Christian Harris ’15 commemorates “The Thrill in the Ville II” with documentary film
October 10, 2013 By Mariel Smith
President Lincoln wearing his debate credentials.
The debate festival lawn, between Old Centre and the Campus
Center, was a hub of activity and celebration during the
"Thrill in the Ville II" on 10.11.12.
One of Centre's biggest moments in the national spotlight occurred one year ago, on 10.11.12, when it hosted the only Vice Presidential debate of the 2012 election. On the anniversary of "The Thrill in the Ville II," Centre will be bustling with festivities commemorating a treasured campus memory, including an evening celebration in Cowan where authentic debate memorabilia will be raffled, silent auctioned and available for purchase. The culmination of the evening is the screening of 600 West Walnut, a documentary film by Christian Harris ’15.
The film emerged out of Harris' involvement in Front and Centre, a campus club devoted to sharing—and often poking fun at—campus news. Harris was experimenting with taking the show in a new direction, and the Vice Presidential debate was the perfect opportunity to do just that.
"Dennis Barrett ’15 came to me with the idea of doing a newscast immediately following the debate," he says. "I thought a documentary would be the best way to capture the extensive groundwork that went into hosting a debate, as well as analyze the significance of the debate."
With the help of Director of Communications Michael Strysick, the film crew received media passes for the historic day, and, as Harris explains, "that was the beginning of the adventure."
With a crew of just three, including Ansley Bredar ’13 and Luke Maupin ’15, Harris spent months traversing campus for footage and interviews. On October 11, the crew got up close and personal with the 2012 Vice Presidential debate, interviewing a diverse cross-section of the event's many attendees.
The highlight of the filming experience for Harris was being immersed in Spin Alley following the debate, right in the thick of the media frenzy.
"It was surreal," Harris recalls. "Media titans were there with their professional equipment, and then there Ansley and I were with our handycam. It did not matter. All we had to do was say we were Centre students to whomever was managing the surrogates and they would make sure that we were given an interview."
As a politics major and a film studies-psychology double minor, Harris could not have asked for a better way to unite all three of his academic pursuits.
"I've always been in love with cinema," he says. "This film is the largest project I have undertaken as a producer and director, and it is nice to have work to show film schools in the near future."
The film is entirely student-made, from the filming and interviews to the soundtrack, which was written by Harris' friend Jimmy Hawkins ’13.
"He'd created the score for a spring theatrical production on campus," says Harris. "He had never composed a film score before, so he was thrilled to cut his teeth on something like this."
The result of all these various students' work is a documentary that captures the high excitement of a once-in-a-lifetime event. And while the film is a great trip down memory lane for students and other members of the community, Harris asserts that the piece also underscores equally important but lesser-known elements of the College.
"I hope this film serves as a reminder that this institution is capable of outstanding achievements, but there are more important things that Centre does every day," Harris explains, adding, "To find out what those things are, you'll have to watch the film."
The screening is on Friday, October 11, 2013 at 7 p.m. in Vahlkamp Theatre.
The Cowan VP Debate celebration will be held 5-7 p.m. in the Campus Center; VP Debate memorabilia, including banners and posters, will be raffled, silent auctioned and available for purchase. Memorabilia will also be available for purchase through Homecoming Weekend (Nov. 1-2), the proceeds of which benefit the Hockensmith Memorial Fund.
Centre College, founded in 1819, offers its students a world of opportunities, highlighted by the nation's premier study abroad program and a faculty ranked #5 in the nation for "Best Undergraduate Teaching" at a liberal arts college by U.S. News & World Report in 2013. Centre graduates enjoy extraordinary success, with entrance to top graduate and professional schools, prestigious fellowships for further study abroad (Rhodes, Rotary, Fulbright), and rewarding jobs (on average, 97 percent are employed or in advanced study within 10 months of graduation).