Monday, 8 September 2014

American Movie: Where are They Now?

American Movie, a documentary that charts independent writer/director Mark Borchardt's attempts to film an ambitious drama titled Northwestern, may be turning fifteen this year, but old age is having no ill effects on the movie's cult status. People continue to be drawn to this relentlessly enjoyable, oddly uplifting film, and it's not hard to see why. After all, Borchardt and his best bud Chris Schank are two of the most loveably determined goofs in American documentary film history, and the movie observes their struggles and desires with a fond eye.

The trailer for American Movie.

But, a decade and a half on, whatever did happen to the American Movie's rag tag group of film enthusiasts? Armed with little more than Google and far too much time, I've spent the last few weeks trying to answer that very question. Here's a little info on the folks I could track down:

Joan Petrie.

In addition to her work as associate producer on Coven, the short film that Mark directs in an attempt to raise the necessary money for Northwestern, Joan Petrie was later the wardrobe assistant on the film The Smokers, and appears briefly in the barely released Lady in the Box.

Robert Richard Jorge.
An actor in Coven, Robert Richard Jorge has also provided the voice of the Porn Fairy (yes, the Porn Fairy) in the video game Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude. Check out his fine work here:

Jorge is also set to play Claudius in the upcoming movie Hamlet ADD, sharing screen time with his old buds Borchardt and Schank. Here's a bizarrely compelling promo for the film:

 Alongside his acting work, Jorge also works as a Journalist at Shepherd Express, where he largely reviews local theatre and cinema.  You can find his work here:
Cliff Borchardt.
Clifford G. Borchardt, Mark's father, passed away on April 4, 2012 at the tender age of 90.
Ken Keen.
According to his imdb page, Ken Keee had a role as an extra in the Michael Mann helmed Public Enemies, though I personally couldn't spot him. He's much more visible in the documentary American Surfrider, where he acts as one of the film's interviewers, grilling some of the figures in Wisconsin's colourful surf scene. By all accounts, he's still close to his buddy Mark - he's playing the role of John in Borchardt's upcoming movie Scare Me.
Oh, and for those of you intrigued to know what Keen looks like these days, in the process of my research, I also discovered this odd clip of the man himself chewing the fact with Borchardt's brother Chris. Enjoy:

Tom Schimmels
Tom Schimmels, one of Coven's stars, continues to find work as an actor in independent and web based projects. Here he is in a strange little youtube short:
 Mike Schank and Mark Borchardt.
Schank and his buddy Borchardt have enjoyed a fair bit of success as a result of American Movie. They've basically managed to make a living playing versions of themselves, whether it be in the Todd Solondz film Storytelling, or in animated form in an episode of Family Guy.
Outside of his work with Borchardt, Schank continues to play classical guitar - here he is with a ten minute jam:
If you enjoyed that, you can also download the music he played on American Movie's soundtrack here: Oh, and while you're at it, check out the man at the Amoeba record store, nabbing a few choice picks:
Perhaps most compellingly, Schank also appeared in an Italian television commercial. Sadly, the commercial can't be found on youtube, so you'll just close your eyes and imagine how awesome it must have been.
Mark Borchardt's work without Schank has largely been as an actor - he was cast by Ti West, a die hard American Movie fan, in the film Cabin Fever 2. He continues to sport a goatee and long hair, although he is showing quite a lot of grey. Here he is in a little promo video, designed in part to encourage people to cast him in movies:
God bless the guy. Seriously. He deserves every good thing he's got coming to him.


  1. Love it. Thank you so much for taking the time to research, then getting this information out to a waiting world of fans. God bless and have a wonderful 2017.

  2. Every time I go through Milwaukee I keep an eye out. So far no good. Would love to meet him!

  3. This blog is very good,thank for sharing the link.


  4. Just watched the documentary with my daughter for her college film class. We were both completely surprised, amused and touched by this wacky yet poignant film. We both fell in love with the two main characters. Thank you so much for sharing this update!

  5. This is my favorite Documentary of all time. Every time i watch it I am brought back to the exact dates that are mentioned. I like to reminisce as to what I was doing in my life in parallel to the time frame of the movie. "The locations at scant at best."