Penn State

Film delves into the world of commercial sex trafficking

Pearl Gluck (center), an assistant professor of film-video at Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, directed “The Turn Out,” which will be previewd at the State Theatre on Thursday.
Pearl Gluck (center), an assistant professor of film-video at Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, directed “The Turn Out,” which will be previewd at the State Theatre on Thursday. Photo provided

Should the wide array of students and teachers who regularly pass by Pearl Gluck’s office on the third floor of Willard Building on Penn State’s campus happen to miss the preview of her new film on Thursday, it’s not like they can claim ignorance.

Even if they don’t visit the State Theatre’s digital events calendar on a regular, there are still these things called flyers, which were attached to these other, bigger things called bulletin boards that are positioned with some frequency throughout the hallway.

The basics are easy enough to relay here: Gluck, an assistant professor of film-video at Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, will preview her latest film, “The Turn Out” at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the State Theatre.

I took care of the overwhelming part. I did the research. I lived with it for four years.

Pearl Gluck

As for the near overwhelming complexities associated with the subject of commercial sex trafficking in the United States... Well, that’s when it’s nice to be in the hands of a seasoned filmmaker.

“I took care of the overwhelming part. I did the research. I lived with it for four years,” Gluck said.

The end result is different than what you might expect from the director of projects such as “Divan” and “Junior.” Those titles operated with both feet squarely in the documentary camp, while “The Turn Out” is a little bit lighter on its toes.

Gluck interviewed survivors, bystanders and politicians just as she would for a straight documentary piece. The details and anecdotes she collected were then broken down and recompiled into the spine of a fictional narrative — or, better yet, a coat rack for themes.

Issues of complicity, drugs, the way victims are targeted — all of it was of interest to Gluck.

In “The Turn Out” those questions hang on the sole of a single trucker, who must decide whether or not he can continue to ignore the plight of a teen whose family is trafficking her at a truck stop.

“I wanted to look at someone who doesn’t know or thinks he doesn’t know,” Gluck said.

You need to hear the real story in order to believe in the cause.

Regina Westerviller

In crafting the character of Nevaeh, the young girl at the center of the trucker’s dilemma, Gluck drew many different sources, including interviews with the children of drug-addicted parents.

That’s how she met Regina Westerviller, a student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in child and family studies at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

Gluck offered Westerviller the role and she accepted.

“I think it just made it more authentic,” Westerviller said.

She’ll see the film for the first time on Thursday at the State Theatre, where she’ll participate in a panel that includes Gluck, survivor-activist Barbara Freeman and a performance by the film’s composer, local musician Chris Ratty.

The preview will also double as a purse drive to benefit those affected by human trafficking.

“You need to hear the real story in order to believe in the cause,” Westerviller said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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