Mark Borchardt & Mike Schank at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Randall Michelson/WireImage)
Movies - TV
Cinema's Greatest Best Friend Mike Schank From American Movie Has Died
At the age of 56, Mike Schank, a tremendously gifted guitarist who gained millions of admirers as the companion of low-budget filmmaker Mark Borchardt in Chris Smith's documentary "American Movie," has passed away. Smith's film took art houses by storm in 1999, but its enthusiastic reception came freighted with more than a tinge of guilt, due to the sharing of private info.
Smith included Schank’s actual home phone number in the documentary, but Schank seemed unbothered by this, as some fans reported having great conversations with him. It was apparent to many that he lived by a code of kindness, and when Smith asked him in "American Movie" why he sticks by Borchardt, he simply replied, "I feel like Mark is like my best friend, because, uh, he is."
In the documentary, Schank and Borchardt are Milwaukee eccentrics trying to complete a handmade and underfunded horror movie, with many memorable moments coming from Borchardt’s painful and hilarious direction of his elderly Uncle Bill, who helped fund it. As Borchardt fights to get his film in the can, Schank unwaveringly stands behind him every day, helping in any way he can — a “best friend” indeed.