Monday, November 23, 2015

INTERVIEW ALERT: Gary Wheeler of INSP's "Christmas in the Smokies"

“It’s a Wonderful Movie” is honored today to interview...
 Filmmaker Gary Wheeler, VP of Original Movies at INSP.

"Welcome Home" to INSP's movie "Christmas in the Smokies"

You will recognize Gary Wheeler's previous work on various films, such as: “The Heart of Christmas” starring Candace Cameron Bure, with singer Matthew West, “The Trial” with Matthew Modine and Nikki Deloach, “The List” with Malcolm McDowell, Hilarie Burton, Will Patton, and more!

Gary Wheeler on set of "Christmas in the Smokies" directing Actress Jill Wagner
Gary was also co-producer on the recent box office movie hit, War Room.

Today, I’ll will be interviewing writer, director, producer Gary Wheeler on his latest movie project “Christmas in the Smokies”, starring Sarah Lancaster, Alan Powell, Jill Wagner, and Barry Corbin, which airs this Christmas Season on the INSP television network!


It's a Wonderful Movie: Congratulations Gary on your new INSP original movie, “Christmas in the Smokies”. Could you share with us your role in the creation process of this film?

Gary Wheeler: Thank you very much, it was a really fun, meaningful film to be involved with… Anyone who knows me, knows that I love Christmas and I love Christmas movies so it was an honor to be involved. I served as the co-writer, producer, and director. I spent a lot of time listening to Christmas music on my computer and writing into the wee hours of the morning! Our hope is that we have created a classic Christmas movie that will resonate for years to come.

"Christmas in the Smokies"

It's a Wonderful Movie:Christmas in the Smokies” sounds like a lovely story of going home again. Please share a little of the storyline with us…

Gary Wheeler: At its core, the film is a story about hope…

It follows Sarah Lancaster as Shelby Haygood and her attempts to save her famous Smoky Mountain farm over the Holidays. All the while dealing with her long lost love played by Alan Powell who returns home for the first time in years. It’s very funny, heart-warming and has a very “down home” feel to it. We took great care to make it very beautiful and full of Christmas cheer. Alan plays singer Mason Wyatt so there is a lot of great Christmas music too.

It's a Wonderful Movie: Since you have been involved with the creation of many Christian films, I must ask... where do you find inspiration for your stories/characters? Does your faith play a key role?

Gary Wheeler: Absolutely! While this is very much a family film, my faith is at the core of who I am. As I said, hope is at the core of the story and for me, my faith in Christ represents the ultimate hope… Which really is what Christmas is all about.

"Christmas in the Smokies" cast

It's a Wonderful Movie: You have an amazing cast for "Christmas in the Smokies", with Sarah Lancaster, Alan Powell, Jill Wagner, Barry Corbin, etc...

Actor Barry Corbin
with Filmmaker Gary Wheeeler

What was it like working with all of them?

Gary Wheeler: They are all great!!!!! I’ve worked with Barry before on Mountain Top and he’s a legend. Alan and I have known each other for a while too and I was a big fan of his work in the film THE SONG. My kids and I have watched Jill in WIPE OUT and the role of Trish was really written with her in mind… and of course Sarah anchors the film as Shelby. My wife and I love the show CHUCK and Sarah was my first choice for the role. She was so easy, pleasant, talented and nice to deal with. I hope to work with them all again.

It's a Wonderful Movie: What was the filming process like for “Christmas in the Smokies”, working with the cast and crew, on location? Were you actually, in the Smokies?

Gary Wheeler: I’ve spent a lot of time in the Smokies and taken a lot of great vacations there. We knew we wanted to shoot in Georgia due to their great film tax incentives so my fellow producer Richard Clark Jr found the town of Dahlonega, Georgia which is a great small town where the Appalachian Trail begins. So this Spring a whole film crew descended on the town and fortunately for us they were incredibly supportive and hospitable.

"Christmas in the Smokies"

It's a Wonderful Movie: As the creator of a Christmas movie… Do you, perhaps, have a favorite Christmas Movie, that you enjoy watching every year?

Gary Wheeler: Like I said, I LOOOOVE Christmas movies… My three favorite are probably It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version and the Muppets version are my two favorites)… Elf and Home Alone have to be right up there and we always try to show our kids The Nativity Story every year as well.

Filmmaker Gary Wheeler wears "ELF" t-shirt on set!

It's a Wonderful Movie: As VP of Original Movies at INSP, could you give us any hints – on what’s to come for future original TV movies on INSP, in 2016?

Gary Wheeler: It’s a very exciting time for INSP films! We are about to begin principal photography on our second film on location in Augusta, Georgia. INSP will air the U.S. television premiere of a slate of movies planned for 2016 and we’ll be sure to keep you and your readers informed with all the latest announcements. Stay tuned!

"Christmas in the Smokies" on set

It's a Wonderful Movie: Lastly, what do you hope viewers will take away from watching your INSP movie “Christmas in the Smokies”?

Gary Wheeler: I definitely hope that the film will be a bonding experience for families this year and years to come. It’s something that everyone can enjoy… I hope that viewers will remember to never give up and that no matter how bad things look, there is always hope!

Thank you, Gary, for having this "chat" with "It's a Wonderful Movie" today! I am thrilled to promote your movie "Christmas in the Smokies" with all of my followers! It sounds like a wonderful, hopeful, family film - and I am honored to share it here, where we also believe in the true hope and meaning of Christmas!

I also appreciate you sharing some excitement to come in 2016 - with the creation of more INSP films (thanks for the sneak peek!) and we will certainly look forward to hearing more details along the way! :)

After looking through on set photos, video clips, comments, etc... I must say,  it truly looks like you all had an amazing time filming this Christmas movie and when you have a beautiful story to tell - it certainly comes through to everyone on set!

It has been so nice to hear from you, Gary... and get this behind-the-scenes look at the first INSP feature film!

God's Blessings to You, my dear friends at INSP, and the entire Cast & Crew of "Christmas in the Smokies"!


Everyone - be sure to Watch
when it Premieres on INSP,
November 29th, 2015 at 8pm/7c.
See additional airings in the Christmas TV Schedule!
For even more information on Christmas in the Smokies-


  1. Great interview, Net!!! We need more film makers like Gary Wheeler. Looks like a lovely, hope filled, country movie with a good cast to boot!! I'm really liking Sarah Lancaster so I'll be sure to watch.

  2. O.k. I'm wondering if we are all going to be lucky enough this year, to have the gift most of us wait for all year from hallmark channel, Is the hallmark channel going to be airing all the knew Christmas movies with limited commercials Christmas day? Its the one gift I wait for every year, if you could pass along a BIG THANK YOU and if they realize what a gift they give to all of their viewers , with a touch of a button on the DVR it saves so much time and energy and searching and disappointment when a movie they release is out of stock, or doesn't come out on DVD I know I have all of them threw out the year to enjoy all year long.....

  3. So awesome that you got to interview Gary! I look forward to watching it! I have to keep a reminder of the station!


  4. Loved reading through this interview with Gary Wheeler. This looks like a good one amongst all the rest. I will definitely have to watch one it's airings.

  5. Fun to hear INSP plans more next year!

  6. Sarah Lancaster is a true star. I was kind of surprised INSP got her for one of their movies. I look forward to seeing what is next.


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