Mark A. Cummings dreams of a new Hollywood, here in Ohio. Well, maybe that’s putting an extreme spin on it, but the Toledo-born Cummings certainly has big screen dreams for his home state. With his production company, Awalkonwater Entertainment, Cummings has recently released his fourth Ohio-shot film, Holy Hustle.
Filmed down in Columbus, where Awalkonwater Entertainment is based and Cummings now lives, Holy Hustle is the tale of a con man and his strait-laced brother who, while hiding out from gangsters in a church, scheme to fleece the parishioners for everything they can get. Relating the film to blaxploitation comedies of the ‘70s, Cummings says Holy Hustle is his most accomplished work to date.
Already something of a sensation, attracting strong reviews and selling over 800 seats at the Columbus premiere, now Cummings is bringing the comedy film to Toledo, hosting a premiere at the Maumee Indoor Theater. We decided we needed to interview the talented writer/producer/director.
What was your experience growing up in Toledo? Oh man, Toledo was home. My childhood was great. We were typical kids. I always formed football teams and basketball teams, so I had a pretty carefree life. I played basketball for four years at Macomber— from ‘82 to ‘86— before it closed, of course. Then I went into the Army, got home from that in ‘89, and left for Columbus for good in ‘93.
How did you get into filmmaking? When I first got here (Columbus), I was into acting. I was doing plays and commercial work and print work. From there, I wrote a couple poetry books and a novel under a pen name. And then, in 2007, I read an ad that was advertising a screenwriting class. I took the 10-week course twice, as a matter of fact, because I loved it so much. I wrote my first script, which was called Best Supporting Daddy in 2009. We shot it and that’s all I’ve been doing ever since.
Are you keeping your entertainment company in Ohio or are you going out to Hollywood? Actually, my goal is to build something big in central Ohio. My goal is to build a studio and venture into not just films, but TV as well. I love Columbus, it’s a good market for what we do.
Tell us a little bit about Holy Hustle… My friend approached me with the premise. I took that premise and came up with all the characters, and had to come up with a storyline and a love interest as well, and just build it from there.
Holy Hustle’s crowdfunding campaign only raised one percent of its $150,000 goal. How do you keep pushing when that happens? Well, the good thing is that we have so many people who are willing to work with us for free. That’s the reason we were able to do it. I also had a lady by the name of Denise E. Scott, she came aboard and became an executive producer. And she took care of all the craft services— the feeding people. That’s a major part of your budget, and we were feeding people three times a day and snacks. She was able to come aboard and handle that for me, so that was a big blessing as well.
Are you excited to do a film premiere in Toledo? Yes, I am. I was a little disappointed when I brought my first movie there in 2010. I didn’t get the reception that I was expecting. So it was disappointing and I didn’t bother bringing the next two (films I made) back. But I am very excited to show this one to my hometown folks.
Holy Hustle’s Toledo premiere, 2pm Saturday, September 9. Maumee Indoor Theater (601 Conant St., Maumee). $10. 419-897-8902. For advance tickets or more information, visit awalkonwaterentertainment.com or check out Holy Hustle Toledo on Facebook.