While a graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin, Andrew Scahill was awarded the Robert De Niro Endowed Fund Fellowship to study at the Harry Ransom Center archive. The HRC is one of the premiere archives in the country, and its extensive collections provide unique insight into the creative process of writers and artists, deepening our understanding and appreciation of literature, photography, film, art, and the performing arts.
Scahill spent several months studying the archive of Jack Harris, a behind-the-scenes photographer (or "still man") during the classic Hollywood studio era. The role of still men were to provide seemingly candid photos from the production process that would be used to promote upcoming films in movie magazines of the era. "They are part documenters," says Scahill. "A lot of the portraits they take on set become some of the most famous images of stars that we know."
This research will culminate in an essay entitled "Cogs in the Dream Machine: Jack Harris and the Role of 'Still Men' in Promoting Hollywood Cinema," that will mix archival research and industrial analysis to reveal invisible labor in the Hollywood studio system. As Scahill argues, still men both demystify and remystify cinema--by pulling back the curtain, they reveal the "real" process as Hollywood authorizes it, but they also provide mere glimpses of a dream machine too large and intricate for the public to conceptualize.