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August 13, 2010

Interview: Actor Joel D. Wynkoop

by Heather Henshaw

Joel D. Wynkoop. The name alone instills fear... or laughter, depending on who you're speaking to. A comedic actor firmly established in independent horror, we were fortunate enough to speak to Joel about his career. Spanning over two decades and filled with a variety of the most cutting edge independent genre film credits, Joel has worked, mainly, in the horror field with some of the genre's top names (like Marcus Koch and Tim Ritter) and has appeared in films that have, legitimately, reached cult status. He has appeared in ROT, Truth or Dare, Killing Spree and was the titular character in Dirty Cop, No Donut and it doesn't appear as if Joel D. Wynkoop will slow down any time soon!

HH: First off Joel, thank you for taking the time to do this interview for me and Cinema Head Cheese.

JOEL: Heather you are very welcome. Thank you for taking an interest in me. My thanks to Cinema Head Cheese as well.

HH: What is it about Florida and indie horror? There seems to be a lot of talent out there churning features regularly. Is it in the water?

JOEL: Actually I think it is everywhere, it's more, where are the creative people? Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, there are movie makers everywhere trying to get there work out there every way they can. Florida? My area of Tampa, yes, it seems like more here than anywhere. Ybor City is a real melting pot for art, including filmmakers. Right around me there are people like Rick Danford, Marcus Koch, Joe Davison, John Lewis, Nick Cuti, Garland Hewlitt and many more that are working on projects and presenting them to the world. I'd like to think of myself as one of the guy's left that has been doing it a pretty long time. I've been doing movies since 1972 when I first moved to Florida. It seems I see everywhere I look someone is making a movie in the area. It may be their first stab at it or they may have been doing movies for a couple of years so it is cool to see that there are others out there that are doing the same thing.

The water? I don't know. I don't want to say "It's Tampa" because like I said a lot of places have people creatively making movies, shorts or other projects but I'd like to think Tampa does have a lot going on in this area. I can say this when I was in Fort Pierce I think Mike Hoffman and I were the only ones doing anything. Actually before Mike was doing anything I was already doing stuff in that area. I always want to use the Captain Kirk line when he is talking to Picard about duty and honor and he tells Picard "I was out saving the galaxy while you're grandfather was still in diapers." I can actually say this, it's a new group of movie makers coming up the line and I can actually say,"I was making movies while you guys were still in diapers" or Jr. High, or grade school or whatever. "TRUTH OR DARE" was used at a lot of colleges where students had to write papers on low budget movie making. "TRUTH OR DARE" was the movie that ushered in all these other movie makers; I don't think a lot of people know that. Tim and I started the whole direct to video craze with "Truth Or Dare" back in 1985.

Sorry I'm going off subject I guess what I'm trying to say is "I'm still here making movies." I think it is where ever you go and meeting up with the same kind of people which makes projects work. You can do something on your own, but it's hard. Also I think other areas; states have their own branch to pull from for talent as well. Now I can really only speak for Tampa so I have to agree there is a lot of talent here, everybody is making a movie at one time or another, it's just sad that no one has any money to do them.

HH: How did you get started in the film industry?

JOEL: When I moved to Lake Park, Florida in 1972 my Dad bought me a super 8 camera. I had been watching "Godzilla" movies and "King Kong" as a kid and when I found out how "Kong" was made I said "I want to do that." I learned about animation and the camera my Dad bought me had stop motion on it so I was off shooting my first movie for my Greek History class, a movie about a "CYCLOPS", I got an "A". That started my stop motion work. Following that I did a dinosaur movie called "GOULANIUM" with my neighbor Steve Campbell and the kid next door lent me his model Tyrannosaurs Rex for the flick. That kid's name was Tim Ritter who I later put into my movie "The Eight Million Dollar Boy Meets The Invisible Transport Boy" and yes I do believe I am responsible for getting Tim into movies, even if he might not think so.

I mean he has always said he saw Halloween and was hooked but I'd like to think that him being in my movies in the seventies may have pushed his interest in the direction of movie making. Anyway once I had the super 8 camera I was hooked and was making movies every weekend with Steve. I taught myself how to cut and splice, I still laugh when people say about video, "I gotta go splice it together now." I spliced film in the seventies...people now would go..."splice...what do you mean?" So how I started? That's it, 1972 Dad bought me a super 8 camera and I haven't stopped making movies since.

