A life in low budget movies can be tough! It takes a person with a real love of movies and their craft to stay in it for any amount of time, let alone the 20 plus years that Joel D. Wynkoop has been at it. Joel has been making movies (officially) since the 80s and he’s still going strong. I recently noticed Joel in a standout performance in Phil Herman’s After Midnight, as a horror host telling tales of terror to various listeners. It was such a great performance that I couldn’t help but want to talk to Mr. Wynkoop about his career, his life in low budget cinema and what’s next for this versatile performer.
BM – How did you get your start in the business?
JDW – I think what got me started was I got an interest in making movies when I learned KING KONG was animated. My Dad took me to the camera store and bought me a super 8 camera. I made a Cyclops movie for my Greek Mythology class using an animated Cyclops I made out of clay. After that my neighbor and I made a Dinosaur movie and we just took off from there. Steve and I were constantly making movies like "THE BIONIC BOY" and "THE INVISIBLE BOY" and this is where I met Tim Ritter who would become my partner ten years later and start "TWISTED ILLUSIONS INC". I helped Tim sell "DAY OF THE REAPER" and then we teamed to do "TWISTED ILLUSIONS" and that was our start and I haven’t stopped yet.
BM – You’ve made over 30 movies and are something of a low budget legend. To what do you attribute your success?
JDW – I try not to get discouraged. I just keep doing them. Success? I don’t know, I mean I’m not rich like some Hollywood stars but I have done a lot I know that’s for sure. I enjoy making movies and acting and I guess that’s what keeps me going. Tim and I were doing things one after the other and we built up a small following of people who enjoyed our work. Later, Tim had moved away and our team was broken up but I continued to make movies and soon was starring in other people’s movies. Tim and I still worked on a couple of things long distance and I was even flown to Kentucky to shoot "ALIEN CONSPIRACY : RETURN TO THE LOST WORLD" with Tim. Tim and I worked on "TWISTED ILLUSIONS 2" while separated by thousands of miles. Then I moved to Tampa and a whole new world opened up for me working on movies. I was getting offers to do roles for people like Gustavo Perez, Garland Hewlitt, Marcus Koch, Jason Liquori, John Lewis, Johan Tertault, Mark Nash, John Matheny, Phil Herman, Ryan Cavalline plus my agent was calling me all the time for open auditions. I was getting so busy with other people’s movies that I was actually turning some parts down. I guess there’s still people out there that like my work, or they hate it and want to see more, I don’t know which. It is cool when I get emails from people that ask "Mr. Wynkoop would you be in my movie?" It makes you feel pretty good.
BM – What advice do you offer anyone who wants to break into the business?
JDW – Just start doing something. If you have no one asking you to be in a movie, do one yourself. Get with other people that have your same interests. Gather some actors or wanna-be actors, find someone with a camera or just buy one and shoot something, that’s basically how Tim and I started, we just wanted to make movies, so we did. Don’t let anyone say "you can’t do that." that’s been told to me so many times I couldn’t keep count. Just do it.
BM – You’ve done a lot of work with Phil Herman. What’s it like working with Phil?
JDW – Phil is awesome. I met Phil over the phone back in 1995. We’ve never met in person but became close best friends over our phone conversations. Right away we talked about doing the same thing and before you knew it Phil and I were working together. Phil was actually supposed to be in "SCREAMING FOR SANITY" but at the last minute Phil was unable to fly down to Florida and we had to cast someone else at the last minute. I was in "JACKER 2" for Phil , "TALES TILL THE END", "HORROR TALES 666" and the up and coming "INTO THE WOODS" and of course we collaborated on "ALWAYS MIDNIGHT". Phil and I pretty much see eye to eye on moviemaking, to bad we don’t live closer we’d be shooting every week. Of course everything we have done has been long distance but we pretty much agree with each other’s idea’s and we like each other’s work.
BM – You’ve never met Phil Herman face to face, yet you’d done several movies together. I’d be curious as to how that works and how hard is it to work with a director who you’ve only spoken with over the phone?
