By Amanda Morad
August 21, 2015
Cheryl McKay speaks to Regent students Tuesday, Aug. 20.
Regent University alumni are stationed in every corner of the globe, fulfilling the call for Christian leaders to change the world. Alumna Cheryl McKay '95 (Communication), is fulfilling that call in Hollywood, Calif., and returned to Regent to speak with students about her career on Tuesday, Aug. 20.
"When I knew I wanted to seriously work for the Lord through writing, I knew I wanted to come to Regent," said McKay. Her most notable piece of work to date is the screenplay for The Ultimate Gift, a film adapted from Jim Stovall's novel of the same name. The film was released by 20th Century Fox in 2007.
While admitting that screenwriting—and the film industry in general—is a tough business to be in, McKay has always been sure of her calling as a writer. "The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it," she said, quoting William James. "If you have scripts you can write and a message you can put out there, that's going to last beyond you."
McKay gave welcome, but tough advice for budding writers with their eyes turned toward the Golden Coast. "Don't go out there thinking you can just get work as a writer," she said. "Of the 13 years I've been in Hollywood, I've had a full-time job for nine of them."
Her first job in Hollywood was on the animated children's show, The Wild & Wacky Totally True Bible Stories, voiced by Christian author Frank Peretti.
Further adding to the reality check, McKay confessed to writing 40 scripts before she was hired onto The Ultimate Gift in 2004, five years after she arrived in Hollywood. Having lived and worked in Los Angeles for as long as she has, McKay also shared her heart for a city that many Christians see as "lost."
"Culture is so shaped by that town," she explained. "They're putting out the messages. That's why I wanted to go there, so I could make a difference in the messages."
She jumped coasts from Charlotte, N.C., where she produced a small independent film before enrolling in the Act One program for writers in Los Angeles. "It was scary at first, but I really knew that was where I was supposed to be," she said.
And it was. McKay described being confided in by actors and production staff on the set of The Ultimate Gift because of the writer's intimate relationship with the material. "Expect to be a friend and counselor as a writer," she said. "Your words affect others deeply."
"Being a writer opens up doors of ministry you never would have expected," McKay noted. "You think your ministry is on the page and in the message, but it's so much more than that."
McKay is currently working on a web series pilot from an existing book series and is moving toward producing her own features. Her books Never the Bride and Greetings from the Flip Side are novelizations of original scripts she published in book form first.
Her forays into the book publishing world have been successful, but comparing the two industries, she noted the marked difference in distribution. "Movies sell so much more than books today," McKay explained. "What you're learning here will equip you to reach so many more people."
That's the primary goal, she said as the question and answer session closed. "You're here at a place where you're expected to leave and change the world, and you really can."
Learn more about the School of Communication & the Arts.