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Mark Borchardt Beyond 'American Movie'

Feb. 14, 2012
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Mark Borchardt, the low- (or was it no-?) budget filmmaker documented in the 1999 cult favorite American Movie, hasn't stood still in the years since he first made a splash. He has appeared on “Late Show With David Letterman” and other TV shows, played himself on an episode of “Family Guy” and found parts in a slew of indie movies. He is one of the stars of director Frankie Latina's political thriller Modus Operandi, shot in Milwaukee and Tokyo. Modus Operandi was released this week on DVD by Kino.

What have you been up to?

I've been writing up a storm—everything from short stories to essays, poems, longer-format writing. I enjoy the process of writing. I'm not into the grand mirage of what it could be.

What do you mean by “grand mirage”?

Some people have grand designs and spend the entirety of their imaginative hours trying to fulfill that vision instead of building from the ground up out of true passion and interest.

Where has your writing appeared?

I wrote an essay for the Maryknoll catalog. I was commissioned to write a screenplay for a private showing. I had a short stint with The Onion's A.V. Club, but The Onion has a particular colloquial style and I have a more scholarly bent. It was fun doing it, but we parted.

What about acting?

In Modus Operandi, I play a character called Dallas Deacon, who's carrying two suitcases that could bring down a very important person in the paradigm of the political structure. The film was shot on Super 8, with a grainy, early-'70s quality. It's a violent, sexy thriller—an über-homage to '70s exploitation. Frankie Latina is extremely charismatic and intelligent. With Modus Operandi, he struck gold. I was in Cabin Fever 2 by horror director Ti West and, on a local level, I was in Amateur Monster Movie.

You started out by wanting to direct movies…

Over the years I have shot up a storm with films of various length. Now it rests on me to put it together when the muse surfaces. I'm so passionate about the process that I don't regard the result—which may not be very smart!

Do you find working in Milwaukee helpful or unhelpful?

L.A. has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Undoubtedly there would be lots of opportunities there. The disadvantage would be having my individual character and artistic intent shredded by an intense and unwavering social milieu—the people there will pull you to pieces. I love Milwaukee. It's my home and will always be.


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