JDW – The cool thing with Phil and I is, we both like the same thing and have the same ideas. We like the same movies, we listen to each others ideas, we both hate our menial labor jobs and we both really want to make it big time in the movie business. Over the phone? Phil will tell me an idea and I tell him what I can do. Pretty much everything I send him he calls me up and says "I love it." and I believe him. Although, one time Phil and I were working with Micheal Hoffman for "HORROR TALES 666" and Mike was taking his time getting some footage to Phil so I told him I’d shoot a new beginning and I made it like a Jerry Lewis opening and he hated it, he said "He made it to funny I want it to be serious." He was right, he was going for a more dark storyline and wraparound, me I love comedy and you’ll see this whenever I finish "WYNKOOP TALES". It’s me breaking into a house and every time I throw the door open I go to grab my cook’s bag and the door swings back and hits me, I go through this several times, it cracks me up, it’s like Jerry Lewis in "THE CADDY" when he keeps hitting his head on the slanted wall. Anybody see "THE CADDY" with Jerry Lewis? Like I said earlier, Phil was supposed to be in "SCREAMING FOR SANITY" and I knew he would have done a kick ass job, I think Phil is a very cool guy and he is a great actor. Some of his best work is in "BURGLAR FROM HELL" and "TALES TILL THE END" when he does "THE DISTRIBUTER" short, he is too funny. I would love to do a full feature with Phil and I as cops or detectives that get on each others nerves but they need each other to solve the case. Anybody want to put Wynkoop and Herman in a big feature? Phil will probably do some scenes for me in "FALL OF AN ACTOR", he’s mentioned in the movie several times. "JACKER 2" I did for Phil, he sent me a script and told me how he wanted it shot and with who, we got the who and did the shot as he required and then sent it to him in New York and Phil made the two of us interact, the bastard shot me dead, prick. For "TALES TILL THE END" Phil sent me again a script and told me how he wanted it shot, he loved it. I have put Phil’s name on the blackboard in the background of a scene I shot in "ALL WRAPPED UP" and he is mentioned in "SCREAMING FOR SANITY". Also one of the girls in "THE PART" for "TWISTED ILLUSIONS 2" mentions Phil by saying "I once worked for Phil Herman he’s a legend in his own mind." I shared credit with him in "THE BITE" for it was his original idea that the whole movie morphed from. Phil and I share the same vision so it works out great, he can tell me to shoot something and it will be what he wants and vice versa.
BM – You’ve directed a couple of features yourself, do you prefer it in front of or behind the camera?
JDW – I do like being behind the camera but I always want to jump in front as well. Of course if I had to choose it would be the acting first. "LOST FAITH" and "THE BITE" were two of the biggest movies that I directed as well as produced and acted in. I’d like to just direct something but I think I’d miss the acting too much. When I did do "TIME FOR DESSERT" for "BEFORE I DIE" (another Phil Herman movie) I wanted to make that one Cathy Holseybrook’s coming out movie, starring her, I was supposed to be in it but at the last second I chose Gus Perez to do my role so I could concentrate on just directing and making Cathy the star. It was pretty cool just directing but I missed the acting, I had to throw myself in for a cameo. If someone asked me to direct but didn’t want me in the movie I would jump at the chance.
BM – You were great as The Reaper in ‘Always Midnight’, the sort of host of the anthology movie. Would you ever consider being a full time TV horror movie host?
JDW – A long time ago I would have said "NO". Today I would say "YES". I think that would be pretty fun. I could host all these independent movies. Kind of like a step below "ELVIRA" or "Rhonda up all night". I mean any TV producer’s out there, I’m up for any horror show, that would be a BLAST!!!!
BM – You act, write, direct, produce. Which one do you prefer to do?
JDW – I like them all, acting be first and foremost. I like writing but it is very hard to stay focused I’m always running off to watch "SEINFELD" or "COPS" or "JUSTICE LEAGUE" episodes. I have alot of respect for writer’s like Tim Ritter and Franklin E. Wales, it’s hard to stay behind the keyboard when other things are calling for your attention, excuse me I’ll be right back……see what I mean, commercial for Fantastic Four was on. Producing is okay if there’s no one else to do it, if I have to get it done then it’s probably going to be me doing it. Acting is the easiest, but I love and can do them all.
BM – You mention both the Justice League and The Fantastic Four and I know that you draw. Would an animated movie ever be in the cards for you?
JDW – FANTASTIC FOUR and JUSTICE LEAGUE? Yes, this would be cool. If I could write something and it be animated that would be cool. I have so many ideas for a superhero show and doing it like Justice League or Fantastic Four that would be great. I have a slew of superheroes that I created long ago, first and foremost is "RAY BLAST". That name "POPS" up in alot of our movies too. I would take nine of my heroes’ and call the show their team name "FORCE NINE" (nothing to do with Navarone.) That would be great, I would love to do that. Any animator’s out there that want to turn my heroes into a cartoon?
