Spend a night at the movies with Dale Pollock at Reynolda House

by Mark Burger

Dale Pollock knows a thing or two about movies, and maybe a bit more than that.

As a journalist, he covered the film industry as a reporter (and sometime reviewer) for Variety and the Los Angeles Times. In 1983, he also penned the best-selling and self-explanatory biography Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas.

Pollock then made the crossover into film development working with the Geffen Company (which produced Martin Scorsese’s After Hours and Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice) before striking out on his own to become a Hollywood producer himself, with 13 films to his credit, including the critically acclaimed 1992 adaptation of William Wharton’s A Midnight Clear and the 1996 box-office hit Set It Off.

Then, in 1998, he bid farewell to Hollywood to come to Winston-Salem and assume the duties of dean of the School of Filmmaking at UNC School of the Arts, a position he held until 2006 — at which point he stepped down and settled into his current role as a School of Filmmaking faculty member. This semester he’s teaching courses on the Coen Brothers and 1970s Cinema.

But that’s not all he’s teaching. Beginning April 27, Pollock will bring his enthusiasm and expertise to a series of screenings at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art (2250 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem), called How to Watch a Movie.

“A lot of people don’t know how to talk about movies,” he says. The class is designed to make one aware “how you appreciate a film” by focusing on a specific attribute, be it script, cinematography, direction or editing.

This marks Pollock’s third year teaching the course. The first year, he focused on New York movies. The next year was a more random selection. This year, he wanted to go back to a specific genre.

“The concept remains the same,” he says.

“The movies change.” This year, Pollock has selected six films that depict and explore different aspects of life in the South (the course is subtitled The South in Film): Hallelujah! (1928), which marked director King Vidor’s first talkie and earned him an Academy Award nomination as Best Director; Jean Renoir’s The Southerner (1945), which was based on George Sessions Perry’s award-winning novel Hold Autumn in Your Hand and earned three Oscar nominations including Renoir as Best Director; Elia Kazan’s landmark 1951 adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, which earned 12 Oscar nominations (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Marlon Brando as Best Actor) and won four (including Vivien Leigh as Best Actress, Karl Malden as Best Supporting Actor and Kim Hunter as Best Supporting Actress); Robert Mulligan’s 1962 adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), which earned eight Oscar nominations (including Best Picture and Best Director) and won three (including Gregory Peck as Best Actor and for

Horton Foote’s adapted screenplay); John Boorman’s adaptation of James Dickey’s best-selling novel Deliverance (1972), which earned three Oscar nominations (including Best Picture and Best Director); and the award-winning romantic drama All the Real Girls (2003), which was filmed on location in Marshall and was written and directed by David Gordon Green, a 1998 graduate of the School of Filmmaking.

Following each screening, Pollock will lead an informal discussion regarding the film’s merits and encouraging feedback from the audience. Even after teaching students at UNC School of the Arts all day, Pollock finds the Reynolda House classes equally stimulating.

“It’s a real pleasure to teach adults,” Pollock says. “A big part of the class is the post-screening discussion, and adults are more willing to express their feelings.”

Even before he settled here, Pollock was no stranger to Southern filmmaking. The 1989 drama Blaze, which starred Paul Newman as Governor Earl K. Long, was filmed in location in Louisiana, and the 1993 drama House of Cards, which starred Kathleen Turner and Tommy Lee Jones, was filmed in the Piedmont Triad.

The How to Watch a Movie: The South in Film screenings will be held 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays, beginning April 27. Subsequent classes will be May 4, 18 and 25, and June 1 and 8. (There will be no class May 11.)

The registration fee is $150; $120 for students and Reynolda House members. Early registration is suggested.

For more information about the series (or about any of the goings-on at Reynolda House), see the official website: