Pelham Based Film Screens Tonight at Picture House

Many of the scenes and cast members from the independent film "True to the Heart" originated in Pelham.


PELHAM, NY — Byron Stankus didn’t just wake up one day and decide he was a movie producer.

But that’s not too far off from the story behind his metamorphosis from lacrosse equipment retailer to independent movie producer and screenwriter.

The 42-year-old Fisher, Ind. resident said he was looking for something to do after his daughter left home to attend prep school at the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge, Rockland County almost four years ago. Although he messed around with film scripts for more than 15 years, Stankus said he had little success getting them sold.

“I asked my wife what should I do?” recalled Stankus, who founded Epiphany Storm Productions in 2007. “My wife, who is a pharmacist, said to do whatever I wanted, so I declared my self a producer. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but my wife gave me five years to make a go of it and this is  year four.”

One of the products of Stankus’s foray into the film industry will be on display tonight  at 7:30 p.m. when the in Pelham shows a screening of “True to the Heart,” a movie Stankus produced a co-wrote with the film’s director, Mitchell Kase. Prior to this movie, Stankus said his company has produced an assortment of webisodes and other smaller projects.

The movie’s plot revolves around a down on his luck musician who has his career derailed by bad review from a woman blogger. To the two meet up again when the musician’s hires the blogger to remake his image.

Scenes from the romantic comedy, which was filmed in October 2011, may seem earily familiar too some Pelham residents. That’s because many of the scene were shot here.

When Stankus searched for locations and cast for an the film, he found that Pelham provided ideal settings for a number of scenes. His father, Frank Stankus, and his mother, Cindy Edelstein, both reside here.

For one scene in the movie, which required a crowd at a birthday party, Byron Stankus relied on the help of Edelstein, one of Pelham's girl scout leaders. Edelstein put out a call via e-mail to the town's girl scouts for the scene and more than 20 showed up for nearly a full day of "takes." The girls were rewarded with a special birthday cake made out to "nobody" since there wasn't an actual birthday boy or girl named in the movie.

Stankus also cast one of the girl scout moms, Tracey McFarland, a trained actor, in a speaking role. Several other mothers, including Jill Kaiser, Sandra Epes and Cherie Corso  made cameo appearances. He also placed Remy Stankus, his half-sister who is a freshman at Pelham Memorial High School, in the movie's opening scene. Another high school student, Sebastian Martinez, did behind-the-scenes work.

“I definitely owe my family,” Stankus said. “They all contributed to the making of the film.”

The movie was submitted to several film festivals after shooting wrapped up more than a year ago, where it won awards, including best actor and best actress at the Long Island International Film Festival.

Stankus said the film was made for less than $50,000. Money was raised through investors and the Web site IndieGogo. Despite the low budget, efforts were made to pay the actors in some way, according to Stankus.

“This isn’t  a rinky dink film,” said. “We made every effort to make this process as professional as possible. We want to make money. We still people money.”

Stankus said his team is in the process of finding a distribution deal for the film. Once that’s done, Stankus said he plans to focus on more projects that he has in the hopper.

“We want to parlay this into our next project,” Stankus said. “We made this for $50,000. Can you imagine how well we could with a budget of  $500,000.”

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