Posts By: Cheryl Wicker

Day 5 at 2011 Gideon: Christian Movie Connect wraps up Gideon coverage

Christian Movie Connect Crew with Christopher Shawn Shaw

Christian Movie Connect Crew with Christopher Shawn Shaw

Today is a combined blog of the two last days since I’m planning to sleep in the car on the way home, not write blogs. I’ve always been true to my personal rule: Don’t blog and drive!(ha ha!) Wednesday was the last full day of the 2011 Gideon Media Conference and Film Festival with a half day session on Thursday. Oh, so sad to see it wrap and see all my friends walking away trailing luggage behind them, knowing I may not see some of them for another year!

Actor/writer Scene Shop with Brian Bird and Cheryl Wicker (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Actor/writer Scene Shop with Brian Bird and Cheryl Wicker (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

On Wednesday, I led the devotion at 8:30 a.m. amid early morning jitters. For a brief moment, I wondered how I got the job. The experience was a bit humbling and I hoped I had something to share that would have an impact. Despite the doubts, many approached me later telling me they could relate to various aspects of my story, which is why I am willing to share such personal details about my life to a roomful of people! With the hardest part of my day behind me I was ready to take in some more workshops. It was difficult deciding on which workshops to go to as both morning and afternoon workshops – all 20 of them! – were all interesting. Apart from film production and marketing, workshop topics included songwriting, music videos, makeup basics, graphic novels, screenwriting, visual effects, and cinematic storytelling, among others.

"NCIS" actor Muse Watson with Cheryl Wicker (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

“NCIS” actor Muse Watson with Cheryl Wicker (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Actors teamed up with writers to read screenplays for three days of the conference. Today was my day to participate! I read the narrator role in a screenplay by Kathy Lonsinger and the lead role in a screenplay by Francine Locke. Brian Bird critiqued the screenplays at the end of the read.

One of the many highlights of my day was a private meeting with Angela Walker of over lunch. They offered to use my content on their website and in their newsletters. This will include my articles and Christian Movie Connect podcasts. I am very excited about this opportunity because is the BEST!!! Another highlight of lunch was a drop in visit by Muse Watson, known for his role as Mike Franks in the hit TV series “NCIS” as well as “Christmas Snow” and “The Lamp,” by director Tracy Trost.

Cheryl Wicker interviews Chris Weatherhead and Clarence Felder. (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Cheryl Wicker interviews Chris Weatherhead and Clarence Felder. (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Actress Callan White-Hinman shares acting tips with actors.

Actress Callan White-Hinman shares acting tips with actors.

I also sat in on Callan White-Hinman’s acting class. The star of “Loving,” Callan is also a theater professor and acts on stage. After sharing an enjoyable lunch with her and actor Josh Murray, I split my time between the marketing workshop panel with Angela Walker, Josiah Williams and Gary Zelasko, and a producing/distribution workshop by Chris Weatherhead. Chris presented a great workshop with lots of individual consultation with each class member. What a beautiful spirit she and her husband Clarence Felder have! I absolutely fell in love with them both! Chris and Clarence screened their “All For Liberty” movie and participated in an interview with Christian Movie Connect. Chris has 14 years of experience theater acting and starring in daytime and primetime TV series, and is also a highly respected screenwriter and acting coach. Clarence, meanwhile, is a veteran actor in film and television, as well as on Broadway, with more than 160 leading roles in plays shown in the country’s regional theaters. I had a nice visit with Clarence and Chris following the interview. Two people I definitely plan to stay in touch with following Gideon!

"Pendulum Swings" screens at 2011 Gideon.

“Pendulum Swings” screens at 2011 Gideon.

The last screening of the night was “Pendulum Swings,” with director and executive producer Bill Rahn present for the Q&A session. This starred my good friend Vanessa Ore, a beautiful and talented actress. I met Bill the following morning on Thursday getting a cup of Starbucks. I didn’t know who he was since I missed the screening doing interviews, but his effervescent personality was captivating that I went up to him to know more. After a few minutes of chit chat, I literally flipped over his name badge and said, “So, who are you?” Glad I introduced myself because I enjoyed discussing the movie with him. “Pendulum Swings” is based on Bill’s life. It’s getting a limited theatrical release so look for it in your area. Later it will release on DVD.

Arledge Armenaki with Christian Movie Connect interns Abi Taylor and Jeb Bennett

Arledge Armenaki with Christian Movie Connect interns Abi Taylor and Jeb Bennett

Thank you so much for being with me all through the duration of Gideon. It’s been such a fulfilling time for me filled with pleasant surprises and new learning experiences. I would like to say a HUGE thank you to the Christian Movie Connect interns – Abigail Taylor, Jeb Bennett, and Mason Taylor, who are all studying film at Western Carolina University. And a special thanks to my assistant Donna Botts who helped schedule appointments and filled in all the gaps. I highly recommend her as a PA on any movie set! We seriously could not have done this without this fantastic team. And special kudos to cinematographer Arledge Armenaki who shot all the interviews. What an honor to work with this seasoned Hollywood professional.

