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INTERVIEW WITH MARK BORCHARDT

Mark Borchardt, who is probably one of the most visible low budget filmmakers out there right now, due to the documentary AMERICAN MOVIE, is one of the many filmmakers who shares his experience of moviemaking in the new book, THE INDEPENDENT FILM EXPERIENCE. Here is part of his interview...

Q: How has AMERICAN MOVIE helped you?

MARK: It's helped financially and it has helped in terms of publicity of people knowing who I am. Because of those two elements it will help make the next film smoother. Film making will always be a difficult process but some of the elements in getting personnel to help and finances will be easier. But I'm sure the mechanics will be just as tough as usual.

Q: As far as you're concerned, do you feel that AMERICAN MOVIE is a good representation of how it is to make a low budget film?

MARK: I think it is. I was very happy with the movie. I'm now being cast in AMERICAN MOVIE character role, by life. Which is only one slice of my pie, it's not all me.

Q: But you're able to use it to your advantage.

MARK: Absolutely.

Q: As far as independent film publicity IS the thing. I noticed sales of COVEN have really jumped on your website since AMERICAN MOVIE came out.

MARK: Yeah, I'll be working on them today. That's an ongoing thing.

Q: How many have you sold before and how many after AMERICAN MOVIE?

MARK: I sold less than a 100 before and when it came out I reached around 2,000 now. So you definitely see the jump there. I have a house do the dubbing but I send the tapes out myself. I work about 9am-midnight everyday so that's the routine.

Q: You mentioned your getting cast into the AMERICAN MOVIE role?

MARK: Yes, you get stereotyped by the press as the guy in AMERICAN MOVIE, which is again only one slice of my personality, one slice of my existence. So that sometimes seems odd when you read it back in the paper.

Q: It's almost like a character unto itself.

MARK: There you go.

Q: What other television shows have you been on besides DAVID LETTERMAN?

MARK: LETTERMAN was great, short and sweet. I was on twice…he asked me back. This is a little known fact now. Regis Philbin was not his last guest, it was me. I was his very last guest before his heart surgery.

Q: Is Sony, the distributor of AMERICAN MOVIE, the one setting up your publicity appearances?.

MARK: Yes and no. Sony does a lot of it. People independently get a hold of Sony to contact us. We were just invited to the Playboy mansion by Roger Ebert. Both AMERICAN MOVIE and COVEN is playing in his overlooked film festival. So we'll encounter him a few times in the next months.

Q: How often have you been travelling?

MARK: This weekend I have to go to the Museum of contemporary art in Chicago. They want me down in Gurney Illinois, they want me in Australia, in England. I have to go to George Eastman house in Rochester, they want me to speak at Harvard and at Cornell. Roger Ebert's film festival, host a thing on Milwaukee TV about the academy awards. Instead of dying down it's not ending.

Q: Are you working on NORTHWESTERN now?

MARK: It's very hard to do. My hands are very tied with business, each and every day. Yes I am working on it. The weekends are extremely precious to me. I've got three kids, you try to have a couple of girlfriends and friends invariably, too, who demand your time. It's so different for me now. The weekends for everyone else are for "let's party", "Let's enjoy the weekend," which I understand. BUT I can't do that. It's a continuing conflict, week after week, month after month, year after year. I have these things to do in life.

Time goes by faster, it becomes more precious. God damnit. With me and you it's great to talk on the phone and it's business, but I've cut out all the hours of idle chit chat on the phone, at the bar at the coffee shop, and I'm proud of that. You've got to be militant because it's your life and non one else's.

Q: How far along on NORTHWESTERN?

MARK: I'm in the middle of the 5th draft. Because of new knowledge of filmmaking I won't start casting until I have a casting director, I won't start location until location manager because I realize one individual cannot do it all. Because you can't do the proper job. It will probably take a few years to finish, out in around 2002.

Q: BEING A filmmaker your schedule is complete opposite than that of the non-filmmaker.

MARK: They have no clue. I think about how easy it was, my working ten hours a day in the factory because there was no stress, you did what you had to do and you got paid on Friday. Filmmaking is the opposite.

Q: But you love making movies.

MARK: There's a reward, a personal self satisfaction in it.

Q: You want to remain an independent?

MARK: Of course, man. I'm 34 years old in August. I've spoken with people in HOLLYWOOD to pitch ideas, get an agent, do this and do that and it's not my style. My films are my dream life and they have nothing to do with HOLLYWOOD. I don't gel with those people. They are fast talking hustlers and they have to be but it's nothing to do with the content I'm going to make in films. It doesn't' make sense for me from my perspective.

Q: I was at the FANGORIA CONVENTION recently and I found out from managing editor Mike Gingold that you worked as a production assistant on one of their films made around ten years ago, called SEVERED TIES. How was it?

MARK: That was something. I remember right toward the end Elke Sommer was kind of hitting on me and the next morning I ended up in jail for some insurance company who didn't file proper paperwork on me…kind of weird. They stopped me on the road, it wasn't my fault. Oliver Reed had a party, whips out his dick and shows people the tattoos on it. A lot of them were heavy drinkers.

Q: Anything you want to add?

MARK: I would say this because I see this time and time again. I would bring to it something original and unique about your own perspective. People waste tens of thousands of dollars with these low budget films trying to imitate HOLLYWOOD MOVIES and they just suck. No one notices them, people laugh at them. HOLLYWOOD has millions of dollars to make their own films and they have it down to a science. No one cares about your low budget films imitating gangster films or all of that crap. Because it ends in failure. But the people who bring a confident original perspective can get notice. If you're a drunk little paper boy with your wagon and a bottle of whiskey then make a film about that. Don't be a fourteen year old imitating a big mobster. If you're a drunk paperboy that's your film! A lot of people want to see that. They don't want to see pseudo imitation films.

Q: I think the HOLLYWOOD mentality has sunk into a lot of people.

MARK: And everybody that opens their mouth it's the same idea. People are afraid of exposing themselves and their own originality and that is their gold mine. Your best resource is yourself.

Q: Have you been approached for other projects?

MARK: It's not my cup of tea. My film is a black and white flick, about a writer drinking in a junkyard who writes his way out of it and meets this writer chick out in the sticks. If you tell that to HOLLYWOOD they'll have a heart attack at the other end of the phone. Yeah, I have offers of money, blah blah blah. But I'm an adult who sees the other end, see where I'll loose control. They'd make the movie in color, change things, because they have to make money. I'm making an aesthetic investment from the heart. The worlds do not integrate. In fact, a big internet company wants to do business with me but want their hands into the next film and that's where I'm drawing the line. I know other people would be jumping up and down waving that check but I know the consequences of that. So screw that.

Q: What about working as an actor in someone else's film?

MARK: That I would do. I think something legitimate and nice will come up. I'm confident that will happen.

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