"I was a failure. I was a failure and I'd get very sad and depressed about it and I cant be that no more. I think I really betrayed myself, bigtime cause I think I know when i was growing up I had all the potential in the world. And now I'm back to being Mark who has a beer in his hand and is thinking about the great american script, the great american movie and this time I cannot fail I won't fail. It's not in me. You don't get second chances and mess them up. You'd be a fool to. Not just finishing films or in the long run getting some money but it's... right now I feel like it's, like I said, five ten fifteen years ago. I've got the same options again and this time I'm not gonna fail. This time its most important not to fail; just to drink and dream, but rather to create and complete." - Mark Borchardt, Subject of American Movie.

American Movie is a documentary by Chris Smith and Sarah Price that follows, um, filmmaker Mark Borschardt around Milwaukee, Wisconsin for a couple years as he attempts to make a movie. It is... funny as hell.. in a weird, screwy way that can really only be achieved through the real and actual living of life. Mark runs into a LOT of hardships along the way, mostly financial. It's fascinating to watch him struggling to realize this film that means so much to him. He's absolutely driven. And he absolutely has a vision that he's dedicated to fulfilling. It's rather admirable. I think much can be learned from the utter determination he displays.

Also fascinating (to me anyway) is the place in the people in this movie live, the way that they talk & how they think (or don't think). I was initially taken aback by the seeming dim wittedness of the people documented in this film, and repelled by their simple Milwaukeean lives. But I don't know.. after watching the film over I kind of began to appreciate them for what they were and I kicked myself for writing some of them off as simply dumb ass people. I should not be so arrogant, methinks.

American movie was originally supposed to document Mark's life as he was attempting to make his feature length film, Northwestern. He got stuck though, with funding and other things, and decided to shift his focus to the completion of his unfinished short film, Coven. The idea behind finishing Coven first (which he pronounces 'coh-ven' because the correct pronunciation "sounds like oven, and that's just... no.") was that it's sales would allow him to raise enough money for Northwestern's production. For the first couple of weeks, Sarah and Chris weren't filming Mark's work on Coven. They thought he would finish it and that they'd then resume documenting the making of Northwestern. It didn't work out that way though. They pretty soon realized that Mark was nowhere near finishing Coven and that they were missing a lot of excellent footage, so they started documenting the making of Coven (which took two years) and that ended up being the main focus of the American Movie.

People prominent in the film:
Mark Borchardt - Geeky filmmaker who lives with his parents. He basically lives for his work. Pretty cool guy.

Mike Schank - Mark's best friend. He helps Mark out a lot with his movie-making. I mean it in the nicest possible way when I say that Mike is the stupidest human being I have ever witnessed. His brains have been undeniably fried. I cannot help but wonder what he would have been like had he not done so much "partying" in his early years. I was awed by his utter lack of discernable intelligence. It was horrifying and yet somehow hilarious and quite nearly endearing. He does play the guitar pretty good though.

Uncle Bill - Mark's uncle, who grudgingly lends him a few thousand dollars for the completion of Mark's film. Uncle Bill is my favorite person in the movie. He's this 82 year old guy, a total cynic. He kicks ass. He cracks me up. I wish he was my uncle too.

I read this review on The Internet Movie Database, and it pretty much sums up well what this movie is about:
On the northwest side of Milwaukee, Mike Borchardt dreams the American dream: for him, it's making movies. Using relatives, local theater talent, slacker friends, his Mastercard, and $3,000 from his Uncle Bill, Mike strives over three years to finish "Coven," a short horror film. His own personal demons (alcohol, gambling, a dysfunctional family) plague him, but he desperately wants to overcome self-doubt and avoid failure. In moments of reflection, Mike sees his story as quintessentially American, and its the nature and nuance of his dream that this film explores."

Personally, the whole "American Dream" aspect kind of makes me want to barf, but it is definitely an accurate description of what Mark's story is about.

There's a website which includes journals by Mark, unseen footage, ordering information & other junk: www.americanmovie.com

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