On a final note, actor Michael Joiner will be our last podcast guest for Gideon. Be sure to check it out. Do tune in here at Christian Movie Connectfor the latest and inspiring news about the Christian film and media industry!

Gary Voelker teaches visual effects.Kyle Saylors teaching music video workshopBrian Bird teaching screenwriting

Workshop scenes: (From left) Gary Voelker teaches visual effects; Kyle Saylors teaching music video; and Brian Bird teaching screenwriting.


Day 4 at 2011 Gideon: Learning from Christian film and media industry frontrunners

Christian Movie Connect's Cheryl Wicker shares her expertise with 2011 Gideon workshop participants.

Christian Movie Connect’s Cheryl Wicker shares her expertise with 2011 Gideon workshop participants.

Today was my biggest — not to mention the most hectic — day at the 2011 Gideon with two workshops and six interviews spaced 20 minutes apart! I was a bit apprehensive about my first workshop at the Gideon as a new faculty member and I was very tired after only four hours of sleep. I also was thinking…what if no one shows up? But the room filled up for “Working on a Film Set and Looking Like you Belong There” with about 16 in attendance! Oh, bless you all for coming!

Arledge Armenaki discusses the "Art of the Interview" at 2011 Gideon.

Arledge Armenaki discusses the “Art of the Interview” at 2011 Gideon.

I just love sharing the things I have learned with others. It was actually a lot of fun. I also had an afternoon workshop, “The Art of an Interview,” that I co-taught with the very talented cinematographer, Arledge Armenaki. Arledge set up an actual interview set and we walked through the entire process of interviewing for documentaries, behind the scenes for movies, etc. I enjoyed hearing all about the technical side of the set up from Arledge. I learned a lot!

There were lots of other informative workshops conducted today, such as Gary Voelker’s “Screenwriting: Story Elements and Character,” Angela Walker’s “Everything I Know About Marketing I Learned from Weight Watchers,” Shelly Ballestero’s “Stage Do’s & Don’ts” and Torry Martin’s “Basic Screenwriting” workshop series, to name some. There was even a music video workshop where they actually made a music video with top Christian musician Erica Lane in attendance!


Actor Gary Moore with Anita Dordell at the 2011 Gideon banquet (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Actor Gary Moore with Anita Dordell at the 2011 Gideon banquet (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Kenny Vaughn, who came in today to share the devotional message, made quite an impression on the attendees. A national champion athlete and inspirational author/speaker, Kenny is the founder of Athletes for Christ and is the creator of the scripture-inscribed dog tag necklaces called Shields of Strength. Actor Gary Moore said that hearing him was one of his favorite parts of the day. Kathy Lonsinger of A Gentle Answer Ministries said that she could really identify with his struggle with loss and fear, as well as his courage and determination.

After my workshops, I went straight to the six back-to-back interviews for Christian Movie Connect. (I was having to change clothes so fast, I felt like a quick change artist!) Interviews included Dave Moody, Rusty Whitener, Isaac Hernandez, Gary Voelker, Dr. Jayce

Cheryl Wicker interviews Michael Joiner for Christian Movie Connect.

Cheryl Wicker interviews Michael Joiner for Christian Movie Connect.

O’Neal and Michael Joiner, star of “The Grace Card.” Michael was the featured interview for today and will be posted on under “podcast” so make sure to check it out! Podcasts take a little longer to prepare so be patient!  Michael also provided the entertainment with his comedy act, as well as the keynote address for the evening festivities of the closing banquet and awards night.

Congratulations to all the Gideon award winners: “Family Circus” won for Best Comedy; “The Choice” won for Best Cinematography; “True Tale Monsters” for Best Sound; Francine Locke won for Best Actress; Patrick Hussion won for Best Actor; and Best

2011 Gideon participants Gary Voelker, Paula Wood, Michael Joiner, Linda Stein and Christopher Shawn Shaw (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

2011 Gideon participants Gary Voelker, Paula Wood, Michael Joiner, Linda Stein and Christopher Shawn Shaw (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

short film went to “True Tale Monsters” producer, Maiko Tomita.

The evening was concluded by a special showing of “The Grace Card,” immediately followed by a Q&A session conducted by Michael Joiner. Did I mention that I was extremely sleep deprived? I missed the second half of the awards ceremony and “The Grace Card” to get rested up so I can give the devotion tomorrow. That kills me since I was so looking forward to the movie. I’ll have to buy the DVD…now that’s a good idea: supporting our Christian film industry!!!

Day 3 at 2011 Gideon: Actors’ workshops, insights at this year’s Gideon conference

Arledge Armenaki shoots Christian Movie Connect's Cheryl Wicker interviewing Kyle Saylors at the 2011 Gideon. (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Arledge Armenaki shoots Christian Movie Connect’s Cheryl Wicker interviewing Kyle Saylors at the 2011 Gideon. (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

After an inspiring morning devotion by filmmaker Kent Williamson, Day 3 at the 2011 Gideon Media Conference and Film Festival unfolded with lots of interaction, workshops and more networking.

