Three months ago, artistic director and Penn State film professor Pearl Gluck knew she wanted the Centre Film Festival to bring people together, but only two details were certain — the date and venue.
Now less than a week away, the weekend-long festival has become a reality filled with over 25 screenings, special guests and live entertainment. A celebration of community, film and local roots, “Stories at the Rowland” — held at the Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg — will take place Friday-Nov. 10, offering screenings, entertainment and free master classes.
Film topics vary — roots music, the fate of historic movie palaces, hobo living, Vietnam War veterans — but all relate to life in rural America. All access passes, day passes and individual tickets can be purchased online, but students and veteran admissions are free. Long Motor Buses will be providing a free shuttle service to attendees, departing from the front entrance of the HUB-Robeson Center.
“I think it’s incredible that so many people have come together to make this happen,” Gluck said. “I think that’s the most amazing thing ever, but I’m not surprised. It was community-run from the very beginning.”
A community effort
Gluck, a New York native and filmmaker, was inspired by the Rowland after she screened an original film at the theater last year. Wanting to showcase the “power of film” in a way that includes Centre County communities, residents and Penn State students, she thought the 102-year-old theater was the perfect place for the event. With the help of community members, Penn State faculty and local students, Gluck was able to organize a full schedule of events.
“I love the idea of bringing people to the area,” she said, adding that the festival is meant to foster connections between attendees, films and the stories they have to tell. “There is a community in Philipsburg already, and this is really about the two coming together and about starting a conversation that I think has been informally going on.”
Rebecca Inlow, a member of the Rowland’s board of directors, assisted in planning the festival and said the Rowland volunteers are “thrilled” to be part of Gluck’s vision. Excited to see the festival make its debut and continue to grow, Inlow said she hopes it will help put the theater and Philipsburg community on the festival map.
“The film festival will let us introduce the Rowland Theatre and Philipsburg to filmmakers from across the country and to visitors from across Pennsylvania,” Inlow said. “We are very excited to let the Rowland shine for the weekend.”
The festival will begin with an opening ceremony at 5 p.m. Friday. Each block of films fits into an overarching theme but have a unique story to tell, Gluck said.
Four masterclasses will be offered 11 a.m. Saturday and are free to attendees. Topics, which will be taught by local and visiting artists, range from photography, music, storytelling and dancing.
Local businesses — Shindig Alley, Organic Climbing, Brown Dog Catering, Poppy & Co., Olenick’s Printing, Napa Auto Parts and the Moshannon Valley YMCA — donated food, prizes and time to help make the festival a reality, Gluck said.
A learning experience
With over 33 volunteers and local sponsors, Gluck said planning the festival was a learning experience both “inside and out.”
“To me, the learning curve has been very inspiring — learning how to run (festivals) and how to make a festival happen in a place where there never was one before,” Gluck said.
Gluck, who said she has attended more than 300 film festivals, enlisted help from her students to promote and organize the event. Penn State students Lauren Ansell and Justin Gibbs helped film and produce “Caught in the Act,” a video series that highlights the festival, special guests and gives viewers a glimpse at some of the stories before they appear on the silver screen.
“The ‘Caught in the Act’ series was a brand new animal to me,” Ansell said. “I’m a journalism major, and I’ve never even taken a film class. When Pearl suggested I be the producer, I was intimidated and convinced I would mess up the entire production. The only reason the series is successful is because of how well the film team works together.”
Whether attendees are sitting in on a masterclass, watching a movie or participating in a post-film discussion, Gluck said visitors are sure to walk away having learned something.
Self-described former hobo and Philipsburg native Luther Gette used to hop trains as a kid in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Now curator of the Philipsburg Historical Foundation, Gette said he is most looking forward to seeing “Riding the Rails,” a 1997 film directed by Michael Uys who was awarded a plaque by Gette at an annual hobo convention held in Britt, Iowa.
“If you took one hold of your handlebar and you grabbed the end of the train with the other hand, you could get pulled out of town,” Gette said. “It was a thrill.”
Uys, who is coming to the festival, said he is excited to watch the film with Gette and debunk “some of the romance associated with hopping freight trains” even though he and his crew illegally hopped trains while filming.
“It’s a reunion too,” Gluck said. “There are so many others and so much more events happening throughout the weekend.”
With a screening of a film about veterans on Veterans Day weekend, Gluck said the festival offers a blend of historic and contemporary stories but said all are relevant now.
“It’s just incredible that we’re having these films being made that are relevant to us here,” Gluck said. “And, that we can get the filmmakers here.”
In addition to award-winning film screenings and local tales, the festival will feature student submissions. High school students were invited to enter a film competition where they will be judged by a youth jury and be awarded prizes and gratitude awards.
The best local high school short film creator will win a $250 prize that is to be spent on making a film in Philipsburg. The first place winner for best high school short, which could be entered by students across the country, will be awarded full tuition to Penn State’s summer film camp.
“It’s just such an all-inclusive experience from all these different levels,” Gluck said. “I’ve met so many educators, people who are committed to the arts and so many local people who really love being part of something like this.”
For more information and a full schedule of events, visit centrefilm.org.