There's still time to run!
A J Koehler is an actor, musician, writer, and filmmaker.
Right from the start, AJ Koehler's life has been anything but normal. Born Amanda Jane Waggoner in a green recliner in a small Rock Hill home in St. Louis Missouri, she was the 4th of 10 children in a mixed family. It didn't take long for AJ to learn that in this world it's eat, or be eaten...and she wasn't about to miss her chance to tell the whole world, "bite me."
Family life was best described as sweet and complex chaos. I could go into detail but to be quite frank unless you have a Ph.D. in genealogy and social economics you won't be able to follow. Let's just say it was big, loud, crazy, nomadic, and growing at a nearly Genghis Khan rate, complete with blood relatives, recruits, and even a few rescues.
As a child, AJ was a very quick learner and had great potential for academics, however, she tended to be more motivated by the arts, the morbid, and of course, the fart jokes. AJ became fascinated with movies during a tradition created by her father, Curtis. Anytime she was sick as a child (which was fairly often), AJ and her Dad would watch scary movies and eat chips with salsa. After seeing American Werewolf in London for the first time, and the magic achieved by John Landis and Rick Baker, AJ new that all she would ever want to do in this life is make movies.
A few years later, at the tender age of 9, AJ got her first taste of film life on the set of Fratelli e Sorelli (Brothers & Sisters), an Italian feature film made in the Quad Cities in 1991. It was here that AJ fell madly in love with acting and movie magic. The film received 4 stars in the Venice Film Festival.
In high school, AJ began struggling with severe anxiety and depression and a mystery illness causing pain, visual and auditory anomalies, and hormonal imbalances. As awful as it was at times, the issues and struggles AJ endured during this time molded her and made her grow as an artist. She started playing bass guitar, writing and singing. Clinging to music, science, and making others laugh, AJ tried to stay optimistic but eventually started to believe that a career in the arts was out of reach and could never happen for her.
It was when AJ started going to Jackson Skate Center with friends that her faith was restored. After meeting her future husband, Adam Koehler and his best friend, Nick Murphy, a kid from Jackson who was leaving home to pursue his dreams in film and move to Hollywood, AJ decided to hold onto that dream a little bit longer.
At 17 AJ left home and sought emancipation. She took 2 jobs at Rose of Broadway, and Imo’s Pizza in Cape Girardeau. Wanting to finish school she tried to enroll herself in Cape Central only to be given the bum’s rush by the Superintendent who did not want the burden of dealing with an emancipated teen.
Young, sick, out of school, and losing all hope for a solid future, AJ began partying as a lifestyle and started spiraling out of control. One night she began thrashing and convulsing in her sleep. After a few attacks like this, and losing both jobs, AJ went to see a neurologist only to discover that she was having seizures.
Finding and keeping a job with no high school diploma and a seizure disorder in small-town America proved impossible and eventually, AJ went to the one place she could find that would be ok with her spontaneous schedule, frequent illness, limited availability and would still provide enough income to survive...the local Gentlemen’s Clubs. It was then that she met Joe, the father of her 2 oldest children (Alex & Izzy), who began working at the club as a DJ.
At 23, with 2 children, and working 3 jobs, AJ finally got the opportunity to really pursue her dream by not only passing her GED but scoring record high marks and earning a full-ride scholarship to SEMO University. On top of a pre-medical curriculum, and exploring one of her favorite sciences, Anthropology, AJ started taking classes at The Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts. Under the mentoring of Dr. Kenneth Stilson, she was able to be a part of 3 Independent films before having to quit everything due to her increasing seizures and deteriorating health. She moved back home but continued to hold on to her dream, deciding to write during her downtime, and keep up with possible local projects via social media.
At age 26 she fell in love with and married Adam Koehler and had her third and last child, Cakee. Her life feeling closer to complete, there was still a void. She longed to continue chasing her dream. Adam not only supported AJ’s dreams but helped her to find alternative medicine for her seizures which completely changed her life. She was able to get a driver’s license again, and her long-awaited freedom. Happy and once again functional she jumped back into film and the arts with both feet and began writing screenplays and going to as many auditions as she possibly could.
AJ landed several small roles in local films and community theater, melding into the art community, and helping to mentor children pursuing the same dream, until one day she stumbled upon a golden opportunity that led her straight to her lifelong pursuit. After discovering local project, Interviewing Monsters and Bigfoot with Tom Green and Les Stroud, AJ did some research and quickly friended the listed production team on Facebook. She reached out to them through messenger and in no time at all was offered a job.
Misfortune struck on day 2 of filming when AJ had a violent seizure triggered by a low blood sugar and was unable to continue the day. Much to AJ’s surprise, she wasn’t fired, in fact, she quickly worked her way up to AD and before she knew it, she was heading multiple departments, had landed 2 separate roles, Lexi Harvey, and Rainy Ferris, and eventually even earned a Producer credit.
Taken under the wing of Writer, Director, and Producer, Thomas Smugala, AJ was able to work in several different departments of film and was able to be a part of every stage of the production growing and learning every step of the way, and able to be herself completely without fear of being let go for her illness. As they got to know each other more as a working team, Tom began to bring AJ in on more projects, feeding her growing list of skills and mentoring her professional growth.
Today she has acquired many notable credits and titles including; Writer, Stylist, Model, & Event Coordinator (573 Magazine), AD on an award-winning short (4AM - Best 573 Short at 573 International Film Festival 2018), Writer/Director/Producer & Lead on a short film (LOST - a short experimental film addressing the terrors of dementia) and Producer, AD, & supporting actor in the feature film Interviewing Monsters and Bigfoot with Tom Green and Les Stroud (Survivorman).
AJ is currently working with T. Smugala as a producer on the hard-hitting documentary, The Colectivo, and has begun pre-production preparations for a feature-length script by T. Smugala, The Spring, a supernatural thriller.
The Spring ...