Cinema’s Greatest Best Friend Mike Schank From American Movie Has Died


When I watched “American Movie” on DVD, I didn’t know what to make of Smith’s decision to include Schank’s home phone number. Over the years, I’ve talked to people who actually called Schank, and, in several cases, they had good, substantive conversations with him. He was one of those people who was open to the world. He was devoid of guile, and seemed baked most of the time in “American Movie,” but there was so much mental activity masked by those seemingly glazed-over eyes.

Schank was taking it all in, and it came out in his music. He loved to riff on classical compositions. Was he a Hendrix-level guitarist? No, but he was attuned to something ineffable in the universe, and he brought it out every time he played the instrument that brought him joy. In doing so, he made others tremendously happy. He shared his bliss, and he mattered. Deeply.

Schank represented the very best of us. He lived by a code of kindness. When Smith asks him in “American Movie” why he sticks by Borchardt, he says, “I feel like Mark is like my best friend because, uh, he is.” That answer just shatters my heart. We were so lucky to have him.



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