TMU Associate Professor of English Cierra Winkler is pursuing her dream of becoming a screenwriter while keeping her faith front and center (photo TMU)
(Cleveland, Ga.) – Along with teaching online and hybrid courses at Truett McConnell University (TMU), Cierra Winkler, Associate Professor of English, is working as playwright for The Skit Guys, based out of Dallas, TX, and as a feature film writer for the Jim Henson Studios in Los Angeles, CA.
From the top
Tommy Woodard and Eddie James are The Skit Guys. They’ve been teaching God’s word using comedy and drama for over twenty years. Their videos are often used for sermon illustrations.
“I first met Tommy Woodard and Eddie James several years ago at a youth conference, and I eventually ran their merchandise table at a couple of events,” shared Winkler. She shared how God’s timing was perfect – as it always is. “After meeting Tom and Ed that first time many years ago, it became my prayer that somehow I could work in their ministry.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree and then moving to Alaska to earn her master’s degree, she almost forgot about that dream. Looking back, the seasoned writer says that God prepared her for this job through many life experiences along the way.
Recently, Winkler connected with The Skit Guys to “discuss plans for their new full-length feature comedy,” she said. “Fast-forward a few weeks, I submitted a few skits and a comedic short screenplay to The Skit Guys for consideration, and they offered me my first contract! I was ecstatic!”
“I love being involved with a ministry that is still completely unique in the media options they provide for youth ministry and churches of all denominations,” the professor said. “Tommy and Eddie started out in the early 90’s by performing skits at various youth conferences and church events, and they still book several gigs throughout the year. The central hub of their ministry is skitguys.com, which includes the largest selection of Christian scripts, videos, and worship media available on the web.”
Writing with the Muppets
Not only is she excited about working with The Skit Guys, Winkler recently began a two-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) internship in TV and Screenwriting at Jim Henson Studios in Los Angeles. Winkler hopes this opportunity will open doors for a career in the industry of screenwriting, where her primary goal will be to “glorify the name of Jesus!”
At the Jim Henson studio, Winkler will be part of a multi-genre writing team that will be led and mentored by some of Hollywood’s most successful family-friendly content writers and showrunners, including brothers Ken and Philip LaZebnik, Carol Barbee, Alexa Junge, Brian Bird, and Linda Woolverton.
“My first year at Jim Henson Studios will consist of writing a full-length feature and a one-hour drama spec, which is an episode of an existing successful show,” she said. “The purpose of a spec, [short for “written on speculation”] is to show your knowledge of the world and characters that have already been created and to prove that you can capture the tone, voice, and structure of that show.”
With the knowledge that Winkler receives from this internship, and with the help of other TMU Humanities professors, plans are currently in the works to include more communications, creative writing and journalism options for incoming students in the future.
The next few months will be full of learning, traveling and teaching for the TMU professor. “I’m so thankful for this opportunity and can’t wait to see where it leads me,” Winkler says.