HH: You've worked with a Cinema Head Cheese fave, Tim Ritter, on many projects. That must be a great deal of fun. What fond recollections do you have being in Tim's films?

JOEL: Well first of all I'd like to say their OUR films but to answer the question, always fun. Tim and I teamed up well like I said first in the seventies and then ten years later to sell "DAY OF THE REAPER" and then create our company name "Twisted Illusions Inc" which was also our first collaboration. Not many people know it, but Tim and I did a script before that we were going to do called "INNER FORCES" but was too complicated to shoot so we settled for seven short stories called "TWISTED ILLUSIONS". All of my memories with Tim were great. Tim and I work together so well. I have always backed him on every project and he has always backed me. I could write a book, er, I am, actually it's taking sooooooo long.
On "Twisted Illusions" we went into the "Palm Beach Mall" and handed out flyers looking for actors, we put them under windshield wipers on cars looking for people, most of them came from "The West Palm Beach Actors Repertory" for "Twisted Illusions". Some days I had to work and Tim would shoot without me on his stories and other days he worked and I would work on my stories. McDonalds was usually where we would meet and discuss what we were going to do over Big Macs and Cokes. One time I had finished my meal and went to the bathroom and when I came back Tim had pushed all his wrappers on my side of the table and this kid was walking by as I sat down and Tim said to the kid "Look it this pig can you believe he ate all that?" We had some great times.

Once we were on our way to Wicked Games and we were late, meeting actors guessed it...McDonalds in Jupiter and Tim said "Man were late" followed by "well what are they going to do start without us I'm the director and you're the star." On "Wicked Games" we both took a week off from our jobs to work just on the movie, it was great to see each other day and be doing what we loved. We would always see hot chicks and clown around saying "Hey you want to be in a movie?" We would laugh at ourselves and Tim would make us move to other tables saying "Paramount may be listening to us." Getting the funding (one million dollars) for "Truth or Dare" was unbelievable. I was in Pensacola at the time when Tim told me it came through and I need to get back to Jupiter right away to start on the project.

Sad times on that shoot though, I saw Tim get fired and Bill Koffler get fired and then I was told "I will black list you from the industry my friend if you do not continue to work on this movie." by the executive producer Geoffrey Miller. I would report back to Tim every night what was going on. It was like the greatest dream come true but the biggest nightmare at the same time.

"CREEP" was a blast. Kathy Willets was working with us and that was pretty awesome, her and her husband Jeff contacted us!! Tim and I had talked about using her in 92 when the scandal broke but we thought "Naw, why would she want to work with us?" "Alien Agenda: Endangered Species" the cops drew their guns on me, that was an experience to remember. Like I said, I could write a book (and am, just very, verrryyyy slowllllyyyy) but these are just a couple memories. Being surrounded by real alligators when we were shooting "Alien Agenda: Endangered Species". I was out in a canoe in the middle of a lake when Kathy (Tim's wife) yells to me, "Joel you're surrounded by gators, come in!!" They were circling my canoe as I paddled around the lake. Tim and crew even walked right up on one while filming on shore, Tim saw the gator first, a six foot one, and said "Everybody just back away slowly." "Screaming for Sanity" I remember walking off the set and leaving Tim to handle thing's because the actress was driving me crazy with her requests for finger paints and her boyfriend's cigarettes, and drinks, and endless questions and not wanting to do what the script said. I apologized to Tim later. He said "It got worse after you left man, she pulled out this Buddha temple thing lit incense and started praying to Buddha."

"Dirty Cop No Donut" was a blast to do. Just the two of us and Kathy off on a mission to make another movie. Tim is working on "Truth or Dare Four" now and we were working on getting me up there for it but the finances just aren't there. Anyone want to fly me out to be in "Truth or Dare Four"? "Killing Spree" was a meltdown, the crew split into factions against each other, constant fighting would happen, at one point one of the producers chased another producer around the back yard trying to kill him, another guy was playing with a loaded gun as a joke, at one point the producer came in and offered to take everyone out to lunch and drinks....right that second, so half the crew just dropped what they were doing and left the set. The movie shut down till it started back up again hours later. Tim was falling apart and I, his sister, his Mom and Dad were his emotional support. Well to be fare, a couple of the crew too. That was crazy, hottest summer ever too. I would love to be able to be back together again working on another flick, when Tim and I are together we are unstoppable!!

