When Christmas meets horror, ‘Santastein’ is born

A still from the "Santastein" short film, which combines elements of horror and christmas movies. Photo courtesy Manuel Camilion

Christmas, Santa and the undead— this movie has it all.

A holiday film unlike any other, “Santastein” is the brainchild of two recent University of Miami graduates. The Christmas-slasher-comedy film takes place in a world without Christmas and pits a vengeful Santa Claus against a group of unsuspecting teenagers.

Co-directors Benjamin Edelman and Manuel Camilion, both of whom graduated in spring 2019 with majors in motion pictures, said they were influenced by movies such as “Scream” and “Evil Dead 2.”

A still from the "Santastein" short film, which combines elements of horror and christmas movies. Photo courtesy Manuel Camilion

“I’ve grown up watching horror movies every friday night with my friends in high school,” said Camilion, citing those memories as a source of inspiration.

Edelman said combining the holiday element with the horror genre “seemed like an interesting mix and a new adventure.”

Last year, Edelman and Camilion created a proof-of-concept short film, which premiered at the “Slays and Scores” student film festival, co-hosted by UM’s chapter of Delta Kappa Alpha and the Society of Composers. Since then, they have launched promotions around campus and online to raise money for production costs, including a Kickstarter campaign that has amassed $25,000.

“It was a large mixture of family, friends and strangers donating,” said Camilion. “We really had to tap into our circle to fulfill our goal. It was essential for us to reach out to people and let them know that we are making this passion project while also trying to launch ourselves into the film world.”

In addition to friends and family, the “Santastein” team received support from Miami film producer Eddie del Carmen, who saw the short last spring at UM’s annual Canes Film Festival. Carmen said he saw potential in the project and approached the directors, helping them write content for the Kickstarter campaign and filming promotional video in hopes of getting the project off the ground.

After reaching their kickstarter goal of $25,000 in mid-September, the “Santastein” team announced its aim to begin production in late November.

"Santastein" co-directors Manuel Camilion and Benjamin Edelman consult the script while on the set of their proof-of-concept short film. Photo courtesy Manuel Camilion

“I was very happy that the kickstarter goal was reached,” said Carmen, the executive producer of the “Santastein” feature film. “It’s a great opportunity for a team of young filmmakers to develop a fun project on a modest budget, so they’ll have a chance to fulfill their vision while also learning about the production end of things.”

Edelman and Camilion have also been receiving guidance and encouragement from the School of Communication community. Edelman called UM’s students and faculty “tremendous lines of support.”

Both Camilion and Edelman said the production classes that they took during their undergraduate years at UM allowed them to tap into their talents and ultimately pursue their passion for directing.

Camilion specifically mentioned Ali Habashi and Ed Talavera, both professors in the Department of Cinema and Interactive Media. Camilion called Habashi “a very inspiring professor” and said Talavera encouraged him to turn the short into a feature film.

Edelman also credited UM’s motion pictures program as a source of inspiration, saying, “Through hands-on learning and studying the art of storytelling, I became even more passionate about directing and connecting with the audience.”

The feature film will be shot in Miami using professional-grade RED cameras. It will also be created with the help of cinematographer Luis Afiuni Avila, another recent UM graduate who aspires to expand upon Santastein’s visual look while also striving to capture its traditional b-movie horror elements.

Sticking to their Miami roots, the “Santastein” directors plan to utilize local talent, film students and unique locations around the city.

“We may not be located in production hubs such as New York City or Los Angeles, but this film will help us prove that filming a Christmas-based movie is possible in Miami,” Edelmen said. “Being able to implement our visions onto the ‘big screen’ is even more fulfilling, because we’re doing it in the city where it all began.”