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.