A B O U T   T H E   S T O R Y

An astutely crafted drama set in the free-spirited San Francisco of 1985, TEST lovingly portrays this exciting and harrowing era as young Frankie (dancer Scott Marlowe in a breakout acting debut) confronts the challenges of being an understudy in a modern dance company where he’s taunted to “dance like a man!” Frankie embarks on a budding relationship with hunky Todd (Matthew Risch), a veteran dancer in the same company and the bad boy to Frankie’s naiveté.


As Frankie and Todd’s friendship deepens, they navigate a world of risk — it’s the early years of the epidemic — but also a world of hope, humor, visual beauty and musical relief. The captivating dance sequences were especially choreographed for the film by acclaimed U.S. choreographer Sidra Bell. The film’s vibrant soundtrack includes work by 80s icons Jimmy Somerville (Bronski Beat), Klaus Nomi, Romeo Void, Laurie Anderson, Martha & the Muffins, Cocteau Twins and Sylvester. 



Scott Marlowe as Frankie in T E S T.


Frankie is the newest, skinniest and most mocked member of an up-and-coming modern dance company in San Francisco. The year is 1985.  As six muscular male dancers tumble their way through athletic choreography, Frankie stands on the sidelines, mirroring the movement and looking a little weak. The choreographer stops the music and yells at Frankie to “dance like a man!” On the sidelines, Todd watches. Todd is an established dancer in the same company and the bad boy to Frankie’s innocent. They’re friends - opposites attract.


For Frankie, the city offers no relief from the bullying at work: a newspaper headline asks “Should Gays Be Quarantined?” while fresh graffiti screams “AIDS Faggot Die!” Frankie turns away and, with his bright yellow Walkman clipped to his belt, retreats into a music-filled trance.


When one of the male dancers is injured Frankie must perform in his place. It’s the classic test of skill and character, and Todd helps Frankie prepare. Outside of work, as Frankie and Todd’s friendship deepens, they each face a different kind of test: the newly-named disease is spreading fast and no one seems to know anything about it, except who it targets. Together the friends navigate a world full of risk that is also, now and then, full of hope.




The mainstream ballet and modern dance world is built around an aesthetic of male-female romantic tension, much like Hollywood. If a male dancer appears less than manly it threatens that aesthetic, and sissies are shunned. For young gay men like Frankie in TEST, this is a confusing and painful dynamic that overlaps with homophobia even if it’s not the same thing. 


But for Frankie the picture is much bleaker than trouble at work. The darkest subtext of the early AIDS crisis conveyed a clear message: gay men deserve to be sick and deserve to die. Sissies weren’t just shunned, they were disposable.


Against this backdrop of effeminaphobia at work and violent homophobic scapegoating outside of it, Frankie struggles to understand what’s happening around him and maybe to him. Even though he knows better, it all feels like a punishment. And when peers like roommate Tyler step back into the closet and pull the door closed, it’s hard to know what to do.


Most of the depictions of the early AIDS crisis have focused on out gay men who are older (30 and up) than my protagonists Frankie and Todd are. These older, out men quickly formed support groups in the face of the epidemic, and some of their stories have been told. I felt the time was right for a different story: of very young, isolated, frightened men who were part of a closeted dance culture, and who suffered those early years in silence.






T E S T raised a portion of

its post-production budget via the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.


Projects remain archived after they've completed funding. To see T E S T

on Kickstarter,  click here.

The Kickstarter video for T E S T.

Thanks to our Kickstarter Backers

Alex Davis-Lawrence
Allison Tolman
Amanda Hudson
Amy Duddleston
Andrew Semans
Angela Campbell-Noe
Anne Cheung
Anne Hubbell
Anne Mueller
Anne Parker Johnson
Anston Bosman
Anthony Cianciolo
Antoinette Chatton
Arcenia Rosal
Ashlea Mittelstaedt
Besim Nuri
Brad Robinson
Bryan Glick
Carlos Johnson
Carolyn & Huston Marlowe
Catherine Craig
Christian Charette
Christie Herring
Chuck Kirby
Claudia Hubiak
Cordelia Lawton
Daniel Mufson
David McIntosh
Dawn Logsdon
DeEtte Howard
Delores Delvin
Dennis Bell
Derek Liecty
Diane Scribner Clevenger
Donna Thatcher
Eda Holmes
Erika Lockridge
Fortunato Procopio
Frank Benke
Garen Scribner
Gene & Jan McCullough
George Ferrell
Giulietta Garland
Glenn K. Graham
Gloria Raponi

Greg Emetaz

Herschel Farbman
Jacqueline Bennett
Jacques El-Chayeb
James Miner
Jamie Bishton
Jamielyn Duggan
Jason Wulkowicz
Jay S. Wiley
Jay Swanson
Jayson A. Johnson
Jeff LaRoche
Jeff Tabaco
Jenni Olson
Jennifer Grissette Laemmerhirt
Jill Krisstal
Joan Gavaler
John Cameron
Jose Maria Francos
Justin Scribner
Kannan Jagannathan
Kate Hutter
Kate Strong
Kenneth Foster
Kori Rae
Kristi McKim
Laura Heberton
Laura Packer
Laura Vogel
Libby Woodbridge
Lina Srivastava
Lindsay Taub
Lisa Michurski
Madison Keesler

Maia Rosal
Marc Smolowitz
Marcus Sitrin
Margo Dobbins
Mario Garza
Mark Haim
Mark Horn
Mark McCormick
Mark O'Brien
Mark Shlomchik
Mary Ellen Cetra
Mary Weather
Max Rosen

Michael Ehrenzweig
Michael Kennedy & Ron Spalding
Michelle Ehlen
Mollye Asher
Nancy Childs
Nancy Ellen Jones
Nathan Moya
Nick Minutaglio
Norm Hunter
Norm Sloan
Olivia Engelman
Olivia Snaije
Patrick Rech
Paul Burrows
Paul Davis
Paul Hill
Paul Isaacs
Paul Tortora
Peter L. Stein
Philip Oggero
Philip Pierce
Priya Nayak

Randi Rivera

Remi Laws
Robin Lapin
Ron Zuckerman
Roy Zemlicka
Sabra Smith
Sarah Christensen
Sunny Bates
Suzanne Marlowe
Suzi Alexander
Ted Yanecek
Thomas Daddona
Thomas Firpo
Tiit Helimets
Tom Cameron
Tom Rielly
Tomasina Burgess
Truckee Lynch
Vernon L. Scott
Wayne Lawson
Wendell McHemry
Will McCaa
William Thatcher
Yony Leyser
Yvonne Conybeare