One of the highlights of my day was Michael Joiner‘s workshop on “LA Style” Acting Technique, which was the one I had shot the scene for yesterday. I particularly enjoyed the class especially since Michael has a way of challenging us to really go within the character while pulling from our own experiences. He put

Christian Movie Connect's Cheryl Wicker gets ready for her shot at Michael Joiner's workshop at 2011 Gideon. (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Christian Movie Connect’s Cheryl Wicker gets ready for her shot at Michael Joiner’s workshop at 2011 Gideon. (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

us actors with the filmed scenes in the hot seat, gave helpful direction, and let us perform our scene over. It allowed me to learn some really valuable techniques on the spot. My favorite part of the entire day was when Michael told the class, “This girl’s my favorite comedy partner. She makes me laugh.” Wow, to be told by a comedian that I’m funny certainly made my day! Hmm, time for a career change? Har-har!

The unique and wonderful thing about Gideon is the wonderful fellowship and sharing that takes place. For instance, I got some great tips from Brian Stewart, who led the afternoon workshop on content hosting, which helped me with my Christian Movie Connect website. We have scheduled a meeting to discuss iTunes submission for the CMC podcast.

Brian Stewart discussing "Content Hosting: Getting Your Stuff Out There & Getting Paid For It Too!" at 2011 Gideon.

Brian Stewart discussing “Content Hosting: Getting Your Stuff Out There & Getting Paid For It Too!” at 2011 Gideon.

Talking with Gideon attendees were very insightful and worth mentioning here. Paula Wood of Crazy LuLu Productions commended the finance workshop on “Financing Your Media Dream” with Art Ayris. According to Paula, Art inspired her by his heart and passion to really immerse herself to her own project and share this same passion with other kindred souls.

Gary Voelker of Experience Studios, meanwhile, said, “My favorite part was the Honored Author/Producer pitch session. It was really cool. I made some good connections and am excited about future collaborations.”

Brian Bird and Sandra Van Natta at "The Shunning" Q&A

Brian Bird and Sandra Van Natta at “The Shunning” Q&A

When I went to the lobby at 1 a.m. to prepare for tomorrow morning’s workshop, I ran into Paul Munger of Declaration Films, who was busily editing the 168 mini film project in exactly the same spot he had been in all day. Paul said he came to Gideon to do just this. “I am grateful to Christopher Shawn Shaw and Gary Voelker for the opportunity to co-edit this,” he said, adding that he had still been able to do a bit of networking from his makeshift editing bay in the Mountain Laurel lobby though.

As always, special screenings for movie buffs were held in the evening with “The Shunning,” which was followed by a  Q&A with  executive producer Brian Bird and actress Sandra VanNatta. “The Shunning,” the first book in a series written by Beverly Lewis, had 3 million viewers when it aired on Hallmark. Brian also announced the sequel to “The

Christian Movie Connect host Cheryl Wicker interviews Brian Bird. (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Christian Movie Connect host Cheryl Wicker interviews Brian Bird. (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Shunning,” “The Confession.” The Q&A was then followed by the 2010 documentary film, “Beware of Christians,” directed by Will Bakke and produced by Michael B. Allen and Alex Carroll.

Do check out Christian Movie Connect for my upcoming interview with Brian Bird and award-winning producer/director from Nashville, Kyle Saylors. More treats coming up soon!

Day 2 at 2011 Gideon: Inspiring moments with the country’s best Christian entertainment personalities

My second day at the 2011 Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival began sitting in on the second shoot day of the 168 Hour Film Project mini-shoot; then listening to an inspirational devotion message delivered by the very talented comedian/actor/writer Torry Martin. He challenged the audience to seek the Lord in their career and to keep Him first in their lives. He encouraged them to not be afraid to step out in faith and let God work through them in their careers. The long-haired, bearded funnyman shared many stories of how God had helped him through his own personal challenges; a timely message for us all. Torry also shared tips on how to network in a Christ-like way today, ”The Power of Networking”.

Cheryl Wicker (2nd from right) with Arledge Armenaki and Abi Taylor at the 2011 Gideon (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Over lunch I was able to plan my interviews schedule with award-winning cinematographer Arledge Armenaki, who is credited for more than 30 movies and television documentaries, including “Dennis the Menace,” “Club Fed,” “Focus on Africa,” and the well-received faith-based film “Wesley,” about the life of celebrated preacher John Wesley. Arledge and his team of 3 Western Carolina interns will be working with me and Donna Botts all week at Gideon Film School’s Dogwood 5 classroom.

Comedian Torry Martin addresses workshop participants about "The Power of Networking" at the 2011 Gideon.

The afternoon was spent getting the first podcast for the 2011 Gideon up and running. The technical side of putting together a podcast and blog can be very time consuming, especially when problems arise and the podcast getting delayed a bit. But we persevered and it paid off. The podcast and blog have been posted…as I am sure you can already tell!

