Film program developed Courtney’s collaboration
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Zane Courtney was up there all by himself, speaking to the large crowd at the Friday evening ceremony of Winter Commencement.
He would have preferred to share the spotlight with his fellow students – because his speech was all about the collaboration he has treasured while earning his B.A. degree in Digital Film from Grand Canyon University.
“In GCU’s culture, there’s this unsaid bond between every Lope,” he told his audience.
Courtney was nominated for the student speaker honor by Lisa Tervo, Chair of the Department of Digital Film Production. Among her reasons was his ability to collaborate effectively.
“Zane is the epitome of a GCU student – he is incredibly talented and intelligent but also extremely humble and eager to find opportunities to lift others up,” she said.
“As a film student, Zane excelled as a producer on many films, including the senior practicum project. In this role, he exemplified servant leadership. He worked tirelessly to support his director and crew while also demonstrating the type of engagement he wanted to see from everyone.”
It was a skill the Denver native learned during his 3½ years on campus. Making films is by nature collaborative … and so is life at GCU.
“This university gave me and a ton of other people the ability to collaborate with people both like us and also not like us,” he said. “It’s the greatest blessing in the world to be part of that.
“GCU is the Disney-fied version of the real world. There aren’t a lot of people who don’t want to be here. It’s like, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to be here?’ I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they’re here because they all share that responsibility.”
He is one of those students who’s so friendly, it’s as if he is indeed right out of Fantasyland. That served him well when he first arrived on campus and, like virtually every other freshman, was a bit nervous about his first day of college.
“I was like, ‘You know what? Everyone’s uncomfortable,’” he said. “I have this notorious habit of just rolling with that. Since everyone’s uncomfortable, it’s easy to lighten the mood. We talked movies and about getting started.
“A classmate actually came up to me later – she’s still a friend to this day – and said, ‘Hey, I just want to say thank you for being the light.’ At that point, I was not feeling that, so it was like, ‘OK, this is a good sign.’ That was a big moment because that really did let me be comfortable being authentic but also self-aware and optimistic.”
His experience in the Honors College was equally positive. He started out in Juniper Hall, which houses freshman Honors students, before moving on to Sedona Hall as a sophomore, Canyon Hall as a junior and North Rim Apartments this semester.
That’s quite a tour of campus, but the Honors College was a constant.
“The Honors College was a really good space to meet people,” he said. “You just get a different kind of person – they’re just good friends to have. It’s nice to be surrounded by people who are willing to take the moment for the best of it.”
He also is grateful for the College of Fine Arts and Production faculty members he learned from, in particular Tervo, Brian Gerber, Michael Kary and Todd Schoenberger.
“I love them all. I really do,” Courtney said. “They’ve just been phenomenally influential people – cream of the crop. They’re the kind of professors who give you everything you need to know.”
Courtney’s sister Charis got her nursing degree from GCU a couple of years earlier. “It wasn’t so much to follow her,” he said. “I saw they had a film program and thought that was a good option.”
And now that he is moving on, he can reflect on the best part of his experience in the film program:
“It’s the community, by far. When it comes to class levels, everybody’s just in this together. You respect the older people because they’ve been doing it for a while and you value their input – they’re really good, creative people. But seniors are also really keen on getting to mentor other people.
“It’s a very collaborative space, and you need that. It’s a good roadblock for life.”
Courtney, who also was a Life Leader at GCU, now is ready to move on with his life. He’s going to be working at an advertising agency but wants to continue collaborating on films with all the friends he’s made on campus.
“You’re never alone when you’re creating,” he said, “and that blew my mind to soak that in the last couple years.”
Consider the roadblock removed. Life, beware – Zane Courtney is ready to collaborate.
● Here’s a replay of the Friday evening ceremony.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
GCU Today: Commencement celebrates sense of community
GCU Today: Commencement surprise was music to his ears