Ep. 13: American Movie

Screenshot 2014-02-24 18.03.47In this episode, Nate and Ryan discuss the listener-suggested, landmark 1999 documentary American Movie.  Director Chris Smith profiles independent filmmaker Mark Borchardt, a Milwaukee native who dreams of finally making the film that has been brewing inside him from childhood.  With aspirations only outsized by his debts and with self-motivating talk that only barely drowns out the detracting voices of his family, Borchardt gathers together friends and other aspiring filmmakers to help complete “Coven.”

While American Movie is held in high esteem, it has its fair share of critics who question the attitude the audience is supposed to take toward Borchardt.  As always, Nate and Ryan don’t shy away from the tough questions and tackle those issues head-on, man.

American Movie is streaming on Crackle.

During the episode we mention this recent interview with director Chris Smith on The Dissolve.

Also, we spend some time talking about Jodorowsky’s Dune. We both highly recommend it.

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  1. Getting around to listening to this today – Is it just me or is there a blank space at the beginning where the Mark Borchardt quote should be?

    • When we originally uploaded the episode there was a blank space, but we patched it up within the first hour of its posting. Although, if you’re using a podcast catcher that downloaded the episode right away, there’s a good chance it downloaded the version with the missing scene. You can re-download the episode if you’d like to hear the missing clip, but its just the first scene in the movie. Sorry for the confusion.

  2. Great discussion about this as always, guys. I really appreciate the depth you go into in your discussions, I always come away feeling like you hit all the topics and gave well-reasoned opinions and end with an intelligent and gracious conclusion.

    Jamie and I watched the first 1/4-1/3 of American Movie, really enjoyed it. I asked Jamie what she thought, said it was good but not as funny perhaps as Waiting for Guffman – turned out she had no clue it wasn’t a mockumentary and I got to look her in the eyes and drop the “This was REAL” bomb, which was priceless and had the unexpected effect of making her incredibly interested in it and raised all these questions about what the movie was trying to do. We ended up spending even more time looking up interviews and videos about Mark Borchardt, all the ones you guys mentioned, than we spent watching the movie. Don’t know if I’ll go back and finish it, just because I felt like I got the feel for what the whole movie would be in the first third; partly because, like I think Nate mentioned, you get the feeling pretty quickly that Mark isn’t going to pull of his grand plans.

    I agree with what you guys said about the David Letterman interview; it made us sad for him. But I agree that the movie itself felt distinctly different, partly due to the relationship the director had with the people, but also because of Mark’s own self-awareness and transparency. From the very beginning he’s very clear that he knows who and what he is (thinking of that scene in the airport parking lot where he mocks his own script) and doesn’t mind being brutally honest. For me that’s what really stuck out and made it feel like I was laughing with him rather than at him.

    Anyway, thanks for bringing this to my attention and encouraging me to watch it! I really enjoyed it (even though I didn’t finish it) and agree that it was encouraging overall, though also a little bit of a reality check on my own pursuit of dreams or lack thereof.

    • Dan- always encouraging to hear your feedback. Thanks for always listening in such detail. Glad you enjoyed what you saw and its interesting that you seem to have come away more interested in the person of Mark Borchardt than the movie itself!

      If you ever get some spare time, it could be worth finishing up the movie. I might have been inaccurate in the way I articulated the ending, but Borchardt does end up finishing Coven. So there’s at least a sliver of payoff in the end and you get to see some of the final product, which as we mentioned in the episode has some really cool shots.

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