Dylan Did It, I Did It. You Can Do It, Too.

The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh Wants to Polish Your Star

The Screen Tests are a series of short, silent, black-and-white film portraits by Andy Warhol, made between 1964 and 1966, generally showing their subjects from the neck up against plain backdrops. The Screen Tests, of which 472 survive, depict a wide range of figures, many of them part of the mid-1960s downtown New York cultural scene. Under Warhol’s direction, subjects of the Screen Tests attempted to sit motionless for around three minutes while being filmed, with the resulting movies projected in slow motion. The films represent a new kind of portraiture-a slowly moving, nearly still image of a person. Warhol’s Screen Tests connect on one hand with the artist’s other work in film, which emphasized stillness and duration (for example, Sleep (1963) and Empire (1964)), and on the other hand with his focus after the mid-1960s on documenting his celebrity milieu in paintings and other works.


The Andy Warhol Museum features all the channels by which Warhol expressed himself. One of these was the famous Screen Tests. In a small room on the third of fourth floor the museum has set up the equipment enabling patrons to take three minute Screen Tests themselves. Same camera, same setup, and naturally I was all in.

OK, so it had been a few years since I watched any of the Screen Tests that Warhol generated, and as a result I had forgotten that Warhol did not record sound when doing these three minute gigs.

I myself had taken a Hollywood screen test when trying out for a talking part in Iron Will, the Disney production filmed here in the Northland in 1993. It’s a casting selection kind of thing. The Hollywood version involved three minutes of talking.

Because of this previous experience, I assumed I was supposed to talk. I also assumed that there would be a signal indicating when the film was rolling. I was wrong on both these counts. When I realized the camera was running I began talking to the camera, which becomes comical after awhile. If you know of any professional lip readers capable of writing out what I said, please add that to the comments below. Here’s the link to Ed’s Screen Test .


Between 1964 and 1966 Warhol and his assistant, Gerard Malanga, used a 16mm Bolex camera to make 472 short films of people, both famous and obscure, who came to visit his “Factory” on East 47th Street in New York. The idea of calling them “Screen Tests” was something of a joke, according to Malanga. “None of these screen tests amounted to giving those people the opportunity to go on in the underground film world,” Malanga said in a 2009 interview. “It was kind of a parody of Hollywood.”
Andy Warhol’s ‘Screen Test’ of Bob Dylan: A Classic Meeting of Egos

HERE’S A DIRECT LINK to the Bob Dylan Screen Test from 1965

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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