THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW WITH MARK BORCHARDT WAS CONDUCTED IN JUNE 2004, AND WAS PRINTED IN OUR SUMMER 'O4 ISSUE. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PURCHASING A COPY OF THE MAGAZINE, CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.
YOU WILL NEVER READ OUR ORIGINAL INTERVIEW WITH FILMMAKER MARK BORCHARDT. OUR FIRST INTERVIEW TOOK PLACE THE DAY BEFORE THE ONE YOU'RE ABOUT TO READ. BUT AFTER GIVING TLC A READ THROUGH, MARK CALLED US UP AND ASKED IF HE COULD DO IT AGAIN. AND WE OBLIGED. YOU MAY RECOGNIZE MARK FROM CHRIS SMITH'S DOCUMENTARY ABOUT HIM, AMERICAN MOVIE. NOW, YEARS LATER, MARK IS READY TO PUT ALL THAT BEHIND HIM AND MOVE ON TO THE NEXT BIG THING. NAMELY, HIS NEW FILM, SCARE ME, WHICH IS CURRENTLY IN PRODUCTION. COME AND HAVE A COLD ONE WITH US, AS WE TALK ABOUT FAME, FORTUNE, AND FACADES... AND FILM BUDGETS. YEAH, RIGHT.
Wayne Chinsang: So, why are we here, Mark? Why are we meeting again?
Mark Borchardt: We are here because you were kind enough to give me the premiere issue of tastes like chicken, and when I read your opening statement, that these interviews would be verbatim, I immediately realized the interview would have to be redone. The reason being is that, the vast majority of written interviews are actually articles, and they are very primordial; very sophomoric. Theyíre basically worthless to get across anything insightful, but theyíre great for publicity. Iím very grateful to do them, but realizing that it was a direct interview, I said, "My God. What a great forum to actually try and get something across." And you have a great magazine, an intelligent magazine, and I was not going to waste it with any rambling. See, the point of it is, you donít really have the energy to say what you want, or you donít bother to say what you want, because itís not going to be used anyway. The potential depth of it is meaningless because theyíre just going to go for the most trite, surface bits and pieces.
WC: Pull quotes.
MB: Absolutely. And always out of context. Always to sensationalize. Itís just a bad deal except for publicity. So, youíre still thankful for all of those articles. But, intellectually, theyíre not worth a grain of salt.
WC: See, Iím of the opinion that interviews should be self-serving for the publication, of course, but it should also be able do the person being interviewed the most justice. When you tear shit apart and take stuff out of context--
MB: Itís always taken out of context. Or what you say is debased to be more entertaining.
Vinnie Baggadonuts: I donít know why that is. I mean, Iím sitting in on this because Iím curious about you as a person. When I interviewed Saul Williams, I know heís done a lot of great things, but that was my chance to see what that person was like as a human being. I found out that heís got a very sharp sense of humor, but you donít get that when you read about him elsewhere. Why do you think people donít take the opportunity to ask you important questions?
MB: Well, Wayne just pointed out that publications are self-serving. They need to sell as many copies, and they sensationalize the material to sell more. Itís just simple math. So getting to know a person is completely irrelevant. Itís a hook that youíve got this person to be interviewed, and thatís all they really need. And the writers just take off from there. All they really need is the name on the cover; whatís being said or done is worthless. Once the magazine is bought, the deed is done.
WC: Yeah. Well, letís talk a little bit about the new movie. I know we talked about it the first time, but letís talk about it like we havenít.
MB: Letís talk about it again, man.
VB: (laughs) I wasnít there, so itíll be new to me.
MB: This is the alternate universe, man. Letís go for it.
WC: (laughs) So, itís called Scare Me. Why donít you do the general overview first.
MB: Sure. Scare Me is about an alcoholic horror writer who has to write this horror novel to get out of debt, but evil forces intervene. Thatís the surface narrative, but itís also about alcoholism and how bad relationships can destroy the work ethic. Everything you do in life should be an educational process to make you happier, more successful, and more physiologically healthy. So, through this film, itís just getting that idea out. That there are bad elements that you need to consider and eliminate so you can be more successful.
