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Penn State Professor, Film Director Pearl Gluck Discusses Career & Award-Winning Film

It’s no secret that Penn State has some amazing and accomplished faculty in charge of teaching and preparing the next generation of leaders.

One such individual is associate professor of film production Pearl Gluck, whose 2018 film, “The Turn Out,” was recently added to Amazon Prime. She has also written several award-winning short films and documentaries.

Gluck, who has been teaching at Penn State since 2014, also co-founded the annual Centre County Film Festival with fellow communications professor Curtis Chandler in 2019.

Though she originally set out to be an English professor or a lawyer, Gluck fell in love with being a documentarian. She said this is “sort of a combination of the two” because of the way filming perspective, handling a crew, and making everything are done legally and ethically is accomplished.

Gluck said that her love for filmmaking was apparent at a young age when her father gave her a camera and she saw how everyone in the room would react when the camera would come out.

“People just lit up and started to perform, and started to perform ourselves. I was intrigued with the way people would perform themselves,” Gluck said. “‘The Turn Out’ much, much later after this moment, is a combination of documentary and fiction.”

“The Turn Out” stars James J. Gagne Jr. and Regina Westerviller,and tells the story of a trucker in West Virginia who meets a young girl involved in a sex trafficking ring. Based on a true story, the film discusses sex trafficking rings around the United States, the survivors, and their stories. It’s a topic that Gluck is passionate about as well.

When Gluck was living in Athens, Ohio, she followed a case of sex trafficking that ultimately led to the inspiration to deviate away from writing a fictional film and to make the film based on a true story.

“[That case] made me wonder about a lot of things like, ‘What’s happening in school?’, ‘Is anyone seeing any signs?’, ‘Who’s watching?’ ‘What would cause a woman to think she needs a hit so bad that she’s willing to put her boyfriend’s kid, or in the case of my film, her own kid, up?”‘ Gluck said.

During that process, Gluck said she sought to understand the issue’s many complexities and discover its roots.

“I started to do more research and I spoke to child advocates in Athens, Ohio. They told me how typical it was, unfortunately, and that was it. I was in, and I ended up meeting a woman who eventually led me to her sister, and they had their own experience and their own family with inter-family trafficking,” Gluck said. “They helped me understand a lot of those dynamics and what the underlying causes are that might cause this kind of behavior, and how we can make a change. Not only just the awareness but the ways we can get to the root of what’s causing it.”

The film has won multiple awards at numerous film festivals around the country and in Canada, winning awards such as Best Feature at the New Filmmakers LA Film Festival and Best Debut Feature at Toronto’s Female Eye Film Festival.

“The Turn Out” was also worked on by Penn State students at the time. According to Gluck, students were involved in every step of production, and a then-Penn State student cut the trailer for the film.

Gluck is currently writing a script for her next project. You can find her entire filmography here.

Additionally, “The Turn Out” is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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About the Author

Charles Reinert

Charles Reinert is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He's from Norristown, PA and enjoys a good slice of pepperoni pizza and a brisk fall afternoon. He can be found either yelling at the Eagles through the TV during football season or playing his guitar. If you have any questions for him or want to challenge him to a 1v1 on the basketball court, you can follow him on Twitter @charles_rein10 or email him at


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