GEORGETOWN — Polly's Freeze's neon parrot sign has long been a retro icon in Southern Indiana, and since it opened in 1952, the Georgetown ice cream shop and restaurant has been beloved by community members for generations. And because of that history and vintage atmosphere, it turned out to be an ideal filming location for an upcoming television series.
A few weeks ago, a production crew shot scenes at Polly's Freeze, located on Indiana 62, for a trailer of a World War II anthology series that will be pitched to a variety of major streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. After scouting several other locations in Indiana and Kentucky for the scene, the team decided upon Polly's Freeze to serve as its stateside, WWII-era ice cream shop. The working title of the series is "Unknown Soldier."
Director Mark Alex Vogt, who grew up in Louisville, actually has a personal connection to Polly's Freeze — it was his family's favorite when he was growing up in the area, even though he lived closer to ice cream shops such as Dairy Kastle and Dairy Del. His grandparents would take his father there as a kid, so it is "ingrained" in his family's history, he said.
"I’d been here dozens of times as a kid, but I just hadn’t been for a decade, and I remembered there was this place close by," he said. "We just drove over one afternoon, and it was perfect."
Carol Boyle, who owns Polly's Freeze with her husband and two friends, was thrilled to watch the filming at the beloved ice cream shop, where she has worked since 1987.
"It was so fun, like I can cross that off my bucket list of things Polly’s Freeze has been able to do," she said.
Boyle said they try not to change the 1950's atmosphere of Polly's Freeze. Polly and Elmer Gleitz opened Polly’s Freeze in 1952, and from the start, the neon parrot sign has been a beacon for customers.
"A lot of people are like, 'I grew up with Polly’s Freeze, I brought my kids, bringing my grandkids,'" she said. "They’re like, 'a whole lot hasn’t changed,' and that’s what I like to hear, because we still like to have some place that’s very family-friendly that you’re not afraid to bring your kids — they can run around in the backyard and run some energy off."
Each episode of the series will feature a different "forgotten story" of WWII, and the anthology will be like "'Band of Brothers' meets 'Twilight Zone' or 'Black Mirror,'" Vogt said. The crew is now working to complete what is essentially a "glorified trailer," for the series, and he hopes to eventually return to Polly's Freeze for the filming of the episode itself if feasible.
"We were originally going to shoot a pilot episode, but in today’s world, a studio likes to be very involved with the way a pilot is shot, so they like to know who's in it, how it’s done — all of that stuff," he said. "This is our resume, if you will, for saying, 'hey, you can trust us and we can pull it off this far, let us take it further. The intention is that it would go to executives. It's basically going to many different markets. We're going to LA in about four weeks, and we have a whole bunch of meetings lined up to market it."
The scene shot at Polly's Freeze takes place in 1944, and it features a conversation between a recently-drafted father and his daughter at the ice cream shop. In the scene, the father explains to his young daughter that he will be going off to war.
"It's a very emotional scene, especially for the father, because we as an audience and people who know what actually happens — we know what it means — and she asks when he’s coming back," Vogt said. "That’s hard to explain to a kid."
The episode with the Polly's Freeze scene is focused on the "pathfinders" of WWII, who were a team of paratroopers that were among the first Allied soldiers to parachute into Normandy ahead of the D-Day landings. The show will also feature stories about the 442nd Infantry Regiment, a highly-decorated unit composed of Japanese American soldiers, and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).
During the filming, the crew actually didn't have to change too much about Polly's Freeze, Vogt said. They had to paint over the parking lot, and they removed the signs at the window. The crew, which includes Louisville's 180 Degrees Film Production, has also filmed scenes in locations ranging from Fort Knox to Louisville.
"The first thing we do when we’re making a period piece show like that, we look at, what do we need to change, what do we need to add, are there anything visual effects wise or dressing wise that we need?" he said. "When we came here, we sat in one part of the parking lot and looked in one direction, and we were like, there is almost nothing [we need to change].
The scene features a wide shot of the whole building, and the parrot sign is "front and center," Vogt said. "The crew also brought in several vintage cars for the filming, including a 1939 Pontiac.
Boyle is looking forward to seeing the finished product, and she is grateful to see so much community support for Polly's Freeze.
"We’re just thankful that the community is so behind everything that we do, and that helps people like [Vogt] remember, hey, we’re still here, and that it’s a great family atmosphere that’s here," she said.