he learned most of the filmmaking techniques he employed in “Easy.”

Both wanted to highlight the human side of prescription drug addiction and the impact that prescription drug companies make with false advertising.

"If you have that money, and you're a big enough company, you're not really criminal. But if you're taking drugs, or become addicted, then people view you as a criminal."

“If you have that money, and you’re a big enough company, you’re not really criminal,” Schmalz said of the epidemic. “But if you’re taking drugs, or become addicted, then people view you as a criminal. That’s something I really wanted to address, looking at addiction not as a criminal issue but as a health care issue.”

In the film, the protagonist appears like someone you may know from your own life, moving slowly from beers to weed to heroin, to highlight how close to home prescription drug abuse actually is.

“What drugs are okay? What drugs aren’t okay?” questioned Schmalz. “[This short] is not about which drugs are okay or not, it is about this person with a problem of addiction. That there needs to be help and attention paid to the question of why there are these drug-seeking tendencies and why there is a need to use these supplements.”

You can watch the film online here

Music is a highlight of the short, according to Schmalz. Thirteen tracks from artists all over the world were donated to the film “because they believe in the cause,” he said. That includes another contributor from close to home—the University City band Illphonics, which provided the headlining track for the short.

“The coolest part for me, back to U. City, was being able to work on this with Greg,” Schmalz said. “I had an idea, he came in, put the screenplay together, filled the leading role. We’re just happy to be killing it together.”

The two hope to pursue other projects together in the future, having both recently returned to St. Louis for more permanent residence.

Related Event

What: St. Louis International Film Festival Presents "Easy" (Part of Narrative Shorts: Drama)
When: Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 9:20 p.m.
Where: Tivoli Theatre
More information.

"St. Louis on the Air" discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter and join the conversation at @STLonAir.

Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.