Mike Schank has passed away. Schank charmed audiences with his low-key but friendly vibe, his talent for music and histrionic screams, and his unwavering support for friend Mark Borchadt’s dreams of making movies as one of the key subjects of (and composer for) Chris Smith and Sarah Price’s beloved 1999 documentary American Movie.
Schank’s death was widely reported today by filmmaker Mark Duplass and confirmed by the Milwaukee Record. Schank was 56 years old.
Schank made his American Movie debut 23 years ago as Borchardt’s musician, extra, assistant director, and all-around get-things-done person on the set of his difficult short film Coven.
Childhood friends with Borchardt, and a recovering alcoholic and drug addict one of his final social media posts were from this August when he celebrated 27 years of sobriety Schank was among the most dependable of the various family members and friends that Borchardt enlisted to help him make Coven, cheerfully assisting in whatever ways were required.
With the publication of American Movie, Schank became a small indie darling; two years later, he’d feature as the cinematographer assisting Paul Giamatti in capturing the life of a sad upper-class family in Todd Solendz’s Storytelling.
Other credits include an appearance on Family Guy, a cut scene (which surfaced in the bonus features) in Jason X, and a few small roles in independent or horror films.
Schank remained in Milwaukee; in a radio interview from 2012, he stated that he and Borchardt remained in constant contact, chatting every day, and expressed his gratitude for the chances provided by American Movie.
Among his other accomplishments, Schank was a prominent member of the MKE Alano Organization, sobriety, and rehabilitation club in the city, according to the Record.
Schank’s friends and followers offered their tributes online.
“Stay strong forever, Mike…” Borchardt, a boyhood buddy and “Coven” director, tweeted.
“RIP Mike Schank,” wrote Mark Duplass. Learn how to be a good friend by watching him in ‘American Movie.'”
RIP Mike Schank. Watch him in AMERICAN MOVIE and learn how to be a good friend. pic.twitter.com/6AIgStzOBz
— Mark Duplass (@MarkDuplass) October 13, 2022
Edgar Wright, the director of “Baby Driver” and “Shaun of the Dead,” told a story about Schank. “RIP, Mike Schank, the sweet and hilarious person at the heart of the remarkable documentary ‘American Movie.'”
We were obsessed with it, and since Mike’s home phone number was available on the DVD extras, we called him from London one night. If you haven’t watched it yet, please do so right away.”
RIP Mike Schank, the sweet funny soul at the heart of the extraordinary doc ‘American Movie’. Me, Simon & Nick were obsessed with it and since they included Mike’s home number on the DVD extras, we called him from London one night. If you’ve never seen it, please do immediately. pic.twitter.com/RCWm3uBAZz
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) October 13, 2022