Imagine the person you’ve always said “If one day I could work with _____, I could die happy.” For me, that person was Mark Borchardt. Sure there’s a long list of incredible actors and actresses I would die to work with (Fred Willard and Joey Lauren Adams were two), but Mark Borchardt has a special place in my heart. There were times in my film career when I wanted to throw in the towel. I’ve been lied to, taken advantage of, and treated like a piece of dirt more than I can remember. During those moments, I would always think about Mark in “American Movie.” He never gave up, he did everything he could to make it work. Mark kept going despite all the problems in his personal and professional life. Keep going, one day it will work out, and don’t let anything stop you. I’ve been showing people “American Movie” for as long as I can remember, using Mark’s energy through my work.
I’ve worked on a lot of projects but nothing was like working on “Here Comes Rusty.” I entertained the idea of Mark being Oren in the film to my producer, Ross Smith. I thought it could never happen. How the heck would we even get a hold of Mark? Ross said, “I’ll get him on the phone by tomorrow.” PPPFFFFFFF yeah right Ross, that’ll be the day. Good luck. Have fun. We’ll never get him on the phone and if you do, he’ll think the script sucks and he could do it better, he’s Mark Borchardt… Two days later, Ross sends me a voice text message… It’s a very distinct voice… a Wisconsin accent… THE MARK BORCHARDT.
“Hello Ross, this is Mark Borchardt, I would love to read your script.”
Even if this never went anywhere, to have him on a voicemail was enough. Ross had done it. Next step, send the script, and you better believe it was sent within the hour, next-day-air. After Ross and I convinced him this was a life or death matter, Mark agreed to work on the film and was cast as Oren.
Everything about Mark was perfect; you couldn’t help but love him. We asked Mark if he’d mind taking pictures and interviewing crew members when he was free on set. He seemed to love it. I’d see him taking pictures and shooting video every day. He’d be on his knees or 100s of yards away trying to get the best shot. DEDICATION. Mark secretly gave me motivation throughout the shoot. Every day was precious (especially on a 14-day shoot).
We shot 6-day weeks (which I’ll try to avoid in every way possible on my next film) with one day off a week. On my first day off, I picked up Mark and we went to see a movie at the local movie theater. Mark was pumped, he was taking pictures of every part of the journey. We got to the theater and it was completely empty. It was like someone had rented out the entire theater for us. We sat down, Mark turns to me, “hey man, I hope you don’t mind if I sit one seat over. It’s just kinda weird that we are the only ones in here sitting next to each other ya know?”
After the film, I asked Mark what he thought. “I loved it, you gotta know I don’t go to the movies a lot and I really liked it.” We got in the car and Mark needed his weekly New York Times. We have to find this, Mark needs it – what Mark wants Mark gets. No questions asked. After calling local businesses all over Mobile, we finally found one at a Starbucks, where they held it for him. He got his Times, and then some Burger King. It was an incredible day, one I’ll never forget.
The next day on set Mark came up to me, “Tyler, dude, you have no idea how fun it was going to see that movie yesterday. I hadn’t been in years. It was like going to Disney World dude.” Taking Mark to the theater was nothing compared to what he had done for me. I owed this guy so much for keeping me going til the day where we would actually be at the theater together. If he wouldn’t have done “American Movie” I probably would’ve quit film, never would’ve met him, and wouldn’t have made a great friend.
One of my favorites memories of Mark on “Here Comes Rusty” was the day we filmed at the putt-putt golf course with Mark, Fred Willard, & Theo. It felt like a dream. Fred Willard AND Mark Borchardt acting in a scene together at a putt-putt golf course. I overheard Mark and Fred talking about all the actors Fred had worked with. The list went on for about 20 minutes and all I kept hearing was Mark saying “wow… wow… dude… wow… oh wow… very cool.”
It was such an honor to be able to work with Mark, to see his kindness shine through everything he did. His hard work and dedication to the art of filmmaking is like no other.