Creating an account with gives you access to more features and services, like our weekly newsletter and other special features just for the film community.


TC Doc Series: American Movie

Director Chris Smith made Mark Borchardt an indie star back in 1999 with this not-so-classic tale of one man's hilarious and heartfelt obsession with filmmaking at any cost. What's Borchardt been up to since?

TC Doc Series: American Movie TC Doc Series: American Movie
American Movie
(1999, dir. Chris Smith)


It takes a village to make a movie, but when that village is Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, and not Hollywood, CA, the results are at times bizarre, comical and very American. With the help of his mother, his 82 year-old uncle, and a local cast of hilarious and lovable characters, filmmaker Mark Borchardt fights his way through internal and external roadblocks to achieve his goal—to make his movie, his way. Spanning over two years of intense struggle with his film, his family, financial decline and spiritual crisis, American Movie is a portrayal of ambition, obsession, excess, and one man’s quest for the American Dream.


American Movie premiered in 1999, and was an immediate hit at festivals and in theaters across the country. The hilarious documentary has had staying power, and Tribeca Cinemas Doc Series is pleased to invite you to revisit (or see for the first time) the film on Monday night, August 9. Join us at 7:30.

In the meantime, we caught up with the star of the film, Mark Borchardt, via email, to learn how life has been treating him over the past decade.


 TC Doc Series: American Movie


Tribeca: It’s been more than a decade since American Movie came out, and we hope to introduce it to a whole new generation of film fans. What should they know going in?


Mark Borchardt: What should they know going in? Where the seats are. Any thinking that tends to commodify or contextualize me, loses me. As for the film: it’s a masterpiece of craft and intrigue.


Tribeca: How did director Chris Smith find you?


Mark Borchardt: I was in a summer works-in-progress class at the university. I was working on Coven and kept on bringing in cans of film that I was shooting. Chris became intrigued and asked if he could film me for a bit, and that ultimately turned into the documentary.


Tribeca: Why do you think audiences across the world connected with you in the doc?


Mark Borchardt: Angst, pursuit: the common elements in life we all share.


Tribeca: How did your life change after American Movie became such a big hit?


Mark Borchardt: You’re exposed to a lot of new people and experiences; you become a concept, a commodity. The exterior and interior realms in life are vastly different. Nothing changes me but me, but as to the question: the dance before my eyes has changed.


TC Doc Series: American Movie

Tribeca: What happened to Coven? Can people find it online?


Mark Borchardt: It’s on the documentary’s DVD and the original VHS version is available at Riverwest Film and Video in Milwaukee.


Tribeca: IMDb says you are making a new movie. Anything you can tell us?


Mark Borchardt: I’ve shot a number of projects, including a good chunk of Scare Me. These projects are like the seasons that drift in and out of our lives; they fade into memory and then reappear as current reality.


Tribeca: What else have you been up to for the past decade? It looks like you’ve been acting a bunch.


Mark Borchardt: Film appearances are conjured by the outside world; it’s a good way to finance my reading. But it has nothing to do what my work is. I live in my own realm, expressed predominantly through writing.


Tribeca: What’s your take on horror films these days? Are you Team Edward or Team Jacob, or are you more of a SAW guy?


Mark Borchardt: I’m concerned with cinema essentially from 1895-1978. So, out of absolute ignorance, I am baffled by the question.


Tribeca: What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?


Mark Borchardt: Be yourself and believe in yourself.


Tribeca: Anything else you’d like to say to people who may be revisiting the film after 10 years?


Mark Borchardt: Have fun, think and behave meaningfully, take vigorous walks and drink water.


Monday, August 9, 2010
7:30 pm

Film courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

The Tribeca Cinemas bar will be open before and after the screening—stop in for a drink and mingle with other movie lovers.


Watch the trailer:


You can also watch American Movie on demand.


What you need to know today