SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- Actor/filmmaker Garry Pastore will celebrate the 5th anniversary of his award-winning independent film Destressed with a screening and panel discussion of the documentary on Thursday, March 28, at the historic Dunellen Theatre (458 North Ave, Dunellen, NJ).

Pastore is expected to be joined by cinematographer/film editor Fokke Baarssen, who co-produced the film, longtime friend and screenwriter Dave Catalano, and surprise guests. After the viewing will be a panel discussion. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for the Dunellen Arts & Culture Commission, of which Catalano is a board member.

Destressed tells the story of a man whose stress levels land him in the hospital in grave condition. Given a second chance at life, he embarks on an amazing and often hilarious journey to search for meaning. By seeing the challenges of others, he is ultimately able to put his own problems into perspective. The film tells the uplifting story of the enlightenment he achieves.

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Pastore wrote, directed and starred in the film, which took Best Picture and Best Home Grown Documentary at the Garden State Film Festival in Atlantic City in 2014, along with numerous other awards. It is an autobiographical docu-drama-edy that combines touching, dramatic scenes and laugh-out-loud comedy to tell the story of one man’s “insane search for sanity in an insane world.”

“Stress happens from the time the alarm clock goes off in the morning,” said Pastore over lunch at the Fanwood Grille last week. “Money is the greatest stressor. We overextend ourselves. We all want the American Dream, but encounter the unexpected things that we didn’t consider. Hurricane Sandy helped put things into perspective for me.”

Pastore said that in the aftermath of the storm, he drove to the Jersey Shore with supplies and offered to help families.

“One guy cried on my shoulder; I was the first person to come to the door,” Pastore said. “If you are healthy, if you can pay your bills, you are blessed. It’s the wanting that creates bad effects -- not being happy with what you have.”

Pastore said he did the film to inspire people how to combat stress and negativity.

“We underestimate mental health and the effects of stress on the human body and mind,” Pastore said. “People have seen the film and told me, ‘It really changed my life’.”

The film sheds light on life’s simple but daily nuisances: traffic, flat tires, being late for a meeting, missing a flight and documents what happens when all these occurrences happen on one particular day. Pastore believes the film is a wakeup call to take things slower.

A veteran actor who has appeared in over 50 film and TV roles during his 35-year career, Pastore’s credits include Bluebloods, Law & Order, Gotham, and HBO series The Sopranos and The Deuce. He was the recipient of the ensemble Emmy Award for his work on the hit comedy show 30 Rock.

His first film credit was Prizzi's Honor, alongside Jack Nicholson in 1985. He also had roles in hit films including Carlito's Way, A Bronx Tale, and Goodfellas. Often he has been cast in gangster roles.

“I have played a zoo – Matty The Horse, Sammy The Bull… but I drew the line with Billy The Goat. I made them change the name to Mikey Redface,” he quipped Pastore, a cousin of Vinnie Pastore, who played Big Pussy on The Sopranos. “A lot of the roles for Italian-Americans are gangsters, guineas, and guidos.”

Pastore recently wrapped up filming Mob Town, starring David Arquette, which will be in theaters this summer. Also upcoming, he plays a sheriff in Shooting Heroin, a powerful tale about the opioid epidemic, with veteran actors Sherilyn Fenn, Nicholas Turturro, Cathy Moriarty, Brian O'Halloran, Alan Powell, and Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs.

Look for Pastore also in Martin Scorsese’s highly anticipated The Irishman, which boasts a star-studded cast that includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, and Anna Paquin.

Meanwhile, plans for Destressed II are in the works.

“It’s about stress in kids,” Pastore said. “They have so many things that cause stress: school, peer pressure, bullying, drugs.”