Dale Pollock, author, moviemaker, and current dean
of the film school at the North Carolina School of the Arts, has
strong opinions on all things cinema. Among his many credits are
writing Skywalking, George Lucas’s biography, and producing
films such as Blaze and Set it Off. In addition to
his regular responsibilities at the NCSA, Mr. Pollock is organizing
The Cinethics Conference at the school November 9-12. Included over
the four days will be panels regarding moviemaker responsibility
and the concept of dramatic license in the age of digital effects,
specifically as they pertain to the curricula at film schools. In
this interview, he discusses the current and future states of moviemaking
geared toward the Internet.

MM: Cutting through
all of the hype, what is the status right now of moviemaking for
the Internet?

D.P.: Well, it certainly
seems like it’s become a viable means of distributing short
films. Personally, in its current form, I don’t see it getting
anywhere beyond short films because I don’t think anybody really
has the patience or the desire to see a feature film on a very small
screen-on a computer. Now, when your computer is your television
and you have a big television with a flat screen, that will be a
different story.

MM: What will the story
be then?

D.P.: It will be a whole
cultural change. First, there was the invention of film. Then you
have the addition of sound. Then you have the addition of color.
And this is the next stage; it’s on that level. It democratizes
the medium and makes it accessible to almost everyone, which was
never the case before.

MM: What about the download
process? Right now, to download a two-minute, three-frame-per-second
clip takes 20 minutes unless you have a super fast computer system.

D.P.: I think within two
years you will easily be able to download a feature in five to seven
minutes. Technology is moving so fast in terms of video compression.
And as more and more people move onto broadband, and more and more
people get DSL lines, you’re going to see that these things
are not going to take nearly as long.

MM: Is the digital technology
to make and exhibit films vastly improving every second?

D.P.: Yes. I just attended
a Kodak symposium for educators where they showed us these new digital
projectors. They’ve made some really great advances. It’s
interesting to see how Kodak is heavily trying to get into the digital
business, obviously seeing where things are ultimately going. But
right now film is still going to be the medium of preference, I
think, for everybody. Digitally projecting a film is an extremely
expensive process-the conversion costs are enormous. It will
take maybe 10 years before theatres all feature digital projection.

MM: What disadvantages
does a digital Internet-based moviemaker have in choosing digital
video over film?

D.P.: When you shoot video,
you tend to shoot too much. When you shoot with film, your stock
feels more precious, so you have to be much more careful about being
wasteful. Because they’re used to home video, people shoot
hours and hours of tape. And that’s not good for filmmakers
who need to learn discipline.

MM: Do you believe that
many of your students will head toward Internet moviemaking?

DP: I think a lot of them
will head toward independent moviemaking. And since some of that
will be Internet, I would say yes. But mostly they want to shoot
on film. They’re not eager to do their work on video. As they’ve
come up through our curriculum, they’ve learned how to light
film and they’ve learned how to work with film.

MM: What about the distribution
of these students’ films? For the independent moviemaker, the
Internet seems to be the ultimate delivery route.

DP: It is, if you can get
people to download your film. The question is how do you establish
some kind of a profile or get the exposure. I recommend reading
indywire.com. It is hands down the best site for any independent
filmmaker. For watching films, the only sites I ever look at are
IFILM and AtomFilms.

MM: How do you think
the Internet is going to weed out the poorer quality films?

DP: Like everything else,
you’ll end up with three or four big channels that show digital
films. People will go there and we’ll see how selective they
are. Some will be like HBO and some will be like Showtime. If you
have a high enough concept and you execute it really well, you might
get noticed, but that’s really a long shot. It’s like
standing on the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

MM: Do you think the
Internet could ever become the ultimate platform? In other words,
there’s no need to go to a studio to get a deal, if you could
make your movies on the Internet and get them seen.

DP: For independent people
who don’t want to play in the system, this gives them a great
way to expose their work. But really, how many people want to sit
on their computer and TV, and watch independent short films and
long films? The Internet is going to offer a different kind of movie.
More than ever before, the studios are really going toward doing
big screen, big budget, big sound, big effects spectaculars. That’s
the only business they’ll be in. So that leaves the personal
voice that will have to come out somewhere else. The art film business
is dying in this country, theatrically. So it’s obviously going
to move over to TV and to the Internet. I think it’s going
to happen – it’s just a matter of time.

MM: Who will be the
type of moviemakers trying to upload their films onto the Internet?

DP: Well, most people want
to go to Hollywood ’cause they want a lot of money to make
their film with. Who doesn’t want 40 or 50 million dollars
to make their movie? But I think there’ll be a small, hard
core of people who do Internet-only films.

MM: Do you think going
to a theatre to see a movie will ever die?

DP: I don’t believe
it will. But movies made for the theater will exclusively be the
types of films that you need to experience on a big screen with
great sound. As technology keeps improving, people will have bigger
screens and better sound at home, but it is still not the same as
being in a theater with a group of people. There’s a basic
human need to congregate, and going out to the movies is one of
the few acceptable ways of doing it.

Scott Essman profiled Dale Pollock
for MovieMaker #34, and is currently researching a history
of Hollywood. He has never made a movie for the Internet, but you
may write to him at [email protected].