Home » Monthly Update » Tom McDonald (very first Pirromount actor) Dies at 60

Pirro (left) with Tom McDonald in 2014

I’m sad to report yet another death in the Pirromount family.  This one hits quite close to home because Tom McDonald, who died December 8th, 2017 of ALS, was literally the one responsible for the formation of Pirromount Pictures.  Let me explain: in 1969, when I was still in junior high in Ithaca, NY, my friend Tom’s parents gave him access to a super 8 camera.  We went out and made a little short movie called “Terror of the Vampire.”  I was the terrible vampire.  As we put together that crude little production, it was at that precise moment that I decided I wanted to become a filmmaker.

Mark Pirro in his first screen appearance as a vampire (1969)

It was soon after that that my parents purchased a super 8 camera, projector and editor for me and I went on to shoot my own vampire short – Death of a Vampire (1970).  I then went on to make five more super 8 shorts, many featuring McDonald.

McDonald getting ‘crushed’ by a pin setting machine in an early Pirromount short

Not too long after all those shorts were made, I moved from Ithaca to Hollywood, California and began production on my feature vampire film “A Polish Vampire in Burbank.”I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for Tom’s influence, I may not have wound up becoming a fimmaker.

When I moved to California and Tom moved to Florida, we really didn’t keep in touch all that much.  Then around the late 1980’s, we got back in communication and kept that way to the end.  He came out to visit several times, and I also went out to Florida now and then.

Mark and Tom reunited (1989)

The last time I saw him was July 2017 when he and his family came out for the premiere of our film “Celluloid Soul.” At that time, the Lou Gehrig’s disease he had been diagnosed with just eight months before, had taken its toll. He could no longer speak, swallow or eat. He and his family and I spent a couple of days together, walking Santa Monica pier and just generally touristing around. Obviously, none of us ever thought that would be the last time we’d see each other.

I found out about Tom’s death by a Facebook post. Needless to say, I was devastated. So, I say goodbye to Tom McDonald, the person to whom which I can definitively say that if it were not for he, there would be no Pirromount Pictures.

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Mark Pirro is the Owner of Pirromount Studios.