In a small town in Southern Appalachia, a trucker must decide if he will stand up and take action against sex trafficking at his truckstop. The Turn Out melds the testimony and talents of sex trafficking survivors, anti-trafficking activists, and truckers with the work of film professionals to create an unflinching docu-drama of moral dilemma and personal connection in the local landscape of Glouster, Ohio, Athens County, and Mineral Wells, West Virginia.

“My grandmother was sold at a local truckstop from the time she was 12 until she turned 18 and became an adult … your movie hit me hard. It was as if I was watching my grandmother on that screen.”
– Jessica Graham, Survivor’s Ink

“I’m still thinking about the amazing performances you got from your actors.”
– Tony Buba, Braddock Films

Director’s Statement

In 2014, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received reports of 3,598 sex trafficking cases in the United States alone. The year before that, on September 2013, two arrests were made in Athens, Ohio, in a domestic sex trafficking case: a young girl was being trafficked by her father’s girlfriend in exchange for drugs and money. Eleven years prior, in 2002, a trucker parked at a travel center in Detroit made a phone call to report his suspicions of two girls being trafficked at his truckstop. He saved the lives of a young girl and her cousin who were kidnapped from Toledo, Ohio, and trafficked across state lines.

Based initially on these two stories and the research I conducted in Ohio when I was teaching at Ohio University’s School of Film, I wrote The Turn Out in 2014.

Set in Southern Appalachia, the film examines domestic trafficking at truckstops in rural America through the story of a trucker named Crowbar who comes to the excruciating realization that he has become an active part of a sex trafficking ring when he engages with an underage victim. The film explores the choices he makes once he is aware of her situation.

While The Turn Out is inspired by the story of a trucker who did not purchase sex but made a phone call at a truckstop that saved the lives of two victims, the fictionalized version the trucker is a less-than-heroic everyman who actually engages in the sex trade. To him, a quick, inexpensive rendezvous with a prostitute is an innocuous respite. The Turn Out challenges simplistic understandings of bystander, perpetrator, and victim. By the end of the film, Crowbar comes to realize that he is, in fact, culpable and could play an essential role in prevention.

To inform the narrative, I interviewed survivors of trafficking, truckers, and legislators and incorporated their voices into the narrative. The documentary elements of the film also informed the casting. For example, a trucker for the United States Post Office plays Crowbar, a survivor of 25 years of being trafficked on the streets of Columbus, Ohio, is the advocate who works with the underage victim. Neveah (“Heaven spelled backwards”) is played by a young woman who, herself, was subjected to inner-family trafficking because of drug addiction in Chauncey, one of the five poorest counties in Ohio. She shared her own story about how she had managed to escape her heroine-addicted mother when she was traded for drugs to a dealer. Jack Wright, co-founder of Appalshop (Appalachia’s multimedia arts center), tells the story of the Wipple Company Store in Fayette county on early signs of trafficking in the region.

Staying true to the regionality of the issue, the film is set at the aging Liberty Truck Stop in West Virginia, and Glouster, also one of the poorest counties in Southern Ohio.

As an additional note on the storytelling, my grandmother, a survivor of Auschwitz, often said to me: “I don’t know why they keep making those films on the Holocaust, killing us over and over on screen.” I took her sentiments to heart and for this reason, I decided not to show the actual sexual abuse in The Turn Out on screen. The film focuses on a bystander who can challenge our proverbial blindness and encourage the viewers to see what is otherwise hidden but directly on our doorsteps.

This film raises questions of women’s agency and victimization and counters the misconception that trafficking predominantly involves girls and women who come from outside the United States. This film highlights that a majority of the women committing a “crime” of solicitation are actually forced into it. For example, State Representative Teresa Fedor, a consultant on the film, has made this her bipartisan life work and after a long struggle, finally passed the End Demand Act in Ohio in June 2014.

From my research, it is clear that addiction, poverty, and lack of opportunities are some of the leading causes of domestic inner-family sex trafficking.

Pearl Gluck

Additional Writers
Barbara Freeman
James Gagne, Jr.

Ildiko Szollosi
Anjali Kumar

Director of Photography
Stephen Blahut

Kristan Sprague

Original Composition & Score
Chris Rattie 
featuring Natty Lou Race and Raven and the Wren

James Gagne, Jr.
Regina Westerviller
Katie Stottlemire
Christopher Mele
Heather Caldwell
Marlo Tinkham
Andre Gribou
Luzer Twersky

Additional Cast & Crew Credits Here

Female Eye Film Festival

Cutting Edge Film Festival

Iowa Independent Film Festival

American Tracks Music Awards
“Heaven Spelled Backwards”

Ojai International Film Festival
Ojai, CA
Saturday, November 3, 2018 &
Saturday, November 7, 2018

YoFi Film Festival
New York, NY
November 2-11, 2018

Cutting Edge Film Festival
October 25, 2018, 8PM

Portland Film Festival
Portland, OR
October 22-28, 2018

Social Justice Film Festival
Seattle, WA
October 14, 2018

Heartland International Film Festival
Indianapolis, ID
October 11-21, 2018

Iowa Independent Film Festival
Mason City & Clear Lake, IA
August 25, 2018

Female Eye Film Festival
Toronto, Ontario
June 27, 2018, 10pm

The Rowland Theatre
Philipsburg, PA
April 28, 2018, 7PM

Athens International Film Festival
Athens, OH
April 11, 2018

Columbus International Film & Animation Festival
Columbus, OH
March 23, 2018, 7-9pm

From Trucker to actor: New movie shows sex trafficking through eyes of trucker
April 17, 2018

Athens International Film Festival to celebrate 45th year
April 11, 2018
The Athens Messenger

Pearl Gluck’s film “The Turn Out”
April 10, 2018
Talk Radio WRNR

Former OU professor to bring film back to Athens for International Film and Video Festival
April 10, 2018
The Post

Film sees human trafficking through eyes of truck driver
March 22, 2018
The Columbus Dispatch

Penn State Professor’s Film Aims to Generate Awareness on Trafficking
November 10, 2017

Take Note: Pearl Gluck On Her New Film, “The Turn Out”
May 27, 2016

Penn State Film Professor Pearl Gluck Focuses Lens On Sex Trafficking
Novemeber 24, 2014
Centre Daily Times

Student Perspectives: The Turn Out & Independent Filmmaking In Ohio
October 14, 2014
Ohio University Film

OU Prof’s Feature Film To Spotlight Issue Of Sex Trafficking
June 25, 2014
WOUB Digital

Feature Film To Spotlight Issue Of Sex Trafficking
June 19, 2014
Ohio Research

Film Cameo
July 17, 2014
Consider The Thought