DURING OUR FIRST YEAR, FROM SEPTEMBER 1999 TO AUGUST 2000, WE WERE KNOWN UNDER THE MONIKER CHICKENHEAD. DURING THAT FIRST YEAR, WE INTERVIEWED A LOT OF PEOPLE. NOT ALL OF THEM WERE GREAT INTERVIEWS. YOU CAN TELL THAT WE WERE JUST STARTING TO FIGURE OUT OUR STYLE. BUT WE'VE PICKED TWELVE INTERVIEWS OUT FROM THAT FIRST YEAR THAT EPITOMIZED WHAT WE WERE TRYING TO DO. DURING JUNE, JULY, AND AUGUST WE WILL BE PLACING THESE OLD INTERVIEWS ONLINE FOR YOUR READING PLEASURE. THERE WILL BE FOUR NEW INTERVIEWS EACH MONTH. ENJOY THIS BLAST FROM TASTES LIKE CHICKEN'S PAST!
INTERVIEW: MARK BORCHARDT
ORIGINAL PRINT DATE: JULY 2000
THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF GRINDS IN THIS WORLD: THEIRS AND YOURS. SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE A SLAVE TO THE LATTER, YOU'LL BE IN THE COMPANY OF MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN FILMMAKER MARK BORCHARDT. BORCHARDT HAD A DREAM BIGGER THAN WORLD PEACE, AND HIS DETERMINATION TO BRING IT TO FRUITION MADE HIM THE SUBJECT OF THE PRIZE-WINNING DOCUMENTARY AMERICAN MOVIE. CHICKENHEAD'S INSANE WAYNE CHINSANG SITS DOWN WITH ONE OF MILWAUKEE'S BEST TO TALK ABOUT MOVIES, PRIORITIES, AND THE GREEN BAY PACKERS.
Wayne: How did you come to meet director Chris Smith, and how was it finally decided that American Movie would basically be about you?
Mark: Back in 1995 I was at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and so was Chris. He was finishing the editing on his first feature film, American Job, and I was working on shooting Coven at the time. I had a lot of people there, you know, drinking and that. Chris would generally avoid me because he is very quiet and reserved, and I am pretty loud and boisterous. Finally, the dude broke down and said, "Hey, man. Can I make a movie about you?" And that was the beginning of it.
W: A camera followed you around everywhere for nearly three years. Did you ever feel it was exploiting you or your family?
M: No, not at all. Chris and Sarah (Price, producer) wouldn't waste a second of their time or a penny of their money to do anything like that. We all knew what was going on. What you see is a slice of my pie. It's there for entertainment.
W: Some of your closest family members and friends had some pretty harsh things to say about you in the film. Now that the movie has been highly-acclaimed, from Sundance to Cannes, has their tune changed?
M: Yeah, people change their tune. People dig the noise surrounding American Movie. They don't dig my efforts or anything like that. But I keep it two separate things; very clean and simple.
W: Do you think once the noise is gone it will go back to the way it was?
M: No. It will never go back to the way it was. Again, all this stuff is cool and you enjoy it-- the women, the drink. But you always pick your own dreams and that never, ever changes.
W: In American Movie you expressed some pretty biased views against the average working-class citizen. Do you hold a great deal of disdain against the everyday worker?
M: No, not at all. That was completely misconstrued. My disdain is that I don't want to do that crap. I've been in the military. I've worked on a farm and in the factories. It's all bullshit, man. But that's for me. There are six billion people with six billion different views. I have my own thing, and I do have disdain for people who try to make you rule your life with this dumb bullshit. Look where I'm at. I'm healthy, and I just want to live my life. You only go around once, man, and I don't want to spend it working in a fucking factory. I just got out of the factories last summer, working ten-hour days with no air conditioning. It's just bullshit.
W: Do you feel that, for some people, that is the American Dream?
M: Probably, and more power to them. But I know a lot of people that have freaked out. They don't understand that when you get home from work, instead of turning on that damn satellite TV, you've got to be working on a novel or something. That's the only way to get out of it.