BM – What’s next for Joel D. Wynkoop?
JDW – I just finished shooting scenes for Ryan Cavalline’ "THE DEAD BODYMAN CHRONICLE’S" and finished shooting scenes for Phil Herman’s "INTO THE WOODS", I’m working on "FALL OF AN ACTOR" which is something I did seven years ago, I just recently got the footage back from the guy who shot it. Also I am producing, acting and directing John Martin’s "SURVIVOR’S OF REMIC" which is a Christian sci-fi, it’s a pretty cool story reminiscent of "TWILIGHT ZONE" and "STAR TREK". I will be shooting that in August and it should be alot of fun. Future holds THE WYNKOOP TALES, which is a compilation of four shorts where I play four different characters. Also I have four other projects from other moviemakers I will be working on in the near future.
BM – Tell us about Fall Of An Actor, and what’s the movie about and it seems like there might be a good story there. Anytime footage is fought over, I have to be interested!
JDW – Well, it was started in April 2000. Way back then it was going to be done by the guy that did "BRAINROBBERS FROM OUTER SPACE". (which I’m in) It just never seemed to get done. I would ask "Garland, how’s "Fall of an Actor" coming and it was always one excuse after the other. It wasn’t anything like this excuse or that excuse it just wasn’t getting done. Some things just take time, "BRAINROBBERS FROM OUTER SPACE" took ten years, and it shows. Anyway I was constantly asking "What’s going on with it?" The answer was always the same. Finally three years ago I asked Garland "Can you give me the footage and I’ll put it together?" He didn’t want to give me the originals which I guess I understand but he wasn’t doing anything with it. I think he had his own ideas about it and I had mine, mine was "just get it out." Finally I convinced him to dupe it for me onto Super VHS and I could edit it and release it, the whole thing was about me anyway. It took me a little over two years to get all the footage and I just need one more tape from him and I will have it all. I have actually started to index each scene going over all the footage, it looks pretty good. "FALL OF AN ACTOR" is basically about my movies and me. Lots of name-dropping in it and plenty of movie comments and product placement. It’s basically all about my movies and me. I don’t know if I’m going to add the "UNTRUE" stuff yet otherwise it’s all real stuff. The story is fictional as far as my agent and his lawyer are trying to screw me over and take all my money because I don’t read my contracts. I think I’m going to do it with "interviews" and it was all shot docustyle for that "REAL" look. It will be story telling like a movie shot docustyle with "E True Hollywood Story “type interviews. Am I making it to confusing? Trust me I make myself crazy when I think about how I want to do it. I sit around telling Cathy, "I could do this four ways. #1 Like a straight movie. #2 Flash back style. #3 Interview style where someone talks about the scene and then we see it or #4 or re creation: what you are about to see is a reenactment, I still don’t know how I’m going to do it, but it should be fun. There is a funny scene where I walk into my agent’s office and there is a huge cut out of "JASON" from "Friday the 13th" I spin around and kick it down with a karate kick" and say "I hate Kane Hodder." The secretary says to another client "Joel lost that role to Kane Hodder." So it’s got real things from my life but then some things we added like appearances on Star Trek Voyager.
BM – What would be your dream role in a movie?
JDW – Dream Role? How bout Bruce Willis in "ARMAGEDDON"? I just saw that on I LOVE THE 90’s and told my wife "That’s the role I’d like to play." Willis gives up his life to save the world, that was great!! A super hero movie. The good guy up against the odds. Bruce Willis in "DIE HARD". Charles Bronson in "DEATHWISH 3". I love all the stuff I have done but to play an action hero would be great. It would be fun to also do a John Cleese type role, think "FAULTY TOWERS". A serious dramatic role would be cool too, but my favorite would be doing something like Bruce Willis in DIE HARD, "YIPPIE KAY AYE MUTHER FUCKER.”
BM – Thanks, Joel.
JDW – Thank you.
Joel can currently be seen in All Wrapped Up and is working on I Am Vengeance, and who knows how many other projects. Joel’s enthusiasm for the industry is infectious, it’s really no wonder that he’s in demand! We here at Rogue Cinema can’t wait to see what’s next for Joel, and, we wish him all the best!