American Movie
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American Movie

4.0 1
Director: Chris Smith, Mark Borchardt, Mike Schank, Dean Allen

Cast: Chris Smith, Mark Borchardt, Mike Schank, Dean Allen

The American Movie DVD is vital viewing for any fans of this documentary about Hollywood dreams in Wisconsin because it contains Coven, the short film directed by the movie's subject, Mark Borchardt. Coven is the bizarre, ultra-low-budget film the audience sees being made in American Movie; being able to watch them back-to-back is highly enjoyable


The American Movie DVD is vital viewing for any fans of this documentary about Hollywood dreams in Wisconsin because it contains Coven, the short film directed by the movie's subject, Mark Borchardt. Coven is the bizarre, ultra-low-budget film the audience sees being made in American Movie; being able to watch them back-to-back is highly enjoyable. Borchardt comes off like an inspired loon in the documentary, but watching his art stand alone adds extra depth to American Movie -- it's fun to watch him agonize over scenes and how to shoot them and then to see the finished product in all its black-and-white lo-fi charm. The commentary on the film is also an excellent feature that uses a group approach, bringing in filmmakers Chris Smith and Sarah Price as well as Borchardt and his acid-casualty, guitar-slinging sidekick Mike Schank. They do a good job staying off each other's toes (Schank even excuses himself for a cigarette break), and Smith and Price give Borchardt room to elaborate on his life and filmmaking. Also included are some deleted scenes (Smith claims they had enough for two more movies). The sound and picture have been remastered for DVD and the movie is presented in full screen.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
You're behind on your child support, your phone's being turned off, and you owe money to the IRS -- what do you do? Make a movie! At least that's what beleaguered Wisconsin filmmaker Mark Borchardt decided to do in the Sundance smash American Movie. Documentary director Chris Smith and producer Sarah Price followed Borchardt for two years as he struggled to complete a "35-minute direct-market thriller film" called Coven, with $3,000 borrowed from his semi-senile uncle and the loyal support of his unflappably affable guitar-playing best friend, Mike Schank. The result is a poignant and often hilarious character study of a charismatic all-American underdog, who makes up in drive and vision what he lacks in talent. Interviews with Borchardt's skeptical family and friends are combined with scenes of sparsely attended production meetings, no-budget film shoots (the scene in which Borchardt tries to shove an actor through a "breakaway" cabinet door is already a classic), and camp-outs in the editing room with the kids. Guaranteed to touch a nerve in anyone who has ever aspired to make films, American Movie is an offbeat, sometimes sad, but ultimately inspirational tribute to pursuing one's dreams.
All Movie Guide
American Movie is a memorable portrait of delusional ambition in small-town America, a slice of blue-collar weirdness that continues to prove that truth is stranger than fiction. If it weren't for scrappy wannabes like Mark Borchardt, no one would ever rise above their station in life, but it's the huge gulf between Borchardt's reality and his dreams that makes him such a fascinating study in willful denial. A talkative Midwestern heavy metal fan with long hair, glasses, and a boatload of personal problems, Borchardt is a dead-end small-timer with enough of a gift for self-promotion that he forms a small group of believers, only to fail them with his under-thought execution. Better than any fiction film could, American Movie captures a bracing image of the wintry Wisconsin inertia of these people's lives. There's great freak show humor here, too; in fact, one might mistake this for one of Christopher Guest's faux documentaries, so funny are Borchardt's trial-and-error attempts to cast his film, perform stunts, and generate rudimentary special effects. But the sadness is the lasting impression, especially in Mike Shank, Borchardt's cheery burnout of a best friend, and his curmudgeon uncle, a reluctant tightwad who trades financing for companionship. An interesting side note about American Movie is that through its distribution and limited popularity, the struggling filmmaker has actually had the last laugh. Viewers may shake their heads at the raving and foolish chutzpah he allows director Chris Smith to capture, but Borchardt has since gained notoriety for his laughably bad Coven, a cult must-see in certain horror/filmmaking circles, and he appeared at Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival in 2000 and 2001.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
[Full Frame]
[Dolby Digital, monaural]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Digitally mastered audio and video; Full-screen presentation; English and Spanish subtitles; Director and cast commentary; "Coven" short film by Mark Borchardt; Deleted scenes; Direct web link; Theatrical trailer; Scene selections; Interactive menus

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Mark Borchardt Himself
Mike Schank Himself
Dean Allen props/special effects
Tom Beach production manager
Alex Borchardt Mark's Brother
Matt Weisman casting director
Bill Borchardt Mark's Uncle
Chris Borchardt Mark's Brother
Cliff Borchardt Mark's Father
Monica Borchardt Mark's Mother
Robert Richard Jorge actor
Ken Keen childhood friend/associate producer
Joan Petrie location scout/associate producer
Tim Schimmels actor

Technical Credits
Chris Smith Director,Cinematographer,Editor,Producer
C Hundred Film Corp Producer
Jun Diaz Editor
Jim McKay Co-producer
Julie Panebianco Musical Direction/Supervision
Barry Poltermann Editor
Sarah Price Producer,Sound/Sound Designer
Bluemark Productions Producer
Mike Schank Score Composer
Michael Stipe Co-producer
Peter Zinda Sound/Sound Designer

Scene Index

Scene Selections
0. Scene Selections
1. Start [1:09]
2. The Creeps [3:47]
3. Today's Agenda [1:08]
4. 1st Production Meeting [:42]
5. The More the Scarier [2:04]
6. 2nd Production Meeting [1:52]
7. Third Draft [1:58]
8. 3rd Production Meeting [1:42]
9. 4th Production Meeting [2:29]
10. Coven [6:00]
11. Last Four Shots [5:06]
12. Summer 1996 [4:02]
13. Head Shots [6:42]
14. Fall 1996 [5:15]
15. Thanksgiving [7:13]
16. The Next Day [2:04]
17. Winter 1996 [5:57]
18. University of Wisconsin [1:40]
19. One Line of Dialogue [6:20]
20. Drug-Related Story [4:11]
21. Super Bowl Sunday [2:43]
22. Spring 1997 [3:00]
23. Interview [3:28]
24. Final Sound Effects [3:59]
25. Summer 1997 [3:05]
26. June 10th [3:42]
27. COVEN Premiere [2:22]
28. The American Dream [4:37]


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American Movie 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago