School Leader Brings Hollywood Expertise to Winston-Salem Program
Pollock produced Hollywood features and wrote for major publications
before turning to education.
said he will resign as dean at the end of the 2005-2006 school
year to return to teaching and continue his involvement with RiverRun.
By Allan Maurer
If graduates of the N.C. School of the Arts film
school in Winston-Salem land a career half as successful as any
of the three the Dean of the school had, they'll be fortunate.
they'll just be well educated in the art, science and business
of film-making, and all at the under-grad level. That's what Dean
Dale Pollock would say. Pollock produced 13 feature films,
including "House of Cards" in North Carolina, "Set It Off," "Mrs.
Winterbourne," and "Blaze."
some famous film-makers before him, such as Truffaut, Godard
and Peter Bogdanovitch, Pollock was a film critic and journalist
prior to making them. He worked as chief film critic and box office
analyst for "Daily Variety," and then chief film reporter
at the Los Angeles Times calendar, business, metro, and editorial
sections. "Skywalking," his 1983 biography
of George Lucas, continues to sell briskly.
The bio info
the School of the Arts sends out says he's "a writer at heart,"
and that certainly shows. He freelanced for publications such
as "GQ," "People," "Esquire," and "Rolling Stone."
who freelanced for major national magazines, I have to say, one,
you actually have to try to write for publications at that level
to get a sense of how hard it is. I wrote for national magazines
from Playboy to Modern Maturity, but it took some doing,
and as a writing teacher, I know how many people spend a decade
trying to hit even one publication at that level.
media credits would be impressive if he'd never made a single
movie. "I'm on my third career now, but they just sort of evolved,
one into the other," Pollock says. "I didn't start out to be a
producer. I spent a lot of time on sets and was offered a job.
Teaching became an extension of producing. I was asked to lecture.
In my mind, every one of my careers flowed one out of the other."
Maybe so, but he does admit they're all high risk professions,
freelance writing, film producing, college administration. "I've
always lived a little bit on the edge," he says. Pollock tried
to do work in Hollywood different from everyone else's. "I did
two anti-war films. I did two films that treat people of color
in unique situations. It's not like I was out there being a pure
artist," he confesses,
"I did some stupid Disney programmers and romantic comedies.
But I can look back and be proud of the work I did and not too
many producers I know can say that."
Now I've altered the structure of the way this interview went
for dramatic effect. Dean Pollock started by discussing not himself,
but the film school. "I think being a movie producer was real
good training for being a dean," he began. "You have this large
thing you're managing. You have a large crew, your faculty and
staff; you have a large cast, your students; and you have a schedule.
So I think it helped me become an effective dean."
He adds, "I actually think the producer is the least understood
person in the film making process. A lot of people think he's
just there to raise money or sleep with the actresses. In my experience,
the producer is the key person for making the film a reality."
He has a mindfilm of sorts running at the School of the Arts,
a vision of making its undergraduate program compete with the
graduate film schools, and anyone who's seen the films coming
from it at the RiverRun Film Festival it hosts annually knows
they're doing just that. In 2005, student works from the School
of the Arts were one of the strongest items on the program, something
national reviewers noted. "I really think our student films are
competitive with those from graduate programs around the country.
And that's a point of pride for us," the dean says.
"The challenge as an undergraduate institution is to teach at
the graduate level," says Pollock. "We have a full producing curriculum.
We teach concepts and strategies usually only taught in graduate
school. We not only teach how to budget, how to do a schedule
and use software to help you do all those things, but also how
to develop material. How to structure contracts. It really is
a business and creative education we think is pretty unique among
The hardest thing to teach, says Pollock, "is creativity. We believe
creativity can be taught. You have to expose yourself to lots
of different artistic activities. We encourage students to go
to dance, concerts, plays. It's just as important to their development
as artists as watching films.
You have to work hard to overcome the monoculture that happens
at any school of the arts. "We can teach technique, and we can
teach craft, but teaching how to get in touch with that part of
yourself that can create is the biggest challenge."
