Award-winning faculty filmmaker directs film as part of Earth Day collaboration

Students participated in effort that included TV actors and veteran behind-the-scenes pros

Penn Staters on set for the filming of "The Ice Cream Cake" included (from left): Morgan Seiff, Emily Catalano, Kathryn Mellett, faculty member Pearl Gluck, Darcy Long and Emily Yarnall. Credit: Tamar LondonAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A Penn State faculty member has produced a short, call-to-action film featuring actors whose credits include “Atlanta,” “Law and Order” and “Orange is the New Black” for the New Jersey-based The Nature Conservancy. The film will be available online on Earth Day, April 22.

Pearl Gluck, an assistant professor of film in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, co-directed the film with Jennifer Howd, an independent filmmaker. Gluck met Howd at the Female Eye Film Festival last year, when Gluck’s feature, “The Turn Out,” won Best Debut Feature.

Shortly after, The Nature Conservancy sent Howd a script titled “Ice Cream Cake” to consider, and she reached out to Gluck. The short comedy, which runs a little over two minutes, was written by author Mara Altman, Chandra Lee Breslow and Josh Breslow.

Pearl Gluck, an assistant professor of film in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, co-directed "The Ice Cream Cake" with Jennifer Howd, an independent filmmaker, for the New Jersey-based The Nature Conservancy. Credit: The Nature Conservancy

A filmmaker whose work is focused on activism, Gluck was happy to participate in the effort.

“I was excited about the opportunity to cast and directed an ensemble comedy,” Gluck said. “I also think a call-to-action through comedy can be very effective.”

Gluck also cast some actors she has worked with in the past and offered her students internships on the one-day film shoot. Students work with seasoned industry professionals such as Leland Krane, director of photography, and his crew; assistant director Erica Rose; and food stylists and makeup artists. The shoot took place March 23 in Morristown, New Jersey.

“My film students worked really hard on set,” Gluck said. “They were inspired and tireless. I think it’s a great opportunity to be an activist about the environment and at the same time contribute with your art and skills.”

The director of marketing for The Nature Conservancy, Mary Conti, later praised the students in a letter to Bellisario College Dean Marie Hardin. She wrote: “I can’t say enough good things about this team of young people. They tended to so many details: set décor and continuity, props, snacks, cleanup, the list goes on — with enthusiasm, efficiency and good humor. Their efforts really put a polish on the long day’s work.”

After its Earth Day rollout, “Ice Cream Cake” will make its official premiere at the Montclair Film Festival, scheduled May 3-12 in Montclair, New Jersey. It will air before the feature film, “The Elephant Queen,” narrated by Academy Award-nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”).

Actors featured in the short film are (from left): Veronica Dang, Freddie Kuguru, Gayle Samuels, Thea McCartan, Esteban Bonito and Shawna Hamic. Credit: Tamar LondonAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated June 02, 2021