I had the privilege of sharing a dinner table with “The Grace Card” lead actor Michael Joiner, Rusty and John Whitener, Ted and Bonnie Johnson, and my assistant Donna Botts. I was so nervous I could hardly eat! Why? Because I was shooting a scene for Michael following dinner for his workshop on Monday. Amid the lighthearted conversation and laughs, which helped ease my tension, I’ve discovered that comedians are my favorite people. I just love to laugh! Michael is hilarious! The shoot seemed to go fine…I’ll get my critique in class tomorrow!

My Christian Movie Connect interviews hit in the evening, starting with Angela Walker, executive editor of, the biggest news source for the Christian film industry. I met Angela last year and am really looking forward to attending her marketing workshop.

Christian Movie Connect's Cheryl Wicker talks to producer and director Christopher Shawn Shaw at the 2011 Gideon. (Photo credit: Donna Botts)

Up next was Christopher Shawn Shaw, a very talented up and coming producer and director known for his award-winning 168 Film projects. Christopher in currently in development with “Youth Group,” a romantic comedy feature with comedian Thor Ramsey, host of “Bananas.”

I loved writer and director Tracy Trost’s film, “The Lamp,” a delightful and heartwarming film about adoption and hope, which was screened at the end of Gideon’s second day. Unfortunately, Trost was unable to make it to the screening in person because he just had a new grandbaby. But thanks to the marvels of new technology, conference participants were able to talk to him via Skype. Stay tuned for more interesting and fun updates at the 2011 Gideon here! See you tomorrow!

Day 1 of Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival

Gideon Film Festival at LifeWay Conference Center

LifeWay Conference Center in Ridgecrest, NC

The 4th Annual Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival is now underway in the beautiful mountains of Ridgecrest, North Carolina. I left Monroe, Louisiana on Thursday night, went through Nashville, TN to spend half a day with my family and rendezvous with my assistant Donna Botts from Kentucky. Donna worked with me at NRB earlier this year. We make a great team and are excited to work together again. Just remind me not to ask her to choose our hotel next time! Our stay in Knoxville last night at the Super 8 Motel was not the ideal choice. I’ll spare you the details but by time we arrived at the LifeWay Conference Center, it looked like an elegant 4 star hotel…It may not be 4 star but the accommodations really are very comfortable and aesthetic despite the bears. Yes, there was a bear sighting today by Francine Locke and Vanessa Ore! I missed out on this adventure. All that I’ve personally seen is a raccoon!

168 Film mini-shoot at Gideon Film Festival

168 Film mini-shoot at Gideon, credit: Sandra Hope

Some of those who arrived early to the conference participated in a 168 Film mini-shoot, “Second Fiddle” produced by Gary Voelker  and Paula Wood, directed by Christopher Shawn Shaw, written by Paul Spite, with Arledge Armenaki as director of photography. I was booked as an extra in a reporter role (a bit of typecasting, huh?) but unfortunately did not open my email soon enough to get my call time. Donna and I slept in late this morning, realizing it may be the last full night of sleep we will get until the conference ends. So don’t be looking for me (in this movie anyway!) So much for my big acting career!!!

It took me all afternoon to get checked in, unpacked, and organized for my day so I missed the showing of the film “Cutback,” winner of the People’s Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the San Diego Christian Film Festival. So what could take so long, you ask? Well, when you bring 3 outfits per day that adds up to a lot of stuff to unpack! Not that I normally wear that many clothes in one day but with so many on camera interviews this week, I needed a pretty extensive wardrobe. So if any size 6 women run out of clothes this week, just look me up…I have plenty to share!

General Jerry Boykin speaks at Gideon Film Festival

General Jerry Boykin speaks at Gideon

I attended my first faculty meeting at the Gideon. It was great seeing friends from last year’s Gideon at this meeting…many of whose workshops I attended last year, like Katrina Cook, Torry Martin, Bonnie Johnson, and Angela Walker. It’s exciting to be on the faculty this year…and a little nerve wracking with all of my media activities, but I’m ready to pack it all in and have a great time.

The keynote speaker this evening was General Jerry Boykin, who was a commander of the Delta Force during Black Hawk Down. He is now a professor at Hampden-Sydney College and author of “Never Surrender: A Soldier’s Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom” and co-author of “Danger Close.” General Boykin challenged Christians to do everything they can to be bold in their faith, saying that “If the church will rise up there is nothing the enemy can do to stop us.

Pitching Hope cast and Cheryl Wicker at Gideon Film Festival

Pitching Hope cast with Cheryl Wicker at Gideon

Two exciting features at tonight’s film festival are “Pitching Hope” written, produced and directed by Tony Mendoza, starring Tim Perez, Joni Adahl, and Anita Cordell. It has the lead character competing in an underground, high stakes game of horseshoes to regain her funding for school. Very well done and very inspiring! The second movie is “Courage, New Hampshire” written and directed by James Patrick Riley, produced by Jonathan Wilson. It is a one hour TV movie starring Alexandra Oliver, Nathan Kershaw and Basil Hoffman and featuring Gary Moore who was present for the Q&A following the movie.

