Students play important role in film project

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A Penn State faculty member’s film project has moved closer to completion thanks to the contributions of several students.

“The Turn Out,” based on two years of investigation and research by filmmaker Pearl Gluck, attempts to bring awareness to the realities of domestic sex trafficking at local truck stops. Set in southern Appalachia, truck drivers and sex trafficking survivors comprise some of the cast for the film. 

Several Penn State film-video students played key roles in the film’s production. From principal photography and on-location shoots in Ohio and West Virginia to post-production and promotion, the students have gained valuable hands-on experience supporting the film, including creating a teaser of the film for its related fundraising campaign.

Because faculty filmmakers in the College of Communications consistently complement their classroom duties by producing films — in documentary, narrative and experimental styles — students regularly get the opportunity for valuable professional experience.

In this instance, Gluck thinks the message of the film adds even more value. “I believe this film has the power to spark, educate and inspire a much needed discussion about the underlying causes of sex trafficking right here in America,” Gluck said. “The film raises questions of women’s agency and victimization, and counters the misconception that trafficking predominantly involves girls and women who come from outside the United States. The film highlights that a majority of the women committing a ‘crime’ of solicitation are actually forced into it.”

One student, senior film-video major Allen Rounsley, who is currently completing a semester-long internship as part of the inaugural Penn State Hollywood Program, worked closely with film editor Kristan Sprague. Sprague, with a long list of film credits, was nominated for a 2015 Film Independent Spirit Award for his editing work.

“It was a huge learning experience for me. Working on this film helped me get my feet wet working with industry-level filmmakers,” Rounsley said. “From working with Kristan as an assistant editor to editing the trailer, I learned so much and gained a greater appreciation for the post-production process. I’m excited to be behind a film bringing light to a very important issue, and I am proud of what I was able to do for the film.”

Among the half-dozen students who helped with the film was Brandon Scotland, who earned his degree in May 2015. He said the project was a springboard that helped launch him into the film-video industry.

“Working with Pearl on ‘The Turn Out’ was an opportunity to apply the sum of my filmmaking experience and my Penn State education on a project of substance with a great story and real production constraints,” Scotland said “I was honored by the responsibility, took ownership, pushed my limits, and it helped me to achieve more than I previously thought I was capable of doing. It set the stage for my post-college work ethic and opened the door to the work that I’ve since accomplished as an assistant director.”

Key organizations that have helped inform the film project were the Athens Child Advocacy Center in Ohio and Truckers Against Trafficking. Gluck’s work also earned support from the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Penn State.

Gluck joined the Penn State faculty in 2014, bringing a valuable mix of professional and teaching experience after previously teaching at Ohio University, Indiana University, Emory University and Rutgers University. She has taught courses on screenwriting, production, directing, film criticism, film studies and Jewish studies.

She has also conducted independent studies for graduate and undergraduate students, and has advised thesis projects. Through her classes and her filmmaking, she explores themes such as autobiographical film and representations of class, gender and faith in cinema.

Last Updated February 01, 2016