I mention to Borchardt that he seems to have just summarized not only the central themes of Northwestern and "Coven" but the basic principles of his own antiestablishment m.o.--a trait further shared by both Smith and the subtly subversive, clock-punching protagonist of his debut feature American Job. Borchardt agrees immediately, citing a scene from Smith's 1996 mock-doc to complete an invigorating picture of community among like-minded Midwestern iconoclasts. "It's like in the first scene [of Job] when the employer dude is showing Randy [Scott, played by Randy Russell] around the factory, and Randy kind of strays off the path and starts looking around on his own, and the dude says, 'No, no--stay with me.' That'd never be in a Hollywood film, man."
Borchardt's own tendency to stray from the expected course of his life seems just as ingrained. "I've resented authority ever since I was a kid," he says. "And it's not like some liberal-ideological kind of thing--like, 'Oh, I'm not going to be told what to do, just on principle.' For me, it's like, I don't even care about making movies if somebody else is gonna tell me what to do. So at this point it's strictly about achieving what I want to achieve--and that's not arrogance or anything, it's just the truth. I really don't like people telling me what to do. I want to find myself through my films, and I'm not going to let anyone's interference dilute that process in any way."
Doing his own thing: Filmmaker Mark Borchardt (right, with his mother, Monica Borchardt, and Mike Schank) in American Movie