Rodney and Lori Marett in interview with Cheryl Wicker

Rodney & Lori Marett interviewed by Cheryl Wicker of CMC

Christian Movie Connect interviewed the actors from “Pitching Hope” as well as festival directors Rodney and Lori Marett. Looking forward to another fun-filled day tomorrow. Stay tuned to keep up with the rest of the week at Gideon. Lots of great things in store!

Day 4 of ICVM – Outstanding Christian filmmakers honored at Crown Awards

Day 4 of ICVM is always kind of sad…knowing it is all coming to an end. It is amazing how fast you can feel like family with your fellow convention attendees. I knew it would be hard to part at the end of the day.

Because of the 2011 ICVM Crown Awards, there were only morning seminars: Producer, screenwriter and entertainment lawyer Larry Frenzel of Birchwood Pictures expounded on independent filmmaking from development to delivery. Award-winning Canadian screenwriter Kevin Miller (“Expelled”) taught on the art of storytelling, and Movieguide’s Ted Baehr shared scriptwriting tips with an eye for funding and Ted Baehr of Movieguideproduction. The speakers this year have been truly fantastic. The great thing about ICVM is that even though you can’t catch all the sessions, all attendees receive an audio CD of all the sessions for their listening pleasure when they get back home!

I deeply admire entertainment expert Ted Baehr’s passion for raising values among Hollywood insiders and our culture through the media. He reminds me just a little of my father in his forthrightness, which was evident in my interview with him after his workshop. He told me he would “be nice to me” since I was with ICVM! Ted Baehr is a man with a message who pulls no punches!

The lunch keynote speaker was VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer, who produces faith-based projects through Jellyfish Labs, and a puppetry video series, “What’s in the Bible.” He told conference attendees, “The world is in such desperate need of our point of view…to take the gospel and put it into story is how we can touch the world.” He also encouraged filmmakers to keep good storytelling in mind as they pursued this goal and remember that the film is not about the ideas but about the characters.

After lunch, and with a bit of free time until the Crown Awards, I squeezed in a few more interviews and then did some packing for the next day…no napping like some were doing! I’m a woman on a mission. Also, I was asked to be a presenter at the Crown Awards so I had to find my co-presenter, Kevin Miller, and do some planning for our little spiel.


Comedian Kenn Kington provided the entertainment for the Crown Awards. We all had a great time as he was really funny. Well, the whole awards presentation was very funny too. Torry Martin decided that Donald Loew needed to lose his “Chinese look” so he loaned him some of his own clothes to “Americanize” him. It was a hilarious sight! Of course, Kevin Miller made history on the ICVM stage when he dropped his pants. (Don’t worry, he had swimming trunks on underneath!) One of the big wins of the evening was John Grooters for “The Frontier Boys” who won both Best Youth Film and Best Drama Over $250,000.

The complete list of winners will be announced in my column. The cameras were flashing overtime after the Crown Awards as attendees captured their last photos with their ICVM friends to remember until next year rolls around again. And a few of the real die-hards stayed up until the early morning hours…that would include me!

Next year’s ICVM will be in Orlando. You better believe that date is on my calendar. Hope it’s on yours too!

Photo Captions (Top to Bottom):

Interview with Ted Baehr (Photo Credit: Alissa Holmes)

Kenn Kington provides comedy at ICVM Crown Awards (Photo Credit: Alissa Holmes)

Day 3 at the ICVM: Faith-based entertainment experts take centerstage

The third day of the 2011 ICVM Catalyst Conference began with me having an earlier start to my day despite the lack of sleep due to sitting up late last night in the lobby with a group of conference attendees, which included Torry Martin, Micah Murray, Brad Mix, Alissa Holmes, and Rosie Koebele.

Like the past couple of days, we had a full roster of activities for the day, and lots of networking opportunities to boot. Workshops continued on with award-winning director Rick Garside, of Side By Side Films, The Climb and multi-awarded filmmaker Gary Wheeler, The Trial, The List giving pointers on how to find top talents for small indie films. Andreas Kisslinger, one of the founders of, taught about use of social media in the promotion of films. Script consultant Linda Seger shared valuable tips with screenwriters. Linda has consulted more than 2,000 scripts including Luther, Second Chance, The List, The Front Line, “The Solution,” and others. And Movieguide’s Ted Baehr presented a workshop by the same title as his latest book How to Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul

One of the most-awaited event of the day — and such fun — is the afternoon “speed meet” where interested participants get in a room together and take turns pitching. Everyone is allowed 3 minutes each to pitch who they are and what they do in hopes for future collaboration from their list of new acquaintances. Some are armed with brochures, demo reels, books, headshots or iPad presentations. The important thing is to bring a bottle of water because your mouth will dry out from talking so fast!

