Loma Theater owner Bryan Hurtgen moderates a Q&A with “Walking with Herb” director Ross Kagan Marks and novel author Joe S. Bullock Friday night. The event raised money to support youth sports in Socorro.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain

Theatergoers raised over $600 to help replace stolen baseball equipment for the city of Socorro’s youth athletics program by attending a showing of “Walking with Herb” Friday night.

Along with raising money for a good cause, the audience also had the opportunity to ask questions of the film’s director Ross Kagan Marks and the author of the novel the film is adapted from, Joe S. Bullock, in a post-screening Q and A.

Loma Theater owners Melissa and Bryan Hurtgen reached out to the city of Socorro to see what their needs were, said Bryan Hurtgen. They learned the youth programs in Socorro are beginning from the ground up, said Melissa Hurtgen, after COVID-19 put things on pause. Recreation director James McNeil told the Hurtgens he wanted to restart youth baseball.

However, McNeil recently discovered the clubhouse where baseball equipment is kept was broken into during the pandemic. They are doing inventory to see what may have been stolen.

Proceeds from ticket sales went to support the youth program and will help replace any stolen baseball equipment or assist with purchasing shirts or jerseys. Bullock and Marks also brought books and film memorabilia to auction off after the screening to benefit the youth athletics.

“Walking with Herb” tells the story of a Las Cruces banker named Joe who has lost his faith after the death of his young granddaughter. God sends a message to Joe that he has a mission: to win a world golf championship at the age of 65 competing against much younger pros. Motorcyclist Herb offers him guidance and golf coaching along his spiritual journey. The movie is all about opening hearts, said Melissa Hurtgen.

“I think we’ve all been there, where we’re kind of down and lost our way,” she said.

The film stars Edward James Olmos and George Lopez and the screenplay was written by Mark Medoff. Medoff passed away during the film’s post-production in 2019. Along with being creative collaborators, Medoff was also Marks’ father-in-law.

“Walking with Herb” is both set and shot in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

“That’s one of the great thrills of the movie, is shooting it in my hometown,” Marks told the Loma audience.

Along with actually working as a banker before writing his novel, Bullock was also golf buddies with Medoff.

“Mark and I always hit each other’s funny bones,” said Bullock.

Marks said the project was criticized for being a faith-based film that wasn’t Christian enough, while at the same time, the leading actors wanted to make sure they were making a movie about people, not just a faith-based film. However, striking that balance matched the tone of the book and screenplay, he said.

“I wanted to write a spiritual book that people would not know they were getting into a spiritual book,” said Bullock. “I think you can be spiritual without being preachy and that’s what I was trying to do with the book.”

Marks said there are more Mark Medoff screenplays he hopes to turn into films. Bullock said he is working on a couple of screenplays and may write another novel.

“I really believe that most of our limitations and doubts and fears are self-imposed,” said Bullock.

Cathy Cook, El Defensor Chieftain