Proof that not every graduate of Roger Corman's filmmaking factory goes on to multi-million dollar budgets and critical acclaim, Jim Wynorski has been churning out low budget exploitation for close to thirty years. Some are fun (DEATHSTALKER II) but none are, in the traditional sense, good. However, Wynorski has developed a reputation as a director who knows his audience and is able to deliver the goods on a tight budget which is how he's been able to make 90 films in a 27 year career using a variety of clever pseudonyms (including but not limited to Jay Andrews, H.R. Blueberry, Salvadore Ross and of course Tom Popatopolous). Clay Westervelt's documentary POPATOPOLIS is a portrait of the master at work making his 2005 film THE WITCHES OF BREASTWICK.
Accepting a bet that he can make his film with only a three day shooting schedule, Wynorski heads to his remote shooting location (the better to not have cell phone reception) with his actors and a skeleton crew. It is here that Westervelt and Wynorski provide the audience with the harsh realities of micro budget filmmaking including working with an inexperienced crew, communication breakdowns and learning to deal with some less than convincing line readings. Along the way we get interviews with Wynorski and his cast exploring such topics as Wynorski's behavior on set (he yells a lot), the shrinking market for exploitation films and the resentment felt when adult film actress Stormy Daniels is added to the cast for "marquee value." There's also a hilarious interview with Wynorski's mother who seems quite proud of her son while remaining blissfully ignorant of the content of most of his films.
Through it all, Wynorski comes across as an amiable enough guy, at least when he's not on the set. He's obviously in love with the idea of filmmaking (a tour of his house reveals that his kitchen cabinets are full of old DVDs and VHS tapes) but he seems completely stressed by the actual act of making a movie. Of course most of the stress is brought on by himself by always opting for the cheap solution to every problem. However, even though Wynorski and his actresses readily admit that they're making a product and not art, they all seem dedicated to at least making the best product they can under the circumstances. POPATOPOLIS manages to straddle a fine line between making fun of its subject and admiration for the work involved in making even the cheapest throwaway movie. It's recommended to anyone interested in the subject of filmmaking as well as anyone thinking about it as a career.
For more overlooked films and a/v visit Todd Mason's blog.