A Screening Life: Independent Film the Polish Brothers Way

My dad and stepmom used to live in Rocklin, California. They still live nearby. Portrayed in screenplay format, the city might look something like this:


This glassy-eyed ranch-style home is one of countless bubbles afloat on a sea of Targets, Blockbusters, and Applebee’s.

The Polishes live here.


The whole damn room is beige.

But teenage identical twins, Mark and Michael Polish, have everything they need to get them through a hot summer in this Sacramento suburb: a comfy couch, icy soft drinks, and a remote.

They sit barefoot in shorts and t-shirts; they watch an old war movie in rapt attention.

Michael takes notes.

To them, this is more engaging than the sun-blasted residential street outside, more real than the phalanx of strip malls it leads to.

For Mark and Michael Polish (long o), the American Dream lay not in the material trappings of their suburban existence but in the magic of film. Writing together with Jonathan Sheldon, these young darlings of independent film penned The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking: An Insider’s Guide to Making Movies Outside of Hollywood, a book that comes closer than you might imagine to conveying what it is like to take the leap into independent moviemaking. The authors’ plain-spoken writing style effectively delivers scads of practical, how-to advice for aspiring auteurs.

This, in itself, constitutes a remarkable contribution to the literature, but the Polishes go beyond this by populating their  book with a series of rich vignettes that capture the pair’s subjective experience of accomplishing the impossible. For all their encouragement and friendly instruction, the authors make clear that making a commercially successful independent film is roughly akin to executing a high-arcing swan dive into a thimbleful of water.

A great way to get even more out of this book is to use it as a companion volume to each of the Polish brothers’ first three films. Only one of these titles is currently available in the EPLS collection, but there are other places to find them: Twin Falls, Idaho (1999) Jackpot (2001) Northfork (2003).

EPL also carries the Polish brothers’ The Astronaut Farmer, a family-oriented metaphor for Mark and Michael’s own determination to pursue their dream.


7 thoughts on “A Screening Life: Independent Film the Polish Brothers Way

  1. Sounds like an interesting read. I wonder how much of it is about creating independent film and how much is autobiographical.


  2. Pingback: In Pictures | In Pictures | Karta platnicza charakterystyka

  3. Pingback: In Pictures | In Pictures | Zdolnosc finansowa

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