Brad Mix of Crown Entertainment gave me a first glimpse at a comedy concert to release in movie theaters in March or April of 2012. The name of the project is Fully Alive by comedian Ken Davis. Brad and Gary Wheeler are the producers on this film based on a quote by St. Irenaeus, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Ken Davis is one of my favorite comedians; he has undergone some radical transformations in order to become “fully alive.” It looks to be a very funny and inspiring work! A short trailer was shown at dinner to the entire ICVM group.

Today I interviewed my friend Suellen Roberts, founder and president of Christian Women in Media about the organization’s support of Christian women who work in all aspects of the media, including the film industry.

Josh McDowell, also an earlier workshop presenter, gave his keynote speech over dinner. It was a very sobering and thought-provoking presentation full of statistics to back up his alarming facts about the state of our current culture in relation to spirituality and morals. He challenged attendees to be that segment of the body of Christ that comes up with the most creative answers…both intellectually and morally….to provide real substance to reach this generation. I had seen Josh many years ago when I was a student at Liberty and was every bit as impressed which him now as before. Josh at age 72, made a very strong fashion statement with his superman belt buckle and red athletic shoes to match his colorful ensemble!

The movie Frontier Boys, a story about four teenaged boys whose close friendship is tested by tragic events, was the post-dinner special offering last night. The movie features Grammy Award-winning Christian singer Rebecca St. James, who has been doing quite a bit of acting lately. It’s a great movie with lots of moving scenes and inspiring moments.

Tomorrow night is one of the highlights of the conference…The Crown Awards. Only one more day left of ICVM!


Day 2 at the 2011 ICVM: Christian film industry ‘biggies’ share inspiring vision

The second day of the 2011 International Christian Visual Media (ICVM) Catalyst Conference began with a morning devotion from Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia and is the executive producer of Sherwood Pictures’ acclaimed movies like “Fireproof,” “Facing the Giants,” and “Flywheel.”


ICVM MarkFincannonThere were lots of great workshops including the very high profile casting director, Mark Fincannon of Fincannon & Associates, whom I will be interviewing tomorrow, Friday. As casting director, Mark has more than 125 feature films, over a hundred TV movies and mini-series to his name, and has collaborated with stellar filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, William Friedklin, David Lynch and George Lucas, among others. Then there’s Kevin Miller, an award-winning screenwriter known for his well-received works like “Trunk” and the short “Though You Slay Me.” Also speaking at the conference is author and film executive David Balsiger who is co-partner of family-oriented film company, Grizzly Adams Productions Inc.


Cheryl Ariaz Wicker interviews Anne Graham LotzAnne Graham Lotz, the keynote speaker at lunch, was amazing and had an inspiring message for participants. In keeping with the convention’s theme of “For Such a Time,” she spoke about the signs of the times. She challenged the audience to “watch, work and don’t quit.” The daughter of evangelist Billy Graham, Anne gave a greeting from her famous dad and told us that he will be 93 in November. Although he has a hard time walking and seeing, her dad has a clear mind and is “sweeter than ever.” According to Anne, when Dr. Graham was asked once who was going to be his heir, he threw out his
arms to the audience and said, “You are.”


Anne_Graham_Lotz_speaks_at_ICVMThe “New York Times” named Anne, a best-selling author, one of the five most influential evangelists of her generation. I interviewed her after lunch and asked more about her upcoming documentary. It was such an honor to meet her and to be able to witness and experience the incredible impact she has made upon the world.

Another highlight of the day was seeing the director’s cut of “For the Glory” by One Voice Films, produced and directed by ICVM board member Donald Loew. The film is about “Golden Boy” Kurt Kuykendall (Jason Burkey) whose idyllic life turned into a living nightmare when his dreams crumbled into pieces. With the love and support of
his friends, Kurt found his faith in God and discovered his true calling. Well, I actually missed the film looking for my glasses which were lost. Found them shortly before the film ended!


Capping off the exciting day was an outing to Stone Mountain, referred to as “the largest exposed piece of granite in the world,” and a truly tempting barbecue buffet that wreaked havoc to my diet. It was a truly welcome break for all of us and a delightful stress reliever for me as we watched the “Yogi Bear” 4D movie, took the skylift to the top of the mountain, took lots of photos, enjoyed the train ride around the mountain and more. The after-dinner laser show was wonderful! What a truly relaxing time to bond with friends and make new ones!


Looking forward to another great day on Friday. Josh McDowell and Ted Baehr will be presenting workshops simultaneously. Oh, tough choice there!


Photo captions

Mark Fincannon leads casting workshop (photo credit: Allissa Holmes)





Day 1 at 2011 ICVM: A gathering of the Christian film industry’s movers and shakers

The 2011 ICVM Catalyst Conference officially kicked off today in Atlanta, Georgia. Morning events included the film festival, highlighted by special screenings of movies such as “Finding Hope Now” by Vertical Praise Productions, “The Guardian” by Cross Wind Productions, and “Clancy” by Grizzly Adams Productions. I was busy doing interviews during this time but heard some really good comments about today’s films.

