Each month I’m going to take a look at an actor, actress, or filmmaker that I grew up loving and has informed my own career (if calling what I do in the industry qualifies as such) in writing or performing. Films are supposed to be fun, entertaining ventures that allow an escape from the day-to-day happenings of our lives. Why not celebrate the uncelebrated, folks. Join me on my quest as I gush over those who have inspired me to put words on a website that will ultimately never equate what it means to be honored by their peers at an official award show or film festival.
My first introduction to the films of Brett Piper was through a producer by the name of Steven E. Williams. At the age of 15, I spent well over a decade fantasizing about one day making movies. The internet, still relatively new to middle America, was a portal into a world I naively thought I was ready for. After months of sleuthing websites still in their infancy for scripts, how-to guides, and a plethora of other “inside baseball” style film pages, I stumbled upon a website for Kinetic Image Ltd. On the page there was a small list of services offered to filmmakers and a number. This may sound a little dramatic and maybe I’m full of shit, but as I picked up the phone to dial little did I know my life would change.
The voice on the other end of the phone was deep, gruff and masked in a southern drawl. After explaining that I was an aspiring filmmaker and wanted to know if Kinetic Image might be interested in reading my latest script (Holy hell, I’m cringing at the thought!!) the phone was silent for a beat. Then laughter. Steve introduced himself to me and explained that though his company did offer services as a Production Company, he wasn’t looking to fund anyone’s project. After another beat he asked how old I was. “Fifteen!?” He sounded equally amused and impressed. He laughed again and offered to read my script and gave me his mailing address to send it off.
What followed was around two hours of conversation with this kind stranger that taught me a lot about film production. We discussed old films (I know he was testing me and my knowledge) and found we had a lot in common. He told me that he had recently produced a couple of projects with his friend Brett and that I should seek them out. When he found out that I was a huge fan of “The Toxic Avenger“ and Troma Films in general he asked if I’d ever seen “A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell.” I hadn’t. But with a name like that…sign me up! I went on to speak with Steve every few months until his death in 2009. He always had such great advice for me and was careful to share notes on my scripts that were gentle enough to not hurt my young feelings, but constructive enough to help me grow as a writer. One call he casually mentioned, “I told Brett about you. Told him you wanna be a writer.” Maybe he was trying to build up my confidence. I don’t know. I remember fanboying that one of my favorite directors had heard of me. A few years before Steve passed he had moved to Louisiana. “You need to move down here,” he’d say. “Hollywood is moving all their production down here because of the tax breaks. If you want to work on films, Shreveport is the future, Jeremy.” He wasn’t wrong. Steve passed away just months prior to my being hired for my first job in Hollywood. I think he would have been proud. I miss my friend and early mentor.
So about “A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell…” As I said before, it was my first introduction. The dvd was part of the initial wave of Troma dvds to be packed to the gills with interviews, commentary, retrospectives, etc. I remember watching the film and being blown away by the use of stop motion animation. After watching the interviews with Brett and his co-producer/star Alex Pirnie I was in awe of how they managed to make the film. Brett was the first DIY filmmaker I’d ever been exposed to. From the writing to the stop motion to camera op to costume design to the set building, Piper does it all. I remember him saying he’d worked construction, driven beer trucks, but making movies is the hardest job he had ever done. To say I was inspired would be an understatement. At 15, I learned the most valuable lesson in filmmaking: you can do it all on your own if you have to! One of the lower points in Nymphoid for me was watching Alex and Brett talk down on the film. I remember being sad. I loved this movie, why are you saying this about your own film. Well, 16 years later and a few productions under my belt (though none of them something I’ve written myself (However, ‘Experiment 77’ is rumored to go into production this fall)) I get it. Filmmakers watching their own projects are the hardest audiences to please. They see the hardship where we see the entertainment.
Next up would be a film I’d find in my local video store, “Psyclops”. Released in 2002, Piper’s finger is placed firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist with this outing. Featuring a slew of young, talented newcomers, and returning Piper favorites, the film manages to meld comedy and horror firmly together with fantastic nods to genre favorites while maintaining a fresh, hip and inventive perspective on the tapehead niche. Piper’s cast is solid from top to bottom and would introduce us to an actor that would partner with the filmmaker on several future projects. Rob Monkiewicz is as charismatic as he is striking and would continue to play the hero for Piper. If I were casting a movie right now and needed the wholesome every-man that looked like he could punch 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger in the face and live to tell the tale, I’m casting Rob Monkiewicz.
After a few months of waiting, and zero luck in my country bumpkin mom and pop video store, Steve sent me a dubbed copy of “They Bite” via snail mail and I lost my shit. I consider “They Bite” to be one of Piper’s absolute best films and thought the wardrobe may seem a little dated now, it holds up as a solid watch. The film features one of the greatest dream sequences/faux film trailers ever crafted for cinema. Centering on a small porno crew making their latest hump flick, the crew encounter a big problem. No, Ron Jeremy happens to keep his pants on, folks. Sea creatures make their way to shore and are looking to mate with humans. Speaking of Ron Jeremy, this is his best performance outside of an adult film. Somehow, Piper is able to channel his tendency to wink at the camera and harness a believable performance, achieving what very few filmmakers have been able to do with the Hedgehog. If you’ve never experienced the joy that is “They Bite,” seek it out at once. A perfect party flick, throw it on and enjoy with your closest friends.
Around 2003, Piper found himself teamed up with Michael Raso of Alternative Cinema and found himself making a handful of Misty Mundae vehicles. “Screaming Dead,” “Bite Me,” “Shock-O-Rama,” and “Bacterium” to be exact. All fun films that deliver in the SFX and Breasts department. In 2009 Piper released another fun, instant classic (in my opinion) in “Muckman.” This creature feature show Brett Piper is still great at keeping with the Pop Culture trends and finds the film focusing on a Reality TV star trying to return to cable television. But let’s be honest, the girls are beautiful and the Special Effects are the real star here. The Muckman design is insanely good, folks.
Piper has a helluva vision and his creature features never disappoint. From the casual fan to the most hardcore Ray Harryhausen devotee, all should be impressed by this talented filmmaker that can literally do every job on a film set. I once told Steve that I was going to write a film for him to produce and Brett to direct. I don’t know if that will ever be an item checked off the bucket list, but stranger things have happened in this business. So Brett, if you’ve somehow stumbled upon this article….thank you for inspiring me to continue to pursue a career in the arts with your DIY attitude. And a huge thank you to our mutual friend Steven E. Williams. Without your guidance, I may still be making cold calls to production houses off the internet.
Jeremy Morrison – Staff Writer
Co-creator/host of the Acid Pop Cult Podcast, film reviewer, screenwriter, Jeremy has more than eight years experience in television and film production. His childhood fascination with the naked breasts featured in the “Friday the 13th” franchise prepared him for absolutely nothing in life. J-Mo lives by one motto: #wecantallbezacksnyder
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.