In his first interview since being named director of the Academy Museum, Kerry Brougher outlined the broad strokes of how he and executives of the Motion Picture Academy envision the organization’s planned movie museum. Brougher, seated at the Academy’s temporary offices at the historic May Co. building in mid-Wilshire, which will house the new museum when it opens in 2017, points to a framed photo of Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” on the wall. He says that in exploratory talks, several people have mentioned to him Scorsese’s 2011 film as a metaphor for the museum’s goals: The giant clock was shown in its surroundings, then the director took moviegoers inside the clock, to show how it worked. Brougher, who starts July 1, repeatedly uses the term “immersive experience” to describe the overarching theme for the museum. “A lot will come from inspiration from artists and filmmakers,” he says. “This museum has to be a kind of a behind-the-screen experience, to look into the clockwork, the apparatus of cinema — without losing the magic.”
How would you characterize the museum?
You’re going to experience something magical and enchanted like movies themselves, but come away with a deeper appreciation of what it takes to make a film — and what the future’s going to be.
Is a film museum fundamentally different from an art museum?
In an art museum, you hang a Picasso on the wall. You’re hanging the actual art work, as it was meant to be seen. But in a film museum, you’re getting a different kind of experience of film, not one projected in a movie theater. Stills and posters are not a film; they are stuff surrounding a film. So it’s important to have theaters in the film museum that give you the “old” cinematic experience. But as for the rest — I’m thinking in terms of a three-dimensional space and how to walk through it: Filmmakers and artists have experimented with creating montages in a spatial way. A screen or two in one space, a screen in another, and pretty soon you have a montage that you walk through in three dimensions.
So artifacts won’t be the key?
Artifacts will play, a role but I don’t think the museum depends on having a lot of them. This museum has to be alive. What’s most important to me are the images that come out of film itself, the projections of it. One can create immersive environments, where one moves through the history of film, in which we tell the story through the actual moving images of film itself.
How much will be interactive?
There will be moments, but it’s important that the whole experience not be interactive. Because the history of film is about being led on a journey.
Will Oscar be a part of this?
Absolutely, Oscar has to play a role. But whether it’s integrated or a separate area, I’m not sure yet. This is the Academy museum, so the bar has to be set very high. It has to be a place for a very diverse audience. It will be a tourist destination, no doubt, but it’s also for people who already know a lot about film — people within the industry, Academy members, film students — we have to meet all their needs.
Smartphones, DVDs and other platforms will be utilized?
That’s part of the experience, absolutely.
What’s your reaction to the architectural design coming under fire?
Unfortunately, the image that’s been used a lot is not accurate. I’m coming in somewhat late in the process, but I think it’s all coming together nicely. On the exterior, I love the metaphor being created between the past and future, with this amazing new theater. Inside, I asked for as much opening-up of space as possible. It’s important to have flexibility, for both temporary shows and permanent exhibition. There are three theaters, so film, or digital, will be presented in the right way. And there will be education programs. We want to commission new works. We want to bring the arts together. Cinema is really a mongrel muse, as someone called it. I’d like to collaborate with other institutions in this city and elsewhere. I’d also like to bring together artists and cinema to create a new kind of cinema for the future.
One theater will be used for film events. The other two?
If it’s possible, I’d like to see the other two used like a cinematheque, with more programming taking place than the Academy does now. Whenever you come, there would be a great film showing. It’s very important for those theaters to be utilized a lot.
Are Academy people in synch with your approach?
Before I was hired, I was brought into a brainstorming session they were having before they started the charrettes. I think I was being screen-tested! There were a lot of wonderful people, many diverse types from within the Academy and outside, and we talked about what the museum could be. I was expecting to be hit with a much more conventional approach and expectations. But I found an openness to do it in new ways.
What’s your biggest challenge?
There are two. I have to get the right staff in place. This needs to be a very creative staff who can push the envelope, who think progressively and innovatively. Second, I want to create an environment where we can explore how to do a film museum better than anyone has done before.