Benjamin Edelman and Manuel Camilion, Miami-based UM alumni directors, wrote and directed Santastein, a short film project, last year which would eventually play at places like the Sarasota Film Festival. Their short film received various accolades, even winning top prize at the University of Miami’s Scares and Scores where it caught the attention of executive producer Eddie del Carmen, 10-year veteran of the industry. They are joined now by Vasisth Sukul, one of the film’s producers to talk about their feature length version of Santastein funded entirely through Kickstarter.
Santastein can be described best as a horror-comedy Christmas slasher film. How did you guys conceive of this genre mash up? What made you want to tackle these genres specifically?
When we first made the short film, it was more of a proof of concept. We made it for a horror Christmas festival that had been going on at UM. The thing was that, despite the fact that it was a horror Christmas festival no one was making Christmas movies. Ben and I decided to really commit to the Christmas bit, so that is where the horror Christmas aspect came from. Making it more comedic came from the fact that the film is largely inspired by 80’s horror movies like Evil Dead 2. They have their horror aspect but what makes them entertaining and accessible is the fact that anyone can watch them. Even people who don’t necessarily like horror.
Also, it’s a Frankenstein Santa. You can’t really play that straight.
You guys mention that films like Scream and the Evil Dead franchise are your inspirations. What exactly was it about these films that inspired you?
What is really good about those films like the evil dead series and something like Peter Jackson’s first film Bad Taste is that they are very do-able at this stage.
They have a lot of creative energy. We as young film makers are trying to prove that we can do a lot with very little. These genres allow us to explore just how many creative solutions we can have on screen. These films are examples of how much you can do with very little. If anything looks bad we can just throw more blood on it until it looks good.
Are you excited to be tackling a full feature length film? And, what challenges do you foresee?
Yeah, it’s a great opportunity. When we made the short film there was a lot of things we couldn’t do just because of the time constraint. This gives us an opportunity to explore that. We spent the last 4 years of college making short films, so the next logical step is to make a feature film. It is also a big learning experience which is what makes this opportunity worthwhile. We put together a good team that we trust which is what has me excited.
The challenges I see is keeping people entertained. It is one thing to keep people entertained for 15 minutes but it’s a whole different animal to keep people entertained for an hour and a half. It’s a massive project with a lot of movie parts. But, it’s a day by day learning process.
It is exciting, but it is also a challenge. This is a Kickstarter not a studio project. This is family and friends coming together to tackle an even bigger undertaking. The short film was 5 shooting days and now we expect something like 20 days. Needless to say, we are calling in every favor and all the help we can get.
As far as challenges, it’s not only longer its bigger. Everything has to be bigger to match what we made with the short film.
From a producing perspective, the biggest challenge we’re dealing with is coordinating over 100+ people over our shooting days. People take for granted how key clear communication is..
How is the film going to further explore what you presented in the short film?
We really want to explore the mythology and a lot of the character relationships to each other. I love the short as a proof of concept, but the characters are really flat. It was trying to cram a lot into a short amount of time. the relationships are there but only because we made them fit. Having these longer scenes allows us to better explore these characters and their dynamics. Whatever happens to them is going to feel more fulfilling as an audience member. We are also trying to explore a lot of the themes like, what are the consequences of these characters’ actions? In the short film, they just really had to survive but now they get a chance to really think about what is going on.
I’m just here to expand on one ounce of fake blood to 3 gallons of fake blood (laughs). A lot of what we did was also a learning experience. We saw what worked and what didn’t work and now we have time to put what we learned to the test.
The simple answer is that it is going to be scarier and it is going to be funnier.
As I understand it you guys hit your funding goal very quickly. Clearly the concept really resonated
with people, why do you think that is? What was it like funding a film entirely through Kickstarter?
We also had our director of photography Luis Affiuni draw a lot of concept art for the movie which I think really helped with promoting it. I think it really helped a lot of people really visualize what we were trying to go for with the film. Him and Vasisth really helped boost the film to where it is now.
I want to name drop Leo Perrera. His meme video where he was searching for Santa Claus on Times Square was hilarious. It is unbelievable to think we got over $25,000 in donations.
As for the funding, we are still trying to accept the fact that this is happening if I’m being totally honest. It feels like the right direction.
It was really the effort of our incredible marketing team. Vasisth and his team really helped out with that. Also, the film has a very fun concept. Every time we pitched the movie to someone they smiled at “undead killer Santa”.
If you would have told me last year that I would be making my first feature film the moment I graduated I would have been laughing. Surreal. But at the same time, it feels great to have all that support from family and friends.
Benjamin, Manuel and Vasisth wanted to thank the University of Miami for their continued help and support on this project as well as the professors who mentored them. Be sure to follow Santastein on Instagram and Facebook.
Francisco Ramos has been described as a “film bro” on more than one occasion. Don’t get him started on how much he hates popcorn.