Monroe County native Ronda Smalling has always been passionate about the arts, but coming from a small town made the obstacles on the way to accomplish her dream a little harder to climb.
“I was born with the desire to act, entertain and write,” said Smalling, who grew up in the Ball Play area of Tellico Plains. “When I was a child, I would put on a show for anyone who came to our house. I had a dream that one day I could do this. I just had to take the first step.”
Smalling created a film production company, deemed Thundering Hoofs Productions, in 1992. She has been involved in roles and extras for several movies and television shows, including Tyler Perry’s “Family That Preys,” “Country Strong,” “Nashville,” and “Snapped.”
“I love the idea and art of creating something from the ground up that will bring enjoyment to others for a long time,” said Smalling, who credits her talent as coming from the Matoy family’s Cherokee blood line.
In addition to writing several short films, in 2010, Smalling met Harlan, Ky., native Ashe Parker while working on the Terry Muncy film, “Stand Like a Mountain” and the two teamed up for a bigger project.
“One night after filming, we were joking around about stories of past jobs and Ashe said she could write a book about all of the stories she has heard throughout her former career as a caseworker,” said Smalling. “I just replied, ‘Well, let’s write a movie!’ and we did.”
Within a few months, “Woman in the Mirror” was ready for production. Filming began in the summer of 2011, with the majority of the film being shot in Blount County, Sevierville and Knoxville. The film was finalized in early 2012 and released.
“The film was even viewed by the Queen,” said Smalling. “It received great reviews.”
But now, Smalling has expanded her talent even further: songwriting.
Alongside Connie Tuck, Smalling has written an original song called “I’m Gone” that is garnering attention.
“It’s an outlaw country song,” explained Smalling.
The song was picked up by rising artist Susan Rose, who recorded the song and will release it on Feb. 15.
Rose started as a country singer at a young age, but went to school to learn more about the technical side of the business. She graduated from Full Sail University and her education opened doors to an alternate career path that has led her to be a successful lighting designer, director and programmer.
She has toured with major artists like Ringo Starr, Louise Mandrell, John Berry and Hank Williams Jr., as well as worked on numerous television shows, theme parks, ships and concerts.
Though she has a passion for lighting, the music is still in Rose’s blood. She has continued to pursue music, writing songs and recording on the side. She has had several singles on the Cashbox Top 100, along with listings on a number of other independent regional charts. For more information about Rose, visit her website at susanrosemusic.com.
“She’s following a path and dream that she has dreamed about for years,” said Smalling.
Smalling said her song, “I’m Gone,” has gotten attention from more than 20 radio stations that are awaiting its release date for airplay.
“To follow the release of the song on Feb. 15, we will releasing a music video,” she said.
The accompanying music video was written, directed, filmed and edited by Smalling and will be released from her production company, Thundering Hoofs Productions.
“I look back on my life and I’m so blessed. I’ve been able to do so much with the help of God and my family,” said Smalling. “I’ve worked in radio, television, film and theatre. I’ve sung, played and danced—and now written songs. I’ve traveled, met a lot of people and worked in many fields. But, I am always looking to push the limit as much as I can and keep looking for a new dream to chase.”
Smalling says her family has played a huge role in her success.
“My mom and dad, Edith and the late Virgel Smalling, and my two sisters, Wilma Jean and Lora Smalling, have always been there for me. They’ve supported my dreams, no matter what I set out to do,” she said.
Growing up in a small town should not limit your expectations for your life, said Smalling.
“I love my hometown and I try to return there as much as possible,” she said. “Where I grew up is what made me who I am today. No matter how hard it seems, always follow your dreams. You can do it; you just have to try.”