WC: How did the idea come about?
MB: Well, drunk writer-- that was me. I donít drink anymore, but the alcoholic writer is a great romantic notion. So, what do I do with an alcoholic writer? Well, whatís an accessible and immediate genre? Horror. Everyone understands horror, just like everyone understands porno. Itís immediate. The interesting thing about horror is that it uses the terrain of the Earth to create an atmosphere, whether it be barren trees or spooky summer trees with a canopy of green. Most films donít take advantage of atmosphere. They just tell their story. But with horror, there is this realization that the atmosphere plays a great part in getting the story across. And I think thatís great. Sometimes, just in general life, Iíll look at beautiful buildings or streets and roads, and itís such atmosphere, and itís such a great character to use in a film. And it just so happens that the genre of horror uses that best.
VB: Was there a movie that made you realize that, or is that just something you figured out?
MB: Well, I just dug life. I didnít watch much TV at all; I never got into that. So I was trying to be aware of life. But probably the most formative film for me was Dawn Of The Dead. [Writer/director] George Romero had worked for years in the commercial industry, so he knew how to edit and shoot. He was an actual filmmaker doing this, not just someone directing. So when you watch Dawn Of The Dead, it has such a great sense of editorial pace and cinematography; the composure and composition are just wonderful, and the music is used perfectly. Also, the rural atmosphere they had in the film was just incredible, man. So that had an incredible impact on me.
WC: Did you see the new one?
MB: Absolutely. You see it because itís part of a cultural event, and you have a history with the film, so you check out the new one.
WC: Did you like it?
MB: Itís apples and oranges. Itís like steak and macaroni and cheese. If you have steak every night, youíll be hungry for that macaroni and cheese after awhile. Itís irrelevant to comment on. In fact, you can probably figure it out just by how Iím answering.
WC: (laughs) Right. So, with the new film, how did you get work started on it?
MB: Sometimes you get the ball rolling out of desperation, and thatís not good. What you want to be as a person is proactive. You want to be active and healthy through positive motives. But when youíre backed into a corner and have to fight, that means you still havenít gotten where you need to be. So maybe Scare Me was another motive out of desperation, like, "Hey, I have to do work here." But once you start doing it, it gains its own velocity, and itís unstoppable until itís finished. So, it may have been an act of desperation, but Iím not sure. Maybe it was more proactive. I canít remember. I started writing it two years ago.
WC: Are you working with some of the same people youíve always relied on?
MB: Just like anything in life, you always have remnants of the past, but the majority is new people. People move on in life and go in different directions. So itís basically new people with remnants of the past.
WC: Was it easy to find new people?
MB: Sure, because we all have our interests. If you run a paper and itís known, well, then people who are interested in writing, photographing, and so forth are going to be attracted to you. Like hangs out with like.
WC: One of the things we talked about before was facades. Obviously, youíre Mark, and youíre living in this world trying to express yourself. But then there is also the facade of Mark, which is more of a character. Does that inhibit you in your work, or do you use it to your advantage?
MB: You have to use it to your advantage. There is nothing you can do about it. You have this erroneous doppelganger walking around, and people who donít know you perceive you through that. But you use it to your advantage because thereís nothing you can do about it. It doesnít matter how you arrived at being known. Once youíre known, there is basically nothing you can do about it.
WC: You told me before that you approached the new film by working on it piecemeal, because there is no such thing as a film budget.
MB: Exactly. I have a 1985 penny in my pocket, and that is the budget for Scare Me. Now, as you do this, people will obviously want to help, whether itís economically, or they have some goods they want to give you because they want in on the action. Remember, though, that you have to be the lone individual starting the process. It takes a little bit of questioning, but, ultimately, you need your perseverance, and all of a sudden all of these things will begin to accumulate. Whether it is personnel, equipment... whatever. But you have to be the spark that starts the flame.
