One of the biggest problems potential filmmakers have is getting a project started and seeing it through. They feel they don’t have the connections or the money and unfortunately, their dreams stop right there. Considering that a ten million dollar picture is considered low budget, where is an independent filmmaker to go? Even an Ultra low budget film-$100,000, $50,000 even $25,000 – is still a lot of money for the average individual to raise.
In 1974, Mark Pirro came out to Hollywood from upstate New York in an attempt to start a filmmaking career, with no connections, relatives or friends in the industry. He quickly met other artists with the same dream and after making a few short films in the late 70’s, started his first feature in 1981: A comedy entitled “A Polish Vampire in Burbank”. The 84 minute film cost under $2,500 to produce and had ultimately grossed over a half a million dollars in homevideo and cable television sales. Keep in mind that this was long before the “digital age of filmmaking.” Today, it’s not that unusual to hear about moviemakers who produce their films on ultra low budgets, but in 1981, making a feature produced on film for under $3000 was not very common.
As of 2015, Pirro has written ten feature films, edited and directed nine, produced six, scored and executive produced one, all tailored for the home video/cable t.v. markets, with many accumulating a cult status, like his 1991 film, Nudist Colony Of The Dead and his 1st feature, Polish Vampire in Burbank.
In 1994, he produced a documentary video on low budget filmmaking entitled “Mini Motion Picture Making”, based on a book he had written in 1990. Outdated by today’s digital filmmaking standards, the book and video shared his techniques for producing feature films using undiscovered talent and on budgets less than Sandra Bullock’s daily per diem.
His films have appeared on HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and USA Network. Pirro himself has been featured on Entertainment Tonight, Fox News, A Current Affair, and Hard Copy. He also has been on the lecture circuit, speaking at filmmaking classes at colleges like UCLA.
In mid 1995, Pirro wrote, produced and directed a musical stage production adapted from his 1991 motion picture, “Nudist Colony Of The Dead”. Four new songs were added to the original seven from the movie. Originally scheduled to run eight weeks, the Hollywood production was extended to several months, running from May through October. Billed as The Rocky Horror Show of the 90’s, the show was a fun experience, but Pirro wanted to return to producing movies, which was his real love.
In early 1998, he had completed his comedy feature film entitled “Color-Blinded”, which premiered at Universal Studios to a full house. The movie, about a black girl who becomes white, received a standing ovation that night and was the subject of a July ’97 “Digital Video Magazine article.” The movie is more poignant and touching than any of Pirro’s previous films and has gone on to win three awards over the years. As for its not being as ‘gut busting’ and ‘bizarre’ as his earlier work, Pirro refers to Color-Blinded as his ‘Schindler’s List’.
Back to his original form, in December 2003, Pirro’s next feature, Rectuma, returned to the offbeat comedy he is best known for. Rectuma premiered at Hollywood’s American Film Institute to a very receptive crowd. Verified by many in attendance, Rectuma appears to be the funniest and zaniest Pirromount film ever. It’s about a mutant 200 foot ass that rampages the country. In the tradition of earlier Pirromount films, Rectuma is loaded with parody, satire, innuendos and downright bizarre humor. Rectuma screened at the 2004 Cannes film festival and had a midnight movie run for one month at the Sunset 5 Theatre in Hollywood. In February 2005, it screened at the Berlin Film Festival. It is distributed widely in Japan, Australia, U.K. and Israel and is currently available for licensing in all unlicensed territories only through Pirromount.
In 2009, Pirro released his most ambitious film to date: The God Complex. This movie is a retelling of the silliest stories of the Bible with the Pirromount slant. It had been in production for over two years, and is the biggest undertaking he has ever attempted. For years, Pirro toyed with the idea of making a religious parody He felt the concept of adults worshipping mythical invisible sky daddies was ripe for comedy since he abolished his Catholic faith at age 14. As this was his first film to not take place in contemporary times, biblical sets had to be constructed and bronze age costumes had to be created – not an easy task on a four figure budget. Pirro’s concept of making a religious parody had evolved over the years with original titles and concepts like: J2K; Jesus, The Revenge; Playing God; and Jesus Christ Conquers the Martians. Now, a vision realized, The God Complex had its Hollywood premiere to a capacity crowd at Raleigh Studios in August 2009, and had been an official selection in the Burbank International Film Festival and Pasadena’s Action on Film Festival in 2010, as well as the International Freethought Film Festival in Tampa, Fla. in 2011. The film has been a popular choice for Atheist conventions like the Texas Freethought Convention in Houston in 2011. If Color-Blinded was Pirro’s Schindler’s List, The God Complex is his “Ben Hur.”
in November 2014, Pirro premiered his 9th feature film, “Rage of Innocence.” It’s his first non-comedy. Rage of Innocence is about a psychologically disturbed teenager named Raven, who goes to deadly extremes to keep a man from dating her single mother. Raven has a distrust of all men because of a toxic relationship she had with her late father. After over 30 years of creating outlandish comedies, Pirro thought he would try his hand at producing a psychological thriller. The film stars Stef Dawson (Annie Cresta in Hunger Games: Mockingjay parts 1 and 2), and longtime Pirromount stable player John McCafferty. “It gets tougher to do comedy as one gets older, but since I still enjoy the filmmaking process, I thought I would try a different angle. I still prefer making comedies, but when the comedy isn’t flowing and you still want to make films, you need to change your course.”
In early 2016 Pirro started producing and directing his 10th feature film, “Celluloid Soul,” which stars Pirromount alumni Lauren Baldwin, Dennis Kinard and Bill Devlin. Joining the cast are longtime Pirro friend Anne DeVenzio and comedian Judy Tenuta. Soul deals with a man obsessed with an actress from 1939 who one day shows up on his doorstep, looking exactly as she did in the old movies he saw her in.
Pirro has a very close knit ensemble of friends who work with him on these films. The friends consist of actors, cinematographers, visual effects artists, musicians, sound designers, etc. May of these friends work professionally in the film industry and make a good living doing so. However, whenever Pirro puts together one of his films, these friends will take time out of their schedules to work on it. Of course, this means that the film can’t be shot quickly. It’s always about working around people’s schedules, but somehow it always seems to come together. Pirro stated recently, “I obviously couldn’t do it without a great support system, and I dearly treasure the friends I have made over the years who continue to be a part of the Pirromount family. Anybody negative or weighty gets jettisoned early. You have to have supportive friends in this business, especially if you are an indie filmmaker. I will always be thankful for those who have been with me from the beginning and continue to be a part of my projects.”