Today, I was interviewed by Maralee Dawn for Passionate and switched places afterwards when I interviewed her for Christian Movie Connect. Maralee is a very talented and “passionate woman.” Besides being the host and creator of Passionate and a ventriloquist, she is also the host of an award-winning children’s television series, “Maralee Dawn & Friends.” A special thanks to Mr. Worthington for his great camera work and Allissa Holmes for coming on board impromptu as a photographer and production assistant. They are a very talented team!

It’s been exciting seeing all my friends from last year’s ICVM and other conferences. I was in the lobby when Torry Martin arrived. It was quite a site when he came in with his fully loaded cart. Now I may bring my whole closet when I travel, but Torry brought the whole health food store! And see how I got recruited to help him haul it all in? Too funny!!! It is hard to travel when you are on a special diet so I commend Torry for his dedication to a new healthy lifestyle! Other friends in attendance are Ann Ault, Isaac Hernandez, Francine Locke, Josh Murray, Gary Moore, Rosie Koebele, Bonnie Johnson, my roommate Jen Becker, and many others.

KP Yohannan DSC_1267-200x300The speaker for the dinner session was K.P. Yohannan from Gospel for Asia who talked about “Living as Jesus Lived.” He told attendees to make sure their intimacy with the Lord is so real that it governs everything they do—not to do things just because there is a need or an opportunity but because they know the Lord and are in tune with His will. He challenged attendees to have the same attitude as Christ: not to seek what they want to do but what the Father asks them to do.

A sumptuous dinner was followed by Popcorn Movie Night, an event where attendees are each given six minutes to showcase their work. This included movie trailers, actor demos and other videos. I gave attendees a sneak peek at the first episode of Christian Movie Connect, which will air the week of July 18. The evening also gave participants a glimpse of actor Josh Murray’s thespian talents with an unexpected Shakespearean performance! I also shot a video standup during the Popcorn Movie Night, which included man-on-the street interviews. You can view this interview here.

Tomorrow will start early with prayer and devotion by Michael Catt of Sherwood Baptist Church. Make sure to check back tomorrow… same time, same place. Over and out!

Captions (from top):

1. Actress Francine Locke (foreground) and Bonnie Johnson at the Actor/Screenwriter Meet & Greet

2. Comedian/actor/screenwriter Torry Martin arrives at ICVM

3. K.P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia addresses the ICVM attendees

4. Rosie Koebele and Gary Moore in a man-on-the-street interview with Cheryl Ariaz Wicker

PHOTO CREDIT: Alissa Holmes

“Flag of My Father” airs on TBN July 2

Flag of My Father” airs on TBN on July 2

If you weren’t able to catch “Flag of My Father” on TBN over Memorial Day Weekend, you have the opportunity to catch this awesome film again July 2nd at 11 p.m. CST!

To commemorate Independence Day, TBN will be broadcasting this moving film that follows an Army Veteran nurse’s struggle to overcome the traumatic experiences inflicted by her tour in Iraq. Leading actress GiGi Erneta plays alongside John Schneider, Andrew Sensenig, and William Devane. Devane won the Choice Award for actor at the GI Film Festival in Washington DC for his role in this film.

I would recommend watching this movie that I produced to everyone. It addresses Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, an issue which plagues more than 171,400 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Awarded the Best Narrative Feature at the GI Film Festival, this movie unfolds a beautiful tale of courage and sacrifice. You will experience a new-found level of appreciation for our nation’s service men and women after watching this film and its accurate depiction of the hardships veterans face after returning home from war.

If TBN does not air in your area or if you don’t have cable, you can always watch it online at TBN’S website.

It is also available for purchase at various Christian book stores across the country, such as LifeWay Christian Stores and Family Christian Stores. You can also purchase it on my website by clicking here.

For a personal update, I have been doing a few interviews recently about “Flag of My Father” and my other endeavors, including a Blog Talk Radio interview with Donald James Parker, which can be heard here. Today I was interviewed by Shellie Tomlinson on her nationally syndicated radio show “All Things Southern.” I will post the link to this interview in a separate blog once I receive it. Also, I have also been invited to be on the faculty of the Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival this year in Ridgecrest, North Carolina, Aug. 6-11, 2011. If you’re in media, maybe you can make it out. I highly recommend the conference!!! And I have been teaching at Mary Thoma’s TASA Studios in Shreveport. There is an adult acting camp that I will be teaching at scheduled for July 25-29, 2011. Mary is a Meisner certified instructor and has pulled together a great team of professionals to teach at the camp.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Christian filmmakers all set for 2011 ICVM Catalyst Conference

International Christian Visual Media (ICVM) Catalyst Conference will once again offer the Christian filmmaking community another round of inspiring creative interaction from July 6-9, 2011, at the Airport Westin Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. This year’s theme is “For Such a Time.”

Now in its 36th year, the ICVM Catalyst Conference has always been a venue for creative minds in the ministry to get updates on the goings on and the changes happening in Christian media.

“This is a very unique time in history where we are seeing dramatic things throughout the world. We need wisdom to know how to rise up and meet new challenges as we continue to demonstrate to a lost and dying world that Christ Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” declares ICVM president Chris Rogers.

