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CMC #98 – Serena Travis of IPDB

Our first interview from the PPFF (Pan Pacific Film Festival) is with Serena Travis of IPDb. Serena shares how the idea for creating the Internet Podcast Database came to her and her plans for its expansion. IPDB is certain to become THE SOURCE for finding the best podcasts available. As the Executive Producer at “The High Road with Drake and Serena Travis”, COO at The Resurrection Project and Church Relations Coordinator at Operation Christmas Child, Serena is proof that a creative mind can keep you busy, and she is continuing to add to her accomplishments. She is a remarkable woman who is making a huge impact!

Christian Movie Connect was honored to win the first award given by IPDB for podcasting. I was thrilled to be able to attend the PPFF and be presented with “Best Podcast” at the Stellae Awards at PPFF. The award was given to me by friend, Jenn Gotzon, and Serena’s husband, Drake Travis. This was an incredible night of “dreams come true”, along with a renewed excitement and determination to continue to seek excellence in providing a voice to those creatives who are making an impact on the film community, especially within the faith-based market.

For more on Internet Podcast Database, visit the website at

PS: In my excitement, I inadvertently said Christian Movie Connect is celebrating 4 years. Actually, it has only been 3 years, but I am looking forward to what is ahead for the 4th year…and many more.

CMC # 97 – Tracy Trost

Filmmaker Tracy Trost (“A Christmas Snow”, “The Lamp”) talks with CMC host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, about a couple of his more recent projects, including “77 Chances” (formerly titled “Letting Go”). This movie, involving Liberty University filmmaking students, is about a man who repeats the same day until he learns his intended lesson. It stars Andrew Cheney, Erin Bethea, and Rachel Hendrix.

One of the recent short films Trost made, “Carry Me”, was based on a story that had gone viral on Facebook about a man who plans on leaving his wife of 30 years for his mistress. The wife’s only request was for him to first, “Carry me from the bedroom to the front door for the next 30 days.” This short film has proven to be equally as popular as the Facebook posting. You can see the short here: Carry Me.

Tracy & I also discussed where he gets his ideas for movies and his podcast, The Successful Life Mindset, where he encourages you to live your life to its greatest potential. The website is . For more on his movies, go to Trost Moving Pictures.

You can also see a previous interview I had with Tracy at CMC #27 – Tracy Trost


CMC #96 – Scotty Curlee

Earlier this year, CMC host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, spoke with actor/producer/director and Liberty University faculty member, Scotty Curlee, about several projects he is currently working on. “77 Chances” (referred to as “Letting Go” in this interview) is about a guy (Andrew Cheney) who repeats a day 77 times until he finally realizes the lesson he was supposed to learn. This movie also stars Rachel Hendrix and Erin Bethea. Curlee is one of the producers of this film, plus has the role of Phillip.

Another film that is currently in post-production is “Altar Egos”, a comedy about a church that struggles with a younger preacher’s innovative ideas. When he, with the help of his son, changes his appearance to look older, the reaction of the congregation changes.. Starring Robert Amaya, Erin Bethea, and Victoria Jackson, Curlee once again takes on the dual positions of actor and producer. “Altar Ego” is the writing and directorial debut of Sean Morgan.

“Altar Egos” is the project that students from Liberty University Cinematic Arts are involved with this year. This innovative program permits Juniors and Seniors the opportunity to work on a full length feature film, gaining much needed experience to go out into their own filmmaking careers. Only a couple of years old, this program gives them real-world experience within a Christian framework. Each graduate will have a completed screenplay, a short film they have written and directed, a business plan for marketing and funding, plus a film credit from the feature film they worked on.

CMC #95 – Bob Russell

Bob Russell, author and retired pastor of Southeast Christian Church, had not considered becoming an actor when approached to participate in a film project by Shane Sooter (City on a Hill Productions), but it was an easy crossover to make. Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) commissioned City on a Hill Productions to make a film based on the theme of how people cope with pain and their reaction to tragedy in their lives as part of a television program. Originally asked to do the teaching material that would accompany the film, Sooter thought the role of the pastor would be a natural fit for Russell and a perfect transition into the study material.

The film is “Acts of God” and it asks the question, “Why would a loving and powerful God allow suffering and pain if He can stop it?” It begins with a crisis due to a collision that takes the life of a child. Several people find their lives intertwined by the accident and each is coping with hard questions from their personal stories. As each of them struggle with questions, doubt, and bitterness, threads of hope and faith bind them together with a new strength and belief that there is more than what we see on our own. Pastor Russell uses these stories and offers insight by sharing the story of Joseph to show God’s greater purpose in tragedy.

