A short film with award-winning cast focuses on emotional and mental health issues in the height of the pandemic

Staten Island, New York – The plot? Four people, three patients, long hours alone, one doctor and Covid!

Award-winning actors William DeMeo (“Gravesend”, “The Sopranos”, “Fresh Kill & Wannabees”) and Michele Frantziskos (“Gravesend”, “Bare Knuckle Brawler”, “The Right to Live”), co-stars Renee Wood (“The Networker”, “The Cafone” and “St.Joseph”) and Steve Stanulis (“5th Borough” and “The Deuce”) in a dramatic short film, “Just Be Yourself”, which presents the life-sharing of four individuals adjusting to life At the height of the epidemic.

As everyone’s lives have changed in one way or another while you’re tasked with staying home during the pandemic, “Just Be Yourself” shows people’s real problems as they test relationships, change dating lives, forgive life situations, and sink depression, all while being discussed in group sessions via Internet with a wizard.

Renee Wood hopes that people who watch the movie will find bits and pieces of themselves in the movie.

“We all, as ‘humans’, have ‘issues’ and I hope that when watching this movie, viewers will find parts of themselves in the characters, and know that in this day and age it’s OK to ‘just be yourself.’ As the pandemic continues, we witness The highest levels of anxiety and depression reported since the pandemic hit the US . . . This is a worrying trend fueled by loneliness and isolation and we want viewers to know that they are not alone.”

Wood, a Staten Island native, actress and owner of Renee Wood & Associates (a fundraising development specialist), was born to Native Staten Island parents. Wood Avenue in Tottenville is her family name.

Wood began her acting career at the age of ten in Staten Island and acted in several plays throughout her childhood, at the former children’s theater Sea View Playwright.

She has been involved in philanthropy and her fundraising company, Renee Wood & Associates has hosted a number of fundraisers.

Wood studied at the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute in Manhattan and received the prestigious 40 Under 40 Leadership Award from the Staten Island Foundation for Economic Development.

The cast also includes actor William DeMeo from the TV series “Gravesend”. DeMeo portrays Dr. Davidson, emerging from his usual role as a gangster, to take on a completely different character, a therapist who helps three strangers adjust to life, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeMeo currently lives on Staten Island where he and Frantzeskos are filming the second season of the TV series Gravesend. He is a writer and director for the show and plays Benny Z in the series and is looking forward to film scenes for the show at RiverBridge Studios located in Richmond Valley.

Frantzeskos is currently a producer of the TV series “Gravesend”. She grew up on Staten Island, lives on the South Shore, and has shot several films here over the years. Her award-winning film The Right to Life was also filmed on Staten Island. She worked with William DeMeo on several films here too.

She studied at Tom Todorov’s studio, also in Manhattan. She is an award-winning filmmaker who has received an announcement from elected officials for her film, which earned her a People’s Choice Award for her film Right to Life (2017).

Frantziskos said, “My hope with this film is to send a positive message and gain more awareness of mental health while showing people that they are never alone in how they feel. People should never give up or give in to their fears. Connect and talk, the world is listening. You are brave, brave and enough. ‘be yourself.'”

Steve Stanolis is a Staten Island native who attended Wagner College. An entrepreneur and filmmaker who has made a huge impact in the independent film industry through his innovative storytelling, he is also an actor, producer, director, and founder of Stanulis Films, a company that produces films and documentaries.

The short drama was written, directed and edited by an all-female production team. Film crews were scarce due to the stay-at-home mandate, so the short drama was filmed on their iPhones only.

The film was written, directed and produced by Wood and Frantzeskos, with Jane Dasho, editing and sound.

The film recently wrapped production and was already selected to screen at the “Cutting Room International Film Festival” on Sunday, December 19 in Manhattan, where it was nominated for Best Short Drama and Best Director as well.

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