WC: Do you think that then gives way to a project that is no longer just yours, but that itís everybodyís project now?
MB: Well, thatís not for me determine. I can say or do whatever I want, and itís up to you to figure out what the reality of it is. Like, any kind of painting is usually not collective. Itís just a painter. But when you talk about film, youíre talking about numerous people behind and in front of the cameras. So thatís just something youíd have to figure out for yourself.
WC: Are you a control freak?
MB: Yeah. In my life, I try to be. And now I understand the reason why. You have to be self-involved in a practical sense, because you canít have your problems become other peopleís problems. Time is so short. Of course, there are people that just go with the flow. Iím not one of them. Weíre all different. I have strong desires which, to be a happy and healthy person, I have to see through. So I have to control my destiny in that sense. Some people jump into a car packed with people, while other people would say, "Iíll take my own car." Itís just like doing a film. Youíre standing around a broken car, and everyone is saying, "Man, youíre never gonna get this piece of shit working." But when you do get it running, everyone wants a ride.
WC and VB: (laugh)
MB: It applies across the board.
WC: So, with the film, are you happy with where it is right now? Or are you already looking back on what has already been done and wished you would have done it differently?
MB: I think all six billion of us look back and would like to change things, but, no, I am very happy. I have some very strong people working with me who have done a lot. Of course, there have been disastrous days on the set which I will not forget, because I donít want to repeat those tragedies again. But, most recently, I had a very great day on set; we got a lot accomplished in a connect the dots professional manner that Iím very proud of. But I donít forget the disasters, because I will do anything not to repeat them.
WC: Has there been any interest from other people to help out financially?
MB: Yes. But it has to be relative reality. There is only so much money you need, and then you have to ask yourself why they want to invest, because we all have motives. So, of course, I have people calling and asking about distribution. But itís not a finished film, so it may be something they donít realize it is until they see it. You have to be realistic about what the film actually is and who would actually respond to it. You want to remain in control of your sensible faculties, and keep your feet on the ground. Because itís your life youíre playing with, man.
WC: See, thatís what I find ironic about creative types. The end product of a creative person is entertainment.
MB: Thatís not true.
WC: Well, I think itís true on a base level. The personal goal of a creator is to make the piece. The end product ends up entertaining people, be it a painting, film, or book. But I think that creators are typically very self-serving. Like, youíre making a film because itís in you and you want to get it out.
WC: Youíre not thinking about how the audience is going to react to it. Just like I make the magazine because itís in me, but I donít know how people are going to view the magazine. Itís very weird, because it seems like itís a very singular thing being created, but the outcome of it is much bigger.
MB: Sure. What Iím gonna do is, Iím gonna trade in your word "entertain" with the word "stimulate". I donít read your magazine to be entertained. I read it to be stimulated, and think, "Wow. Thatís a different way of thinking." So I find the word "entertain" foolish. Now, if you do some different math and put "entertainment" plus the word "income", Iíll agree with you all the way to the bank, man.
WC and VB: (laugh)
WC: Why do you do what you do?
MB: Because I have to. Itís not a romantic notion. Itís just something Iíve been doing since I was born. Itís the way I think. When you work at some shit-ass job, itís true death; itís spiritual death. Because youíre not doing what you want to do. If you hang out with people who think on levels that arenít your own, itís spiritual death. Youíre worthless. I donít do it to be an artist. For example, I love where your building is situated here. Itís a beautiful neighborhood, itís a shady street... I like it. Itís important to me. So, itís not that Iím trying to impose some genre on myself; itís my genetics and my experiences. Itís who I am. Maybe I canít even explain it, you know?
WC: Yeah. What do you think it is about people like you that realize stuff like that, that is different from everyone else?
