'Identity Crisis' movie casts campus in starring role

A posted notice greets students as they walk on the east side of Prescott Field during the filming of "Identity Crisis."

Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

With a swift clap of the film marker, Grand Canyon University has been transformed into a movie set.

The film marker signals the start of a new scene.

The campus exudes the modern, fun vibes that sisters Andrea and Alexandra Boylan were seeking for their newest film, “Identity Crisis.”

But the selection was no random choice.

After their brother, Alex, filmed an episode of his Amazon Prime show “The College Tour” at GCU, the wheels were set in motion for future collaborations between the University and the Boylan family.

Once the sisters connected with University President Brian Mueller and Provost Dr. Hank Radda, they knew GCU was the perfect place for their movie. (Here's a slideshow of what the filming looked like.)

Alexandra Boylan (file photo)

“We did go to some colleges that were like, ‘Well you can’t really disrupt the students’ and ‘You have to be quiet.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, this is a movie set, so we’re going to come in and take over some sidewalks and shoot stuff,’” Alexandra said. “I think GCU being so open to letting us come and work with the school is what really sold us. They weren’t intimidated by a film set.”

That, paired with the unique look and feel of campus, was the perfect match.

And the writer/producer sisters couldn’t be happier.

“First of all, I love GCU,” said Alexandra, who first visited the campus last year with her sister. “It’s just special here. I feel like the spirit of the Lord is very alive and well at GCU, and we can feel it.”

Film crews and cast members will be shooting scenes from the movie at a variety of locations on campus until Jan. 28.

Crews shoot a scene in front of the GCBC at Roadrunner Apartments.

The movie, which tells the story of a college science whiz who figures out how to clone herself, is targeted toward young women and girls and is meant to send the message that they are all perfect the way God created them.

Just as working with the University was a great opportunity for the filmmakers, it was equally beneficial for the College of Fine Arts and Production (COFAP) and its students.

The production has incorporated many GCU students, faculty and alumni into both the cast and the crew and has provided them the firsthand experience of working on a Christian film set.

The walkway in front of GCU Arena was the site of an evening shoot.

“The Boylan sisters and their talented team are showing our students that filmmaking can be a collaborative art rooted in faith, hope and love,” COFAP Dean Dr. Craig Detweiler said. “’Identity Crisis’ allows our film, theatre, design, dance and music majors to envision the entire GCU campus as a movie set, a lab to develop stories that will intrigue and inspire audiences of all ages.”

The film’s extras are members of the GCU community, the two on-set photographers are GCU employees, three videographers are student volunteers and several alumni have been hired on for the project.

Students quickly have seen the value in this opportunity.

Director Shari Rigby (right) watches from behind the camera ...

“Our students are loving every moment working on set and seeing how the knowledge they’ve learned in the classroom comes alive,” said Lisa Tervo, Director of the Film Department. “The Boylan sisters have helped them see the connection between classroom and industry and have become mentors for so many of them.”

One of those students is senior film major Kendall Smith.

As one of the behind-the-scenes videographers, Smith said she gets the perfect amount of creative freedom while also having the opportunity to work with industry professionals.

... Rigby and cinematographer Bob Scott then examine the result. That's GCU Arena in the background.

“This is an absolutely amazing experience,” she said. “I’m so excited that they’re allowing students from GCU to come and help out … anyone can be involved in this.”

Working on a behind-the-scenes crew for the first time has opened her eyes to a possible new career track. She wants to invest in her own camera for future projects.

“This opportunity has allowed me to realize that maybe behind the scenes is where I want to get into in the future,” she said.

It’s the kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that would even bring GCU alumni back to campus.

After attending the Boylan sisters’ three-day event on campus in December, Matthew Fajardo didn’t hesitate to express his interest in getting involved. Now, Fajardo has landed himself a production assistant role on the film.

The production crew sets up lighting rigs inside the GCU Library.

Fajardo hopes that showcasing GCU in the film will help highlight the college's film program.

“It means a lot because the film program at GCU is pretty small, but I think being an alumni and shooting this film on campus will hopefully draw more people to GCU and the film program,” he said. “It’s really cool to be part of this and hopefully bring more people here.”

Rachel Schumacher, a 2020 GCU graduate, expressed a similar sentiment. Though she just finished graduate school and has a busy schedule, she knew she had to come back after learning of the opportunity via a Facebook alumni group.

Having worked behind the scenes on a number of Ethington Theatre productions, Schumacher has put her knowledge to the test as a set dresser. Like Fajardo, she has found that coming back to campus to work on the project is a unique experience.

GCU students are being cast as extras in the movie.

“There was a certain amount of ownership that I felt because I knew where all of these places were and I could help, like, ‘I can be the line leader for today,’” she said. “It’s nice to not have to be the one asking questions but the one leading, even in a group of people I literally just met.”

What caught her eye: the people she has meet while working on the project.

“You know that group is led with love,” she said.

With a loving film crew and a loving campus, there is no denying that this collaboration is a match made in heaven.

“We believe that what you put into the movie is what comes out of the movie, and having GCU and the spirit of all these people, that’s going to make the movie a better movie,” Alexandra Boylan said. “It’s going to fill it with so much joy and love.”

Due to popular demand COFAP will be hosting another screening of the Boylans’ previous feature, the teen comedy "Switched" on Saturday, January 22nd, at 6pm in Building 8. The Boylans will be answering questions afterwards and the event is open to students as well as alums and their families.

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: Filmmakers share tips, plan campus movie project

GCU Magazine: Acting on faith, Detweiler found place in the arts


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