American Movie: The Making of Northwestern is a 1999 documentary that chronicles the making of the horror film Coven. The purpose of this movie was to advertise for Coven, and draw in viewers for the independent horror film. Directed by Chris Smith, American Movie gives viewers a backstage pass to the making of Coven. Throughout the documentary viewers see all of the setbacks that occurred while making the horror film. These setbacks include poor financial planning, an alcoholic producer and the disastrous effects of hiring unskilled friends and family as your production crew.
This documentary also shows an inside look to Mark Borchardt's film making process. Borchardt is the director of Coven, and American Movie showed extensive interviews with him, and followed his daily activities. Borchardt talks on screen about his writing process and how he turns his ideas into tangible film. American Movie follows his personal life throughout the making of Coven. Borchardt was a suburbanite who had always dreamed of becoming a filmmaker as a child. In 1995, when filming began, he was unemployed, an alcoholic and living with his parents. American Movie delves into the details of the making of Coven, including the finances. All of his financing came from his older Uncle Bill, and Borchardt promises his uncle that Coven will sell at least 300 VHS tapes. To fulfill his production team, Borchardt hires friends and family who have never worked on a film before. Certain members of the crew are followed very closely in this documentary, including his drug addict best friend Mike. Mike is put in charge of scoring Coven. His drug addictions turn into a gambling addiction, which is also showcased in American Movie.
As the production of Coven starts to come to an end, American Movie begins winding down. The documentary ends as the movie Coven is wrapped up, and Borchardt returns to his normal life, and tries to find more funding for future projects.