W: Films of 1999: Who got fucked, and who got what they deserved?
M: I'm down with Eyes Wide Shut, man. But I hardly even go to the movies. I fucking almost hate movies.
W: Don't you think that's kind of hypocritical, since you're trying to get people to see your films?
M: Movies are more and more stupid and immature. But I liked Eyes Wide Shut because I thought it was a beautiful, evocative piece of cinematography. I just think, for the most part, movies are total shit. I went to the movies like once or twice this year.
W: You seem to be a man of great pride. What do you take most pride in?
M: Just trying to be a better person. But that doesn't mean I am a better person. I know a lot of people get offended by the things I say and do, but I do try to be a better person.
W: What was a typical day for Mark Borchardt like pre-American Movie and post-American Movie?
M: Before American Movie came out I was working at some shitty job and drinking in my parent's basement. Now it's completely different. It's making money off of all this stuff all the time. Now I've got my own big-ass flat and my own office. I still drink a lot because there's a lot of money there now.
W: Just better beer?
M: Yep. Better beer.
W: You've become pretty famous overnight. Who is the coolest person you've met so far?
M: George Romero, who made Dawn of the Dead. That really kind of freaked me out.
W: Films like Dawn of the Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre have influenced you. Those films are known for their gritty and raw nature. Yet nowadays we live in a society that thrives on high-gloss promos and slick-ass special effects. Why do you feel the need to place the gritty elements in your films, and do you think that you might ever start to compromise these ideals?
M: I can't compromise my ideals because I abhor that even more. Look man, we've been around for two million years, which is like a millisecond in the scheme of God's life. I don't give a fuck if things are slick or not, because it doesn't pertain to me at all.
W: The Midwest and Milwaukee in particular seem to be very important to both you and your work. Do you ever see yourself relocating to a more film-production-friendly area?
M: No. The last thing I want to be around are fucking filmmakers.
W: Speaking of Milwaukee, did you ever meet Jeffrey Dahmer or Laverne and Shirley?
M: None of them. But Mike Schank goes to the same club Jeffrey Dahmer used to go to.
W: You finally have enough capital to make Northwestern. What does the schedule look like so far?
M: Money doesn't play into anything I do. It's when you don't have money that sucks. Money is of no relevance. Filming Northwestern has nothing to do with money. I could have a dollar in my pocket and still film it. I just don't think about budgets or anything like that anymore. I'm a loose screw now. My dad would always talk about retirement, and elude to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And I say all you've got at the end of the rainbow is death. You're riding the rainbow right now.
W: In your amateur opinion, do dogs have lips?
M: Yeah. I think they do.
W: Because of legal reasons, as of September 1, 2000, Chickenhead has to change its name forever. Any helpful suggestions?
W: Milwaukee's Best or Old Milwaukee?
M: Milwaukee's Best.
W: Definitely. Old Milwaukee isn't even made in Milwaukee.
M: Yeah. It's made in Detroit.
W: In what year do you predict the Green Bay Packers to come back and totally kick complete fucking NFL ass?
W: What do you miss most about your childhood?
M: Not having made the most of it.
W: Any advice for other aspiring and starving filmmakers?
M: If it's something that you really need to do you'd better do it, because it would really suck to live a life unlived.
W: What retired professional wrestler would you like to see brought back?
M: The Crusher.
W: He's from Milwaukee, isn't he?
M: Yep. I saw him out looking for food once at the supermarket.
W: What do you think is the most important thing that people remember about you once you're dead?
M: That I really tried to be a good person.
W: That seems to be a reoccurring theme with you.
M: Yeah, man. Because through experiences you learn that you shouldn't talk behind people's backs, and that you should be honest with people. I read this thing where they were asking the elderly what they thought the most important things in their lives were. Regularly, people said their work and relationships. The work means being true to yourself. And the relationship is the pot of gold.
READ OUR SECOND INTERVIEW WITH MARK HERE.
VISIT MARK HERE.
PURCHASE ITEMS BY MARK BORCHARDT