HH: We just recently did an interview with Marcus Koch, director of ROT and starring yourself. How was that shoot?

JOEL: "ROT" was a cool story. Can I go in depth again Heather. Ya know with me, you never have to worry about one word answers, that ain't gonna happen. In '96 I think, I get a call from Tim telling me this guy in the Tampa area wants me to be in his movie called "ROT". Cool I thought, this was just after "CREEP" was making its rounds. It had already been all over this country as well as overseas and we were on "CURRENT AFFAIR" with it too, they covered the story and were on the set of "CREEP" as we were making it. So we had a lot of coverage on "CREEP" including "FANGORIA" magazine too, eight pages! Anyway, I get a number to call a Lisa, Marcus' partner, I talk to her about it and then we make arrangements so I can talk to Marcus. We hook up on the phone the next night and Marcus introduces himself and tells me about "ROT" "I want you to wear these yellow latex dishwashing gloves." he said. What? Part of Dr. Robert Olsen's character, whatever. So he tells me about the movie, we work out a price for me and he sends me out the script, well half the script. Basically I tell him right there on the phone "I'm in man, sound's great." Funny too, I mean I didn't know Marcus then, I didn't know anything about him so I told my wife at the time, "if you don't hear from me, call Tim and he'll know what to do." I was off and on my way across the state of Florida, my first trip to Tampa since when I went to college here at Tampa Tech. I was so tired and it was such a loooonnnnngggg drive, yes I know it's only three hours but I had to keep stopping to sleep, I was so tired. I had worked till 8 pm that night at Crystal Springs and got home around 9 pm, had a fight with my wife and decided to leave at midnight, better than staying home and fighting I thought. Finally, after six stops along highway 60 sleeping in at a Shell Station in the car and pulling off on the side of the road here and there I finally arrived at the designated place I was to meet Marcus: The Tampa Airport, top level of the parking garage. No one around, then I saw a psychedelic car with a sign in the window saying JOEL, cool, now where is Marcus? "Joel" he shouted, he was on the other side of the lot, we met up and I followed him to what he called and other's called "The Punk House".

I parked my car in the lot and followed Marcus inside, wow, there were at least ten people in there, one of them the star of "ROT", Billy Scam. Yes it is spelled with three "L's". Marcus introduced me but everyone was kind of in their own zone, one girl stabbed a needle in her arm and started draining the blood from it and stated "Look everyone; this is blood, blood from my body!" Later this huge dude showed up and started smashing his girlfriend against the wall and I thought but then she started laughing like crazy and I later learned that was some kind of mating, sexual thing they did. Whatever. Anyway, Marcus was and is absolutely great. He was a BLAST to work with then and still is today. Working on "ROT" was a lot of fun.

HH: Tell us a little about the Joel Wynkoop Show.

JOEL: The Joel Wynkoop Show was my partner Doug Vaters idea. He said I should do a talk show format where I interview guests like actors and movie makers and anyone else in the entertainment field. So far I have 20 shows in the can, 15 have played on TV and now I am about to go into my second season. It can be seen on local TV here in Tampa, Hillsborough County only. It's on Sunday's at 9 pm on VERIZON channel 30, BRIGHT HOUSE channel 950 and COMCAST channel 20. It will also "LIVESTREAM" starting September 5th, 2010 on then click on "watch us" then "watch us live", so watch for it. Thank you. Each show starts out with quick clips from my movies then it goes into what my producer calls WYNKOOP RANTS where I bitch about everything from how people drive to how they eat and they usually end up with me yelling and screaming, there pretty funny, I think. Then I go into talk show mode and talk to my guest about what they're doing, show clips from their movies or just talk about what they do, how we met if applicable and what they're doing in the future. I follow it up by doing what I call WYNKOOP'S 30 second movie review. So if anyone would want your movie reviewed on my show you can send it to me at
P.O. Box 274012
Tampa, Florida 33688-4012
I think it's pretty entertaining show and would love to see it get picked up and become more mainstreamed out there in the US of A.