“Acts of God” is available on DVD, plus there are small group resources and a book written by Russell. Find all the information you need at

CMC #94 – Chonda Pierce

Chonda Pierce, the “Queen of Clean Comedy” and I had a chance to chat while I was in Nashville earlier this year. She talked about her DVD “Girl Talk” and her reaction to seeing it advertised the first time. We then went more in-depth about her comedy and how it all began in childhood. As she grew older, Chonda’s comedy became a coping technique which helped her, and fulfilled her desire to make others laugh. Drawn to comedians of the same style, Chonda is known and loved for her “story-telling” style of comedy.

Although she is known for her stand-up comedy, her career has included a variety of outlets. A Theater Arts major in school, Chonda has been drawn to acting as well. We discussed some of her roles in movies as well as the future she sees for faith-based film. Chonda finishes the interview with an encouraging word for the next generation of talented filmmakers.

Chonda Pierce’s books and DVDs are for sale on her website. You can also find out if she will be appearing in a town near you by going to

CMC #93 – George Escobar

George Escobar (Advent Film Group) and Cheryl Ariaz Wicker had the chance earlier this year to speak about projects that George is currently working on, including the theatrical release of “Alone Yet Not Alone”, scheduled for June 13th. A successful limited release last year brought attention to the film, but then the entertainment world really took notice due to a controversial Oscar nomination. The beautiful hymn and theme song, “Alone Yet Not Alone”, sung by the remarkable Joni Eareckson Tada was nominated by the Academy Awards for “Best Song” only the have the nomination later rescinded before the event. While it was a disappointment that the nomination was not reinstated, there was a lot of interest in the film and anticipation for the wide release in the wake of the unexpected publicity.

The film is based on the true story of Barbara Leininger and her family and friends following the capture of Barbara and sister, Regina, during the French and Indian Wars in 1755. This is a story of how their faith in God permitted them to remain strong and courageous through the loss of family, being held in captivity, and even when the sisters were cruelly separated from one another. Starring Kelly Greyson, Natalie Racoosin, Clay Walker, Jenn Gotzon, Joanie Stewart, Ozzie Torres, and Tony Wade, the film was written by James Richards and George Escobar. George was also co-director with Ray Bengston.

George also shared about an upcoming documentary, “Trapped in Hitler’s Hell.” This the true story of Anita Dittman, a Holocaust survivor. Based on the book, written by Ms. Dittman and Jan Markell, this tells the story of Ditman’s experiences, including her conversion to Christianity. Today she is active in speaking to others about her incredible experiences.

On a lighter note, Escobar is also working on a comedy. Entitled, “The Newlyweds”, this is the story of 2 brothers who are estranged, but end up at the same location for their honeymoons. Will the brothers be able to put their differences behind them? This faith-based comedy will remind us all of the importance of family and marriage.

CMC #92 – Brad Stine

Brad Stine, co-star and associate producer of the political suspense thriller, “Persecuted”, talked to Cheryl Ariaz Wicker before a screening of his film at the National Religious Broadcasters convention this year. Calling “Persecuted” a movie that will bring a new wave of what faith based films will look like in the future, Stine also expressed his belief that the best way for Christians to make an impact on their culture is by supporting what they believe in rather than protesting what they oppose. He says that many people today pay more attention to entertainers than to politicians or pastors, and films are a useful tool for expressing beliefs and values.

Scheduled to be released in theaters July 18, 2014, this film is a fictional account of a nationally known evangelist, John Luther, who stands in opposition of religious reforms that are sweeping the nation. When he is framed for the murder of a young girl, Luther sets out to find the truth and is confronted with persecution that threatens the Christian community in the United States. Stine believes this is a film that can be enjoyed by all, but warns that it is not meant for children. It is rated PG13. “Persecuted”, written and directed by Daniel Lusko, stars James Remar, Bruce Davison, Dean Stockwell, James R. Higgins, Gretchen Carlson, Fred Thompson, Raoul Trujillo, Brad Stine, and Natalie Grant

Visit the “Persecuted website at

CMC #91 – Gary Wheeler

Gary Wheeler of Level Path Productions is a multi-award winning director, producer, and writer from North Carolina who has produced numerous television projects and films globally. Many know him for his adaptations of several legal thrillers by Christian author, Robert Whitlow including the recently released “Jimmy”, “The Trial”, and “The List”. “Mountain Top”, starring Barry Corbin, Coby Ryan McLaughlin, Valerie Azlynn, and Sydney Penny, is the latest Whitlow film; the release date is still pending at this time.

