Screening Room: Robert Breer

Screening Room: Robert Breer

Screening Room was a Boston television series that ran for almost ten years from 1972-1981. It offered independent filmmakers a chance to show and discuss their work on a commercial (ABC-TV) affiliate station. The series was developed and hosted by filmmaker Robert Gardner (Dead Birds, Forest of Bliss). In November 1976, the American filmmaker Robert Breer appeared on Screening Room. He screened Recreation, A Man and His Dog Out for Air, 69, Gulls and Boys, Fuji and Rubber Cement.


“Today, I have a major figure in the avant-garde cinema, a man named Bob Breer. He’s probably one of a handful of people (...) who represent in the best possible manner what is experimental and independent in filmmaking and particularly in a branch of filmmaking which we’ve called avant-garde or experimental.”

Robert Breer’s introduction


Scott MacDonald: I think the Screening Room episodes that work the best are the ones where you show relatively short films.

Robert Gardner: That's true.

The James Broughton show worked really nicely.

Breer I liked too.

Scott MacDonald in conversation with Robert Gardner1


“The principle of Screening Room is simple. In a soberly furnished studio, Gardner and his respective guest sit on simple chairs. They talk about the invitee's career and films; in between, films or film excerpts are shown, which are then commented on. Two practitioners are talking. This very simple dispositive leads to astonishing results, as far as one can extrapolate from the 1976 broadcast with Robert Breer. This has to do with Gardner's pleasant composure. He does ask questions, but these questions aren't inquisitorial and concretely seeking information, but rather tap things gently, like gently jabbing a billiard ball: he's simply giving Robert Breer an opportunity to tell the story. As it seems, there are no points beyond the sequence of the films shown that absolutely have to be ticked off. This relaxed atmosphere also leaves room for spontaneity: as Breer explains on the tabletop with a few utensils lying around on the table how he would compose a sequence for one of his animated films, Gardner reaches into his trouser pocket, to help out Breer with some other stuff (notebook, pencil, etc.). Breer: ‘You have more things than I have!’ He also brought two of his kinetic sculptures (‘floats’) that move slowly across the table as if by magic. One of the two sculptures, whose shape is reminiscent of a flying saucer, falls off the table onto the floor.”

Volker Pantenburg2

  • 1Scott MacDonald, “Robert Gardner,” Avant-doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-garde Cinema (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), 69.
  • 2Volker Pantenburg, “Screening Room with Robert Breer,” Kunst der Vermittlung. Aus den Filmvermittelnden Films.
UPDATED ON 14.09.2023