MB: Well, I was raised to think I had to go to a job. But there are six billion of us here, and you donít know anyone elseís mentality. So what other people do, I could care less. As long as it doesnít harm anyone else, you can do whatever you want. I donít care. I donít sit around and ponder why people think like this if it doesnít serve any progressive purpose. If I can gain something from a person, Iíll think, "How does he operate like this? What makes him get up in the morning and accomplish such great feats during the day?" Then I want to know more. But if itís something irrelevant, then I never give it a second thought. You can do what you want, man. As long as youíre happy, Iím happy.
WC: Itís funny, because there are people that look at what we do, and they just donít get it.
MB: Well, thatís the problem. Itís fine to do whatever it is you do. But when you begin to attack other people, then you become a problem. I donít have a problem with anyone unless they have a problem with me. And, yeah, there are some very hateful, spiteful people. We know that with sexism, racism, and on down the line. Some people just have it in their nature to attack what is different, instead of trying to understand difference and change.
VB: Itís not easy for you to make a film, and itís not easy for me to get up and make a painting and hope that somebody is going to want to buy it so I can pay my bills. But for someone who crunches numbers, for example, itís easy for them to go into an office and do that. Why do you think it is that there is no privilege in that sense for people like us?
MB: Well, there is. You could go and work for a city newspaper, for example, but theyíre not going to let you run free. With an accountant, itís a very finite process. But your spectrum is wide, because itís your imagination. But you donít have the privilege to run free when youíre hired somewhere. So with any situation that is modeled on your own desires, youíre going to have to fight for your lifestyle.
WC: How do you come up with your stuff? We talked before about how youíre a people watcher. You said that people have told you to become involved in life, instead of just looking in on it.
MB: If youíre always a participant and never an observer, youíre never going to see anything. Youíre so in the muddle of things, you never see things as they are. If youíre doing all the talking, how can you learn anything? I think most filmmakers make movies about movies theyíve seen. Thatís true. But there are some that say, "Forget that, man." Of course, I understand you have to learn technique. But I let my material come from what I see and hear. And I think thatís a wonderful frontier.
WC: So your films are a pastiche of your life?
MB: Youíre writing a scene right now. Sometime in my work, there are going to be interviews like this. But Iíll maybe trade my cup of coffee here for a screwdriver, or put you in different clothes.
WC: (pointing to Vinnie) Or make him a woman.
MB: (laughs) No, no. Maybe a woman in addition. But this is life. Weíre living this right now, and it serves as a self-serving interview-- it works for you, it works for me-- and, obviously, this is going to show up somewhere down the line in some of my work.
VB: What in life, outside of your work, do you want to do? Are there places youíd like to see, or other things youíd like to accomplish?
MB: The individual-- your mind-- is the final frontier. Itís the greatest gift youíve ever been given, and itís who you are. There is nothing beyond the work. When you have the work, you have everything. Itís how you learn to respect people, and then maybe youíll get respect in return; or maybe youíll be able to help people, and get help in return. The work is everything. You breathe on a regular basis, therefore you work and think on a regular basis. Thatís all you need to concern yourself with, because what you want will bring itself to you.
WC: So, whatís next for both you and this film? I know you had mentioned that you wanted to finish this film by the end of 2004.
MB: Yeah. Thatís just a product of math. You want to spend a certain amount of days on it, and then you want to move on. Because it then becomes not healthy. You get weak if it drags on, especially if you can do it within a certain period of time. The other thing I do is write, and I take that more seriously than I do film, because you have far more control of your writing. But itís all equally important, because itís just being thankful for life. Itís showing that youíre alive. So, where do I go from here? Iím working on a couple books, working on some film concepts that have been with me forever. But days go by so fast, and I just respect each day. Itís wild, man. Itís just really wild.
WC: Well, Mark, the last question I have for you is, when everything is said and done and you leave this life, what do you want to be known for?
MB: As would anyone, probably, just to have been a decent person. The only good I could possibly do, if I truly persevered as a person, is to tell people that struggle to stick to their fight, and to stick to their survival. Things will work against you. But if you could enable and help somebody, inspire them, then youíve done good.
READ OUR FIRST INTERVIEW WITH MARK HERE.