God’s miraculous direction in my life is displayed in the irony of how he took a big city girl with broken dreams from being an unemployed legal secretary in Music City, USA, to a filmmaker in “Small Town, USA.” As a newlywed, my husband Neill got transferred to Monroe, Louisiana, moving us from one of the top 35 largest cities in the country at that time to a city that ranked as one of the 10 poorest in the nation. I had recently lost my job, had left all my family behind, and felt like I had moved to the ends of the earth.
It was a very difficult and lonely time in those early days. However, in a new town, I decided I could be anyone I wanted to be, so I began branching out in new directions and discovered a creative side I didn’t know I had.
Cheryl & Neill walk the red carpet for Flag of My Father
The unfortunate thing was that there were few opportunities in Monroe for my kind of talent. Missing my family and longing for a chance to reach my newly found dreams caused much conflict in my marriage. But Neill insisted that he felt led of God to stay where we were! I was convinced he was wrong. Since my newly discovered goals and aspirations in the entertainment field seemed pointless in Monroe, I began arguing with God over my situation. I begged Him to move in my “stubborn” husband’s heart and take us back to Nashville or any other big city with opportunities in entertainment.
The most difficult time came when my parents offered us an early inheritance of their second home in Nashville . . . the only condition was that we had to live in it. I thought this was an answer to my prayers, but Neill turned down the gift. I was devastated and thought all hope for my life had ended. I fasted and prayed for God to redeem the situation. When he did not, I felt trapped and more miserable than ever.
Cheryl Ariaz Wicker and actor producer David A.R. White at NRB 2012
With few options available, I began developing my own business ideas which included producing a Christian music video show which ran for four years. But I was still dissatisfied. I remember walking out of my apartment one beautiful sunshiny day . . . just as a spark of joy started to well up, I squelched it, thinking that until I could “get back to civilization,” I could never truly be happy. But not long afterwards when visiting my friend Rick at the local Christian radio station, he spoke a word to me that changed my heart: “Cheryl, you’ve got to bloom where you’re planted.” My eyes welled up with tears as I realized that I could not continually put off my life, waiting for something that might never happen. So I decided at that moment to quit struggling and to begin embracing the opportunities God sent my way.
Before I moved to Louisiana, I had never even considered an entertainment career. I had no goals for my life, had been fired a number of times, and generally felt like a “square peg trying to fit into a round hole.” It was the move that actually gave me the courage to try new things. Once I began developing my true talents in entertainment, I no longer felt like a misfit. I find it uncanny that while I yearned to move back to the entertainment capital of Nashville, God was preparing a new entertainment capital for me right where I was. Louisiana is now known as “Hollywood South,” ranking #3 in film production in the nation.
Cheryl the producer on set with cast of Flag of My Father
Even after discovering my “niche” in entertainment, the journey through God’s opened doors has not been an easy one. True success had long been very illusive to me–something that I could see and feel and believe, but couldn’t quite get there.
I recently discovered I have OCD and ADD which explains why my life has been such an uphill challenge. But with much prayer and determination, God is giving me the grace to excel despite the odds. Although I never dreamed of being a film producer, God opened a door for me several years ago at a faith-based film company located seven minutes from my house. I did not know when I volunteered to cast an actor for a short film that it would lead to producing a feature film a year later. Producing “Desires of the Heart” and “Flag of My Father” are two of my proudest accomplishments. The role of producer utilizes aspects of all the entertainment-type roles I have worked in over the past 18 years.
I am currently in talks with several filmmakers about producing upcoming faith-based movies, one of which is slated for production later this year. In the meantime I produce and host Christian Movie Connect, the broadcast quality video podcast about Christian movies; write as the National Christian Movies Examiner for Examiner.com; and run Premier1 Studios, an entertainment marketing and public relations agency. It’s been a difficult but rewarding journey for the “misfit” from Nashville.
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