American Movie is a 1999 documentary directed by Chris Smith about independent filmmaker Mark Borchardt and the struggles he went through to create an independent film.
Part-time paperboy, army veteran, amateur filmmaker, slacker, and radio show scriptwriter Mark Borchardt has an idea for a Great American Movie: a potboiler drama about a misfit teen growing up in the suburbs of northwestern Milwaukee, titled simply Northwestern. Unfortunately, his own lack of directing experience stymies the project, and he falls back on completing his half-finished black-and-white horror short "Coven" to gain experience and, more importantly, capital. With the help of his friends and family, including his rich, decrepit Uncle Bill, to provide most of the funding, his brain-fried ex-stoner-turned-scratchoff-lottery-ticket-addict best friend Mike to provide the music, and his own mother to play an evil minion, Mark sets out to finish "Coven" at any cost, man.
American Movie features the following tropes:
- Addiction Displacement: Mike substitutes lottery cards for drugs and alcohol, because with drugs and alcohol - especially drugs - you always lose, but with the lottery you sometimes win.
- The Alcoholic: As the stress of finishing "Coven" begins to get to him, Mark becomes more and more reliant on alcohol.
- Catchphrase: Mark ends virtually every sentence out of his mouth with the word "man." Watch the film once or twice, and you'll find yourself doing it.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Mark at times, but especially Mike.
- Deadpan Snarker: Uncle Bill.Mark: And you get your name in the credits as a producer.Uncle Bill: [completely emotionless] Yaaaay.
- The Hyena: Mike gives a creepy chuckle before, during, and after each line of dialogue. Though his backstory reveals that he really isn't all there following an experience with blotter acid laced with PCP.
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Mark pronounces "coven" as "coh-ven," because the more common pronunciation sounds too much like "oven." Contrary to popular opinion, however, his pronunciation is also acceptable.
- Motor Mouth: Mark talks very quickly.
- Non-Indicative Name: The film's full title is American Movie: The Making of Northwestern. The film does start out with Borchardt trying to make Northwestern, but he quickly abandons it, and the rest of the movie is about making "Coven," a short film.
- Overly Long Scream: Mike belts out one of these during an ADR session.Mark: That was wicked, man.
- The Unintelligible: Mark's mother is very difficult to understand.