HH: It seems two of the main components to making a worthwhile exploitation or horror movie are to have plenty of gore and boobs. If you had to choose one, only one, what would it be?

JOEL: Boobs, I love boobs. I'm sorry, did I say that? Actually, if it were just boobs it would probably be a porno and if it were just gore there would probably be no story. I guess I'm so old school here. I want the flick to have a cool story not just a bunch of blood or a bunch of boobs. If it was a cool storyline and had to go with boobs or gore I'd say the boobs, I mean the gore...oh heck you figure it out, I'm a guy. Of course now the selling point of B movies has always been both boobs and gore. Bouncing around the answer aren't I? Ah Hell, I'd have to have the boobs.

HH: You are known as The King of B-Movies how did you get this title?

JOEL: "Alternative Cinema" magazine B- Files gave me that title in 1996 and then my nephew gave me a banner that stated the same. AC said I had done six flicks in one year and thought it was very impressive; I was doing movies for Tim and myself, Marcus Koch, Kevin Lindenmuth and Garland Hewlitt all in one year coveting me with the tag name "KING OF THE B MOVIES". I always have said "if someone is going to give you a cool tag name take it and run with it, if they give you a tag name like "Dumb ass of the year" toss that one out and look for something new." I've always thought "KING OF THE B MOVIES" was kind of cool. To some there like "B Movies they suck, you must suck if you're the KING of them." People do not give "B" movies enough credit, a lot of people I'd say the majority are spoiled by big "HOLLYWOOD" movies. If things aren't blowing up or there are no big starts then they put it down.

It's like I said in a radio interview a few days ago. People can look at a movie and be blown away by the story line and say it's awesome then they hear it only cost a hundred dollars to make and then like "well in that case it sucked." For example, in my opinion "ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK" is one of my most favorite movies, this was awesome, I loved it! Then "ESCAPE FROM L.A." came out and I thought "cool a sequel this will be awesome to see Snake again, alright." What a disappointment, to me, it was spoiled because they got a huge budget; "ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK" was so much cooler. Don't get me wrong, I like "HOLLYWOOD" movies like the next guy, "INDEPENDENCE DAY", "STAR TREK", "SPIDERMAN", "IRON MAN" but I like both, and enjoy both and give them the same amount of credit. Anyway I like the title and hope I can hang onto it awhile longer.

HH: What's on the horizon for Joel Wynkoop?

JOEL: I have several movies coming out end of this year and beginning of next. "STOPPED DEAD" came out a month or so ago and it is on and I believe it is being shopped around for a distributor as I answer these questions. "UNEXPECTING" should be out next year early. "STRIP CLUB SLASHER" should be out end of this year, I play a cop in this movie who is trying to save a bunch of strippers from a killer. Tough job but someone has to protect these naked chicks. "BRAINJACKED" is coming out August 31st 2010; I play Norm Simpkins in this movie. "POST MORTEM AMERICA, 2021 I play a bartender in and should be out end of this year, also "BODY IN A DUMPSTER" I play the Mayor of a small town and in "FOR CHRIST'S SAKE" I play Father Carmichael, oh and I also played the Mayor of "DOOMSDAY COUNTY" in the sci-fi horror flick "DOOMSDAY COUNTY" which should be out October 2010. My BIGGEST movie to date should be out next year, I play FRED FINAGLER in "HERSCELL GORDON LEWIS THE UH-OH SHOW".

Other than that, The Joel Wynkoop Show has been picked up by a Kansas TV station and airs there, my partner Doug Vaters and I shoot TV commercials and I keep busy with auditions for "THE GLADES" and "BURN NOTICE" along with other HOLLYWOOD movies, infomercial's and TV commercials and anything that comes my way. Also I can be occasionally heard on TRUESOUNDRADIO with my other partner and talk show host Trevor Joe Lennon. That is about it, thank you so much for taking interest in me and asking me to do this interview with you. Thank you and GOD bless.

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