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Local Filmmaker’s Holy Hustle Takes Over Gateway Film Center

Hope Madden Hope Madden Local Filmmaker’s Holy Hustle Takes Over Gateway Film Center
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Columbus may be becoming a draw for Hollywood – recent CBUS-shot films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Travolta are reason for optimism – but the local film industry is already thriving.

Want proof? Awalkonwater – a local production house – planned to premier its latest film Holy Hustle at Gateway Film Center on July 15. It booked a screen. Then four. Before they could even market their efforts, they had sold enough tickets that GFC opened its entire center for the film’s screening.

Holy Hustle follows a conman hiding from gangsters in a rural church, which he decides to swindle. Writer/director Mark A. Cummings compares the film to classic 70s Blaxploitation comedies like Let’s Do It Again and Uptown Saturday Night.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he says. “I just want to produce great, engaging movies. That’s what this is.”

Holy Hustle is Awalkonwater’s fourth film. Cummings began directing features in 2010 with the romantic comedy Best Supporting Daddy. He raised the funds and then cast, shot and produced locally with his partner and wife, Dana.

After producing the back-to-back thrillers The Buyout and Profiled (formerly Premeditated, directed by Joy Millana), Cummings decided go back to comedy. Why?

“It’s easier,” he laughs. “People laugh on the set, everybody has fun.”

The filmmaker picked some other tricks to keep things moving and light on set with three films already under his belt. He works again with actors Micah Robinson, Ray Powell, Michael Cummings and Quiana Wiley.

“I do like to have people I know, people who know me,” he says. “Working together, we understand each other. We’re already familiar with how we work.”

It takes some of the stress out of the shoot, Cummings says. A lot of effort goes into producing the films, but he and his wife see it as a labor of love. And it’s work they intend to continue to do locally.

“Oh, yes, we’re definitely staying in Central Ohio,” he says. “No plans to leave. What we really want to do is build up a great base right here.”

Their films’ popularity only seems to be on the rise. Cummings says the 2014 crime thriller Profiled found modest success with Redbox, and the early ticket sales for Holy Hustle is more reason for optimism.

“There’s a lot of talent here,” he says. “We’ll definitely make more.”

Check out Holy Hustle Saturday, July 15 at 5 p.m. at Gateway Film Center, 1550 N. High St.

For tickets, visit gatewayfilmcenter.org.

For more information, visit awalkonwaterentertainment.com.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her podcasts THE SCREENING ROOM and FRIGHT CLUB.

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