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“Flag of my Father” Memorial Day airing on Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN)

Memorial Day is a time to honor veterans and what better way to do so than watching a patriotic movie like “Flag of My Father!” Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) will be airing “Flag of My Father” on Memorial Day, May 30 at 12:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. CDT. It will also air on Legacy TV on Memorial Day at 8 p.m. CDT. Produced by Louisiana-based R-Squared Productions, the movie was written and directed by Rodney Ray and produced by Cheryl Ariaz Wicker (Oh, that’s me!!!)

If you have not purchased the DVD yet or seen it at a premiere or screenings, you won’t want to miss its national television debut. “Flag” is a story about an army nurse (GiGi Erneta), haunted by violent images of war who battles to keep her family together after the death of her veteran father (William Devane). John Schneider plays a very cynical half-brother who disrespects her military service.

This was my first full length feature film as a producer but I believe it is a beautiful, quality production that will inspire Americans to appreciate the service of our soldiers and veterans. Have the Kleenex box handy though since you may need it. Kudos to the cast and crew. And a special congratulations to executive producer, writer and director, Rodney Ray–you should be proud of your work. I am very impressed with the brilliant cinematography by Neal Bryant…a really neat guy with a promising career ahead of him. A special shout out, too, to the Emmy-nominated Hollywood veteran costume designer Jennifer Parsons, who is also a very special friend and mentor in my career. It was a joy working with you, Jennifer!

The actors came from all over the state of Louisiana as well as California, Texas, Montana and New York. I really don’t need to tell you who John Schneider or William Devane are since their names and faces are quite recognizable. It was a pleasure working with John and Bill who are both very talented actors, approachable and fun to be around. I recently had the chance to interview John Schneider about his role on “Flag of My Father” for my upcoming Christian Movie Connect podcast and my column. I have been saving it for the launch of Christian Movie Connect but I am having to delay that a bit…so I may post a sneak preview of John’s interview soon.

Lead actress GiGi Erneta is a native New Yorker, born to Argentinean parents, with credits in over 40 films and several recurring roles on several TV shows, including “Veronica Mars,” “Desire” and Spanish soap operas. She also guest starred on “Friday Night Lights” and “Strong Medicine.” Her films releasing this year include: “Code Enforcer,” “Camel Spiders,” “Secret at Arrow Lake,” “Endings,” “Fire from Below” and “Risen.” GiGi has worked alongside Steve Martin, Kevin Sorbo, Eric Estrada, and many more. She was recently featured in a cover story by Pivot Point Magazine and has appeared on Through our time on the set, GiGi and I became very good friends…or shall I say “soul mates!”

Dallas-based Andrew Sensenig did a fantastic job portraying the oldest brother, Ben. “Andy” has co-starred in over eighty individual projects working with Oliver Stone, Jim Carrey, Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, Josh Brolin, and many more. His television credits include “Army Wives”, “Friday Night Lights”, “The Gates”, “Burn Notice”, SyFy’s “51”, and “Prison Break”. He is a true professional and one of the most courteous and thoughtful people I have ever known.

Kent Jude Bernard, a rising star in the industry, played one of the lead roles in the film as a POW. Kent is currently working on a string of films, including “Cool Dog,” “The Chameleon” opposite “X-Men’s” Famke Janssen, and “Skateland” with “Twilight’s” Ashley Greene. His past works include “Factory Girl” and “Pulse 2: Afterlife.” He is also professional acting coach, teaching privately and in Mary Thoma’s Shreveport TASA Studio. I have the pleasure of being a part of the TASA Studio with Kent which keeps us in touch.

Louisiana actor and acting coach, Veleka Gray made her return to her first love of film in her role as Dr. Sousa in “Flag of My Father.” Veleka is the only actress in soap history to play two roles on the same show at the same time. Her credits include As the World Turns and the dual role of Ruby Collins and Dr. Sharon Reaves on The Young & The Restless. She now runs her own acting school, The Actors Alliance. Veleka is a very dear friend of mine. Although we live on opposite sides of the state we get together whenever we can…and head to the nearest IHOP!!! I can’t even walk into an IHOP now without thinking about Veleka.

Well, this is an exciting weekend for me as the world will get its chance to see “Flag of My Father” on the most watched Christian network, TBN. The word is spreading about the movie with much press coverage over the last few months, Fox News,, Fox News Latino, HM Magazine, WORLD Magazine,, Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood, The Washington Post, Pivot Point Magazine,, The Dove Foundation, Baptist Press, The Navy Memorial’s “Navy Log Blog” and Veterans Today. And that’s not counting word of mouth and social media. People are talking and the buzz is growing! Very exciting indeed!!!

So if you already have plans for Memorial Day, please set you DVR so you can watch it later. If you miss it entirely, you can catch it on the July 4th weekend on TBN, July 2 at at

11 p.m CDT. Or just buy the DVD!!! Happy Memorial Day everyone. I hope you like my movie! Check out the trailer below to whet your appetite….

“Flag of My Father” trailer