"It's never left me," Augustine, known professionally as Michael Austin, said of his musical aspirations.
Cry of the Drummer follows the spiritual journey of Johnny Covini, a down-on-his-luck drummer who arrives at middle age in a haze of cocaine, alcohol and lost dreams. Adding to Covini's trouble is his job as a numbers runner for a neighborhood bookie.
"For the most part, this guy is going through a lot of changes," said Augustine, who will not disclose his age.
Eventually, he said, Covini finds God. "He has faith and hope in his heart. He has that spirit."
Augustine, a born-again Christian, said he wanted to make the film "to show people that they could come out of negative circumstances."
"The character was leading a very angry life and let go of his pride . . . and realized he needed to depend on God's power," Augustine said. "I think it takes a lot for a person to drop their pride and say, 'I need to go back to the Creator.' "
On a recent sunny afternoon, Augustine took a small crew to Hurst Street in Bridgeport to film a scene for the movie. In the scene, Covini and an ex-girlfriend, Penny DeLulla, encounter each other on the street. They had not seen each other for 20 years.
Denise Fowler, a Glendora, N.J., actress, plays Penny.
"I liked her character. . . . She's an average person, struggling the way many people are," Fowler said. "She is trying to better herself."
Fowler, who has worked in commercials, hopes to land some movie roles. Cry of the Drummer, she said, "will help me develop my skills."
Augustine has had some support from the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, which matches filmmakers with cinematographers and other technical assistants and helps them find equipment and locations.
"We were in on the ground floor on this to try to help him," said projects manager Joan Bressler.
The office put him in touch with Adnan Chaudhry, a novice cameraman who is shooting the action, and soundman Anthony Palena.
"It's a fascinating experience for me to work with John," Chaudhry said. "It's a radical transition into another career."
That career was a position as a marketing director for a textile company in his native Pakistan, he said.
Augustine, who was a drummer and a retail manager, created his own production company for the project, World Rock Pictures. The company is a division of a larger company, World Rock Entertainment.
Augustine is the chief cook and bottle washer, writing the script, starring in the movie, producing and directing, and editing and marketing the final product, which he hopes to release on video, he said.
Augustine has not given up on the musical side of his dream. He wrote and played drums on three of the songs he will feature in the movie - the same three songs he recently sent out on a demo tape to Epic Records under his own Big Angel Records label.
Augustine said he still wanted to play in a band. If his movie is successful, he wants to go farther with his film career, too.
"Some day, I want to have a major motion-picture studio in Philadelphia," he said.
Cynthia J. McGroarty's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.