Reel Talk with TMA’s Film Guru

. November 23, 2016.

Scott Boberg once orchestrated an outdoor showing of For All Mankind, about the Apollo missions, with the moon rising overhead. He also arranged a screening of the 1922 silent horror film Nosferatu with live organist accompaniment, to add that extra depth of experience for the audience.

When Boberg talks film, his passion shines through. He takes his listeners on a journey of learning that opens new solar systems of information— worlds within worlds.

Manager of Programs for the Toledo Museum of Art, Scott is responsible for the Museum’s film screenings, and his appreciation for the artistic medium shines through immediately. Not only does he determine what films screen— say, picking through the myriad of adaptations for the Shakespeare on Film exhibit— but also, perhaps equally important, he decides how the films are shown. Hence, the Apollo film paired with the rising moon, and the silent horror film accompanied by organ, as audiences would have experienced in the 1920s.

But film is just one aspect of Scott’s broad range of responsibilities at TMA. He spearheads all adult-focused public programs at the Museum, from music performances to lectures. Film, for him, is just one planet in his mental solar system. All the same, he makes it sound like a beautiful world to inhabit.

What are the criteria for the films that you choose?
Quality is a criterion. One of the things I’m trying to do is find out what are the opportunities to engage in conversation about the collection. And sometimes that can lead in interesting directions as well. And sometimes it’s just looking at a day. For example, Van Gogh’s birthday is March 30th, which is a Thursday. So for the next day, the day after the anniversary of his birth, I’m showing Robert Altman’s Vincent and Theo. And as a little added bonus to that, we’ll show a section of Kurosawa’s Dreams, which is about Van Gogh… and that allows us to highlight that we have a couple of Van Gogh paintings in the collection, while also honoring the artist.

So we’re not going to be seeing The Fast and the Furious any time soon?
You don’t know for sure where the connection is. I am not at all opposed to showing films that have a mass appeal. There’s a kind of sense about it. We showed Jumanji in connection with the sneaker exhibition, as part of a program we had done of family films. I wouldn’t necessarily say Fast and Furious, but I’m certainly open to those kind of connections. Particularly if a film is intensely visual or connects thematically, I think there is a lot of possibility there.

Is film going to be an enduring art?
Yes, I would say the idea of telling a story visually goes back to the beginning of human existence. You could make a case, if you think about Werner Herzog’s documentary about cave paintings, those early visual urges are very cinematic. There’s always been a theater component, it was just technology finally caught up to it at the beginning of the 20th century. Cinema will continue to evolve and film will evolve as well as our ability to access it. When I was a kid, you had to go to the movies or wait for something to show up on TV. To be able to, on my phone, watch a film on demand is kind of mindblowing. We’ll see where it goes.

How do you feel shorter attention spans will impact filmmaking going forward?
I think some filmmakers will adapt to that and I think some people are actually craving direct experiences of extended duration. I was really surprised when we did a program called Bach Around the Clock; it was a 24-hour festival. We had people come early in the morning; we had 165 people at dawn. When we showed Ken Burns’ Civil War, the TV series, we showed it as a marathon and had 15 people stay for all 10 and a half hours of it— something they could easily watch online, but the experience of watching it together as a group is really important. One of my jobs as a programmer is to be really enthusiastic about what we present, but also to satisfy people’s curiosity. What I love about Toledo is that people are open to really new experiences. In Toledo, if you provide opportunities for people to expand their horizons, people are really open to it.