In this interview Wheeler chats with CMC host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, about several of his past and present projects, including “Jimmy” and “Mountain Top” and the televised movies, “The Heart of Christmas” and “Somebody’s Child”. There is also mention of another film in the works that sounds very interesting.

To learn more about his past and current movies, and to learn more as new ones are added, visit his website at

CMC #90 – Francine Locke

Award winning actress Francine Locke‘s career began with modeling and working in commercials & industrial training films. Prior to taking a 10 year sabbatical, she also booked both television and movie roles, including “Risky Business” with Tom Cruise.  Since returning to a career in acting, Francine has been very involved with the faith-based film industry.

For this interview,  Francine Locke talks to CMC host Cheryl Wicker about her acting career, including her recent starring role in “Stand Your Ground”.

Stand Your Ground  had several screenings in 2013, and a successful theatrical release in January to select theaters.  Francine played the starring role of Jackie Carpenter, whose world was turned upside down when her son was put on trial for felony murder. Her story is one that severely tested her faith, from tragedy and turmoil to trust and triumph. Other recent film projects are “In Gramps Shoes” and “My Dream Beside Me”.

CMC #89 – Kathleen & Phil Cooke

CMC #89 – Kathleen & Phil Cooke
Kathleen & Phil Cooke, co-founders of Cooke Pictures and The Influence Lab, are a power couple who know the world of media and entertainment, and whose opinions are highly respected when it comes to the film industry. Phil is an internationally known speaker, author, and producer. His knowledge of how to use media effectively to get your message across is used worldwide. Kathleen is a sought after speaker who is on the advisory board for the Hollywood Prayer Network and Hollywood Connect.  She also heads a group called “Influence Women” whose purpose is to train, teach, and encourage women involved in the entertainment and media industry.

Phil & Kathleen Cooke talk to CMC host Cheryl Ariaz Wicker about movies.

Phil & Kathleen Cooke talk to CMC host Cheryl Ariaz Wicker about movies.

In this interview, Kathleen and Phil Cooke talk to CMC Host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, about “Noah” and “Son of God”. They discuss how these films, along with others, can impact our culture and open doors of conversations to share your faith.

In addition to being contributing writers for several magazines and news sources, they both have their own blogs. To read their blogs and other projects, you can find Kathleen at and Phil at  

CMC #88 – Patricia Heaton talks about “Mom’s Night Out”

Actress Patricia Heaton, widely known for her role in “Everybody Loves Raymond” as Debra Barone, and currently starring in ABC’s “The Middle”, has had multiple Emmy Award nominations and a double Emmy win for Leading Actress in a Comedy Series. She studied acting in New York and made her Broadway debut in “Don’t Get God Started”, but was noticed in Los Angeles while appearing in a production of “The Johnstown Vindicator.” From there she moved into television roles and films such as “Beethoven” and “Space Jam”.


Patricia Heaton and CMC host Cheryl Ariaz Wicker

Patricia Heaton and CMC host Cheryl Ariaz Wicker

In this interview, Heaton talks with CMC host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, in a “walk and talk” interview at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, about her television roles and her role in film, “Mom’s Night Out”.


Mom’s Night Out” is about a few friends who need to dress up and get out of the house for a couple of hours. With their husbands watching the kids for three, they are ready for a worry-free night. This is a family-friendly comedy celebrating the ups and downs of parenting.


To view the trailer, click here. To learn more about “Mom’s Night Out”, visit their website at

Christian Movie Connect Episode 87 – Joshua Childs

Actor, Writer and Producer, Joshua Childs, has been a professional actor for over 20 years with an extensive background in short films and commercials. His greatest joy, however, is his theatre experience having had the opportunity to play great roles in such productions as “Mother Courage”, “The Idiot” and a much funnier version of himself in the amazing “Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged.” Josh has appeared in a variety of feature films including, “Hannah Montana: The Movie,” “Much Ado About Middle School,” and “Blue Like Jazz.” He is also a privileged ensemble member of the new sketch comedy pilot “Honky Tonk Central.” In his latest film, Josh appears in, “Inspiration Pop 2929” which premiered in Nashville in the spring of 2013.

In this interview, Childs talks with CMC host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, about how the art of film can be used to change people’s lives.

“Inspiration Pop 2929” is a family film with a musical heart set in a fictional Southern town that follows a diverse cast of characters as they struggle to overcome hardship and in doing so find fulfillment in unexpected ways.

To view the trailer, click here. To know more about the movie visit