Screen Tests

“Beauties in photographs are different from beauties in person.  It must be hard to be a model, because you’d want to be like a photograph of you, and you can’t ever look that way.  And so you start to copy the photograph.  Photographs usually bring in another half-dimension.  (Movies bring in another whole dimension.  That screen magnetism is something secret—if you could only figure out what it is and how to make it, you’d have a really good product to sell.  But you can’t even tell if someone has it until you actually see them up there on the screen.  You have to give screen tests to find out.)  (63)

Certain people have TV magic: they fall completely apart off-camera but they are completely together on-camera.  They shake and sweat before they go on, they shake and sweat during commercials, they shake and sweat when it’s all over; but while the camera is filming them, they’re poised and confident-looking.  The camera turns them on and off.”  (80)

-Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

To start off our first session, we took screen tests.  Everyone was required to, at some point during our conversation, sit in the screening seat for three minutes.  Trying to retain as much of Warhol’s method as possible, everyone else went on discussing as usual in order to make the person in front of the camera feel as comfortable as possible.  In addition, we followed his production processes with as little alteration as possible in order to fit these screen tests into a digital space.  Each test consists of three minutes of static video footage, but elongated into five minutes, with color and sound removed.  Although we weren’t able to obtain a 16mm Bolex camera, we did use a rather outdated mini-DV camera, which worked surprisingly well in very low lighting.  We then transferred them to a computer, processed them, and uploaded them to YouTube in order to reveal them to the general public.  And now they’re here, too.








During my screen test, I actually felt horribly uncomfortable.  Whether it was the video camera in front of me, the beginning of our long-anticipated first seminar meeting, or the cheeseburger that I had eaten a few hours earlier, I was certainly anxious.  Sothe next night, when I was loading these onto my computer, I decided to do another test, in the comfort of my own room.  I noticed immediately that I felt much more relaxed, and I even began to enjoy sitting in front of a camera.

So here is my second test:

I think I have a lot more of “that magnetism” in this second one.  But this made me think: was I somehow cheating?  What happens if you fail a screen test?  Are you allowed to take another one?  Is there a limit to how many times you can try to show your magnetism?  I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.