Arts and Entertainment

Penn State partners with Rowland Theatre for Centre Film Festival Nov. 8-10

Inaugural film festival is helping empower next generation of storytellers in Philipsburg

Penn State film-video student Justin Gibbs, right, works with Philipsburg-Oseola Senior High School student Scott Frantz, left, as they set up equipment in preparation to shoot a short film about one of the people involved with the Centre Film Festival. Gibbs said he's excited to have the chance to encourage young filmmakers to "tell [their] own story." Credit: Michael Garrett / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When she first stepped foot into the historic Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg, Pearl Gluck knew she was looking at something special.

The Rowland Theatre is, in many ways, a monument to an earlier era of film history: a single-screen theater constructed in 1917, its interior lavishly decorated with sculptures of cherubs, rich crimson carpeting and Tuscan-style pillars. But Gluck, an assistant professor of film-video at Penn State, didn’t see just see the theater’s connection to the past — she had a vision for how it could shape the future and help empower the next generation of filmmakers.

“I instantly got drawn in, and I was thinking about ways in which we can engage the youth who are here in Philipsburg and this region with what already exists here,” Gluck said. “I knew there was something here that was brewing.”

That vision has blossomed into the inaugural Centre Film Festival on Nov. 8-10, which is bringing together community leaders and Penn State expertise while connecting young filmmakers with the mentorship they need to help them to tell their own stories.

The Centre Film Festival on Nov. 8-10, organized by Assistant Professor of Film-Video Pearl Gluck, is helping empower aspiring filmmakers from Penn State and local high schools to pursue their passions. 

'Some stories need to be known'

The Centre Film Festival will feature three days of themed film exhibitions and Q&A sessions and interactive discussions with award-winning directors, filmmakers and other invited guests. Some highlights of the festival schedule include:

  • Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace,” a history of the great theaters from America’s rich history of film and cinema, followed by a Q&A with the director April Wright; photographer Matt Lambros, who is featured in the film; and Rebecca Inlow, a Rowland Theatre Board of Directors member who wrote a book chronicling the theater’s history.
  • The seminal Peabody Award-winning documentary “Riding the Rails,” which chronicles the lives of young hobos during the Great Depression and the hardships they endured. Afterwards, Philipsburg native and self-described “former hobo king” Luther Gette will discuss his own experiences riding freight trains across the nation.
  • A celebration of folk and Americana music, with a screening of the documentary “Fiddlin’,” followed by a live performance of noted West Virginia bluegrass band The Hillbilly Gypsies.

Gluck said her vision is to “let these streets, their history and this incredible theater inspire the ability to educate across generations” — and to that end, the Centre Film Festival will also feature a series of masterclasses in which accomplished professionals will lead hands-on courses on photography, music, storytelling and dance with local high school students.

The Centre Film Festival, to be held Nov. 8-10 at the historic Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg, will feature an array of film exhibitions, Q&A's with directors and invited guests, musical performances, and a series of masterclasses led by acclaimed directors, photographers, dancers and storytellers. Credit: Michael Garrett / Penn StateCreative Commons

“It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to be doing this,” said Scott Franz, a first-year student at Philipsburg-Osceola Senior High School who will be participating in the storytelling masterclass led by Susan Russell, associate professor of theater and the 2014-15 Penn State Laureate.

Franz said having the opportunity to learn directly from accomplished directors and filmmakers will help him grow as a director and storyteller. He recently completed his first short film — a documentary about his track-and-field coach’s battle with cancer, which he made as a tribute to the impact she’s had in the lives of the athletes she coaches.

“[I want to make films] because some people’s stories need to be known. Some people are very special in what they do,” Frantz said. “People need to know what kind of life other people are living, to hopefully improve their own, or someone else’s."

And it’s exactly that passion to bring people together through the power of storytelling that Gluck said she hopes to cultivate and inspire through the Centre Film Festival.

“I get how this time of your life can be deeply life-changing — and life-inspiring — depending on what you know,” Gluck said. “The whole purpose of creating a platform like this or an event like this is for people to have an excuse to do what they're passionate about.”

Pearl Gluck — an assistant professor of film-video, seen here inside the historic Rowland Theatre — envisions the Centre Film Festival as an annual event that brings together experts from Penn State with local high school students and aspiring filmmakers to empower them to pursue their passions.  Credit: Michael Garrett / Penn StateCreative Commons

'Keep doing what you love'

Empowering the next generation of storytellers is a principle that’s built into every level of the festival. In addition to the masterclasses for aspiring filmmakers, an entire section of the festival’s schedule is dedicated to short films produced by high school students around the world and selected by Penn State undergraduate film students, including Frantz’s documentary, “Not Just A Team.”

Justin Gibbs, a senior studying film-video, is one of the students who served on the jury that selected the student films being exhibited at the festival. He’s also helped produce a series of short films, titled “Caught in the Act,” about the people behind making the festival happen. For Gibbs, the Centre Film Festival is a chance to help show aspiring storytellers and filmmakers that there are resources and expertise available to help them succeed.

“I want to be there for these high school students, to tell them, ‘Hey, I was in your shoes not too long ago. This was my path. You can create your own path, and you can tell your own story,’” Gibbs said. “’Keep exploring the arts. Keep doing what you love.’”

Penn State film-video student Remington Daron scouts a filming location behind the Rowland Theatre. He is one of several students producing a series of short films, titled "Caught in the Act," that profile the different people involved with the Centre Film Festival. Credit: Michael Garrett / Penn StateCreative Commons

Rebecca Inlow, as a member of the theater’s board of directors, said she thinks the goals of the Centre Film Festival align with the theater's vision: to celebrate the history of Philipsburg and the surrounding region, while also providing a service and a resource that continues to serve the community into the future.

“Everybody alive today who either grew up in Philipsburg, or Central Pennsylvania in this area, has a memory of the Rowland Theatre,” Inlow said.

Now the Penn State and local high school students involved with the festival will have their own new, unique memories at the historic theater.

“Penn State is enabling them to be a part of something that is much bigger than they’ve ever been a part of,” Inlow said. “This could lead to them having a future in a career like this.”

Although it’s only the first year of the festival, Gluck already has plans for next year and beyond. Given the enthusiasm that she’s already seen for the event, Gluck is optimistic for the future of the Centre Film Festival and the relationship between Penn State and the Philipsburg community.

“The overall vision is, eventually, a brick-and-mortar place where students can come after high school and think about any element of filmmaking,” Gluck said. “My goal is to try to educate students on the ways they can monetize their passions and the skills they have, to show them you can support yourself while also doing something you love.”

To learn more about the festival schedule or purchase tickets, visit

The Rowland Theatre, constructed in 1917, is a monument to an earlier era of American cinema. A single-screen theater with a handsomely decorated interior, the Rowland Theatre was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Credit: Michael Garrett / Penn StateCreative Commons


Last Updated October 31, 2019