He says the most arduous part is elevating the stories students
come up with beyond the clichéd, imitative and banal level. "I
think we've made great strides in the past five years in beginning
to elevate the level of storytelling dealing more in depth,"
Pollock says. "I know for a fact, having seen a lot of student
work, their stories are different because they're southern. They
don't look or sound like films made in LA or New York. They don't
always have the level of acting talent you get with professionals
from LA or New York. But we do have an amazing pool of local talent
from around the state."
Pollock has served on the Piedmont Triad Film Commission and the
Governor's Task Force on Film, as well as the NC Film Council.
He is also a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts
One area Pollock believes the state should pay more attention
to is encouraging independent film makers to film here. "Most
independents can't film abroad, they don't have the money," he
says. "Most can't shoot in LA or New York, it's too expensive
for them. But we're a right-to-work state with a large crew base
in part staffed from my program.
Right now, 80 percent of our graduates leave for LA or New York.
I'd like to see 80 percent stay here." Pollock says the school
has fully committed to digital film-making. "That's what film
festivals want." It's also likely the future of the industry,
because the economics of shooting, shipping, and showing digital
prints, not to mention the savings in time and money of shooting
and editing digitally, are enormous.
There's no shortage of film on campus, however, as the school
owns a massive 25,000 print collection of features, shorts, documentaries,
The NC School of the Arts Studio Village
The school also boasts a remarkable set of facilities built to
resemble a Hollywood back lot, which include a fine theatre. When
the School conducted an event centered on ethics in film, people
attended from top film schools nationwide and one well known academic
Pollock says likely saw every film school campus in the country,
called the Winston-Salem School's "the best." Pollock himself
says the high quality facilities were "Why I chose to come here."
Founded in 1993, the School of Filmmaking is one of five professional
schools that make up the North Carolina School of the Arts, a
leading conservatory for training talented students for careers
in the arts. The School of Filmmaking offers a Bachelor of Fine
Arts and College Arts Diploma in cinematography, directing, editing
and sound, producing, production design, and screenwriting, and
a Master of Fine Arts in film music composition. The school combines
rigorous professional training with unparalleled facilities, equipment
and resources. The program is young enough to be flexible and
forward-looking, but still maintain a strong emphasis in all the
film crafts, using both traditional and new digital media.
Read our NCFlix
- Now that we're veteran film fest goers, we like
reading about them, too. Brian D. Johnson's "Brave
Films, Wild Nights," about the Toronto International
Film Festival, is lavishly illustrated and makes you feel as if
you were part of the festival staff for the festival's first 25
an insider look at stars and directors from John Cassavetes
to Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty. The festival
was instrumental in launching the careers of art house stalwarts
Atom Egoyan, Hal Hartley and supported John Sayles'
independent films from the their auspicious start with the elegiac
"Return of the Secaucus Seven," which those of
us who grew up in the 1960s still watch with throat-lumping nostalgia.
But it also gave Quentin Tarantino a boost for "Reservoir
Dogs", and launched "Boogie Nights,"
"The Big Chill," and "Life is Beautiful.
also runs an influential series of "Midnight Movies,"
which included "Man Bites Dog."
Author Brian Johnson, now a very good film critic with
the Canadian magazine "MacLeans," worked
with the festival for years and knows where the bodies are buried
(and doesn't hesitate to unearth them for us, either).
The art and layout of this over-sized paperback is very modern
with pull-up quotes running off the page and some odd art cropping
that reminds me of the grunge graphic style that evolved from
"Radar" magazine some years back.
fest book we enjoyed very much is:
on the Riviera by Carl Beauchamp and Henri Behar. It's
full of stories about stars, directors, parties, and of course
both books in the extensive list of festival books here: Film
If you enjoy visiting the locations where films were made, or
restaurants stars enjoy, or other "film tourist" activities,
these guides will help you "put yourself in the picture."
Be sure to visit our film tourism blog, too: http://filmtourism.blogspot.com
writer's complete fantasy reference chapters
by publishers of this Web site: