By THOMAS SACCENTE – STAFF WRITER
The sheer diversity of the Centre student body allows its clubs and organizations to vary wildly in nature and purpose, opening the door for countless possibilities for students to learn and grow in a healthy environment.
However, out of all of these organizations, the sketch comedy group Front and Centre proves to be unique.
Front and Centre is dedicated to the creation of humorous skits by the Centre student body for the Centre student body. The group was founded by a coalition of first-year students during CentreTerm of 2012. At first, it was seen merely as a way to pass time during CentreTerm, when the workload is relatively light compared to other times of year.
However, the process was so fun that the original founders of the club— current seniors Christian Harris, Patrick Haggarty, Ali Gautier, Dennis Barrett, Sam Lane, and Annie Wolf—expanded their efforts to be fully operational all year long.
These were students who were inspired to create their own video production club after discovering that no such organization existed on campus before.
According to Harris, the primary impetus behind Front and Centre was a desire to make people laugh and offer them a reprieve from the heavy workload that is a way of life during the Centre school year.
“Sketch comedy is fun and easy to make,” Harris said. “People wouldn’t want to make something serious. Everyone at Centre is like, ‘I’ve got to focus on a career and get a job.’ This is something light to take their mind off things.”
After getting funding from the Student Government Association, the group acquired the necessary tools to make their ambitions a reality. This included a high definition camcorder, a tripod, lighting equipment, wireless microphones, and a green screen.
It is a very simple setup, but one that allows the group to produce sketches on their own while also learning more about digital filmmaking along the way. They created their own YouTube channel and used it as an outlet for the sketches they made, which mostly poked fun at various aspects of Centre life.
It is important to note that although the purpose of the organization is to teach people how to write and produce their own videos, the key focus, above all else, is to have fun.
To this day, while there is some manner of hierarchy for the group, the actual production process is collaborative every step of the way.
All members contribute their ideas to the final product and take on multiple roles both in front of and behind the camera.
Unlike Centre Players, this is not a group that performs their material in front of a live audience. Rather, Front and Centre films all of their sketches and puts the end results onto YouTube.
This gives them the opportunity to experiment with various methods of video production and to explore all of the possibilities that come with it. An in-depth knowledge of things such as script writing, framing shots with a camera, and video editing software is absolutely necessary in order to produce a sketch that is not only funny, but also visually presentable.
Therefore, it is safe to say that Front and Centre is the closest thing to a movie -making club on campus and its members take a cinematic approach to their subject matter in a way that has not really been done before the group’s creation.
However, in past years, producing videos on any kind of regular basis has always been difficult for Front and Centre.
Writing and producing original content for the Internet is a very time-intensive process and it is not as easy as it looks, especially when the people producing said content are full-time college students with a workload to match and active social lives to maintain outside of that.
It is a multilayered procedure that involves a wide variety of different disciplines and a great deal of time to create a high quality product. Coming up with ideas and writing the script is simple enough, but it is the act of actually getting everybody together to film the new content that is the most difficult part of the job.
Plans have to be made for when and where to shoot, and even then it is difficult to predict if the people who sign up to work for a day can make it there at all. Even after that is taken care of, there comes the lengthy process of loading the shot material onto a computer and then organizing it into some identifiable form.
It is things like this that have prevented Front and Centre from making more videos during a semester, even though there are plenty of sketch ideas from which to choose.
However, with the dawn of a new school year, the members of Front and Centre have taken it upon themselves to exceed the output of past years and produce content on a regular basis.
They have done this so far by scheduling as many film shoots as they can during the beginning of the school year so that more actors will be on hand to shoot the written material, as well as bringing in a great deal of newcomers to handle the intense workload.
In addition, according to senior member Patrick Haggarty, Front and Centre arranged a deal with the Student Activities Council to play their sketches before the Midnight Movies as a prelude to whatever the feature presentation is for that particular evening.
Haggarty hopes this will give Front and Centre the sense of obligation it needs to motivate them to produce new material in a timely fashion.
“Once we get some sketches going, the Midnight Movies would be a great way to get our names out there and hopefully produce some more momentum to make more videos,” Haggarty said. “It’ll also give the students something else to watch other than all those local ads.”
There is even talk of Front and Centre putting together a short film by the end of the school year, a feat that has never been undertaken by the group and will allow them to play with the form in ways they never could before.
Front and Centre is currently accepting new members into its organization all year round. Senior and head writer Ali Gautier said they are not particularly picky about who decides to join and that anybody can join if they so choose.
“We’re just looking for people who are interested in making videos,” Gautier said. “You don’t have to actually be funny, you don’t even have to know that you’re funny. We’ll find a way to make what you’re doing really great. We have so many possibilities with what can be done in this organization.”
Front and Centre is a distinct club in the Centre community that it is devoted to allowing students to produce original videos and putting them on the Internet for all to see. It permits them to experience firsthand the work that goes into making videos and to express themselves in a way that they never could have done otherwise.
It is a unique and fascinating club that brings people with wide ranging skillsets together in order to make something entirely new, a singular outlet for people to work together, create together, and, most importantly, have fun together.