Manzanita’s Dave Dillon curates Northwest film series

The former Hollywood liaison for the Navy screens regional films and leads monthly post-show discussions

Nosferatu, a 1922 classic horror film based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, might seem an unlikely start for a film series that prides itself on being all Pacific Northwest, all the time. The silent movie was the first offering, eight years ago, in the monthly Manzanita Film Series led by a local resident who has ties to another unlikely horror classic. More on that later.

Dave Dillon finds many of the films shown at the Hoffman Center for the Arts by searching the NW Film Center and paying attention to what other film festivals around the state are showing. “If it’s of, by and/or about the Pacific Northwest, we’re all for it,” he said. When he finds a film he likes, he pays the $100 screening fee and puts the film on the schedule.

Dave Dillon leads the film series at Manzanita’s Hoffman Center for the Arts. Photo courtesy: Hoffman Center for the Arts

“It’s just another little artistic cultural thing,” he said. “We get a good variety of locals, a bunch of steady customers. Twenty is a good crowd.”

The most popular evenings among local film fans are nights that showcase six or eight short films, Dillon said.

“They can be one minute, eight minutes, two. They can be features, documentaries, animated,” he said, adding that the biggest hits come from the Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival in Portland. “From that they put together a DVD of eight to 12 shorts. When they bring that out, everybody loves it. It’s fascinating to see what filmmakers come up with showing off their passion.”

Dillon likewise is passionate about still and motion pictures, something that started when he got his first camera at age 9. That passion helped lead to an assignment as the Hollywood liaison officer for two of his 21½ years in the Navy, where he started out in minesweeping and gunnery, then transitioned to public affairs, retiring as a commander in 1990.

“If you want to fly an F-14 in the movie, you had to go the Navy because they owned them all,” Dillon said. “We charged Paramount $7,400 an hour to fly an F-14, using Navy pilots. I came in for the last parts of the filming of Top Gun.”

He also helped with the ABC miniseries War and Remembrance, Star Trek IV, The Betty Ford Story, and Empire of the Sun.

The experience gave him the chance to read numerous scripts and learn what constitutes a good one. Dillon brings that knowledge to the film series, engaging audience members after the film is over to talk about what they saw.

Was the film good? Bad? Did they like the characters? Are the characters doing things that work for them? Making logical choices?

One Friday each month, the Hoffman Center for the Arts becomes a movie house. Photo:

They also take part in what Dillon describes as an “academic exercise,” in which filmgoers determine if the characters and conflicts that drive the movie have been established by the end of the first act.

“Sometimes you can see it, sometimes it’s not there,” Dillon said. “It’s not holding together.”

In 1994, Dillon moved to Manzanita, where he helped to start both the local North Coast Citizen newspaper and the Hoffman Center. Besides his time behind the camera and his role in Hollywood, he can claim time in front of the camera, in that earlier mentioned horror classic.

“My cousin was the guy who wrote the movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.  I was an extra in it. It came out in ‘78. I was just in the crowd at the last scene when this huge crowd is gathered at the Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. They know they are about to be attacked by the tomatoes and instead attacked them. We all ran out of the stadium to the parking lot. There were tomatoes everywhere, and we ran around stomping them all.”

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The film series is held the fourth Friday of every month, except May, November and December, when it is held on the third Friday.

On Aug. 24, the series will present Birddog, a 1999 release by Kelley Baker that was filmed in Portland. Promotional materials describe it as “the story of a used car salesman in a trashy part of town who accidentally comes into possession of a rare 1948 Kaiser automobile. Acquiring the car leads to disturbing revelations about the 1948 Vanport flood, which destroyed an entire city.’’

Showtime is 7:30 p.m., and admission is $5.

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