Mark Borchardt isn't the average Hollywood wannabe director. The closest we get to the bright lights are this garrulous thirty-something's citations of Dawn of the Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, two of the inspirations behind Coven, the 35-minute supernatural thriller whose protracted production arc provides the narrative backbone of this delightful documentary dispatch from the no-budget neck of the woods: a tale of toil, tribulation and kooky camaraderie. We find Borchardt in his hometown of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, in 1995, gathering cast and crew for a more ambitious feature project, 'Northwestern', to be his own 'great American movie'. Over the next two years, we see him slack off, then pick up the reins on 'Coven', roping in his mother as assistant camera operator, his druggy pal Mike on sound, grouchy uncle Bill (and savings) as exec producer, and seemingly half the locals. It's like film-making in the folk spirit, with this eccentric backwoods auteur as a traditional rugged American individualist. Borchardt may not be quite the Henry David Thoreau of cinema - though his talent isn't the issue; his fulfilment's in the process rather than the end product - but he and his companions are bigger, bolder, more absurd and affecting characters than you'd usually find in fiction.
American Movie: The Making of Northwestern
Cast and crew