NACOGDOCHES, Texas – A film by Armando Silvas Jr., graduate student in the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Art’s filmmaking program, has been selected to be produced as the 2023 SFA summer feature.
Silvas’ “The Russian at Christmas” is a feature-length action/comedy holiday film about a Russian hitman who tracks down a mall Santa on Christmas Eve. The film is set to be shot throughout the month of June in Nacogdoches in conjunction with SFA’s filmmaking program. Silvas wrote and will direct and edit the film.
A previous Micky Elliott College of Fine Arts Dean’s Circle award winner, Silvas has worked on four feature films and has written and directed more than 10 short films of his own. He’s worked as a camera assistant, camera operator, director of photography and media manager. “I’ve watched other filmmakers, and I’ve worked with and seen them both succeed and fail,” Silvas said. “I’ve learned from their mistakes and their triumphs equally. Now I’m taking the lessons I’ve learned from those experiences and putting them to use.”
The costs of crew and equipment for the summer film are covered by SFA. “These are all things that can drive up the production budget of any feature film,” Silvas said. “With that weight off our shoulders we’re focusing on two important areas: the cast and the art direction.” To cover those added costs in the production of “The Russian at Christmas,” Silvas has created an Indiegogo website to help fund the project.
In “The Russian at Christmas,” Frank, a recently fired mall Santa, is trying to survive Christmas Eve with his friend, Todd, a low-self esteemed man stuck in a loveless relationship. Then, Frank witnesses a murder committed by a Russian hitman. Frank is dealing with the recent loss of his dad who passed away on Christmas. Frank’s dad was a Mall Santa, and Frank wants to keep the tradition going, so he does the same. It turns out Frank isn’t cut out for it, and he gets fired with the reminder that he’ll never be like his dad. To make matters worse, Frank learns that his ex-girlfriend has found someone new and that there are loan sharks that are trying to collect the money that Frank owes, or else. Along the way, Frank and Todd meet several colorful characters, such as some backwoods loan sharks, two goofy police officers, a one-eyed ex-police officer who is fueled by revenge, an overly eccentric mall manager, and of course, The Russian, who has a deadly passion for hating Christmas and even engages in a musical number.
The film includes over-the-top action with absurd humor while keeping the underlying theme throughout that no one should be alone on Christmas. The film is also inspired by films such as “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and “Pineapple Express,” according to Silvas.
Co-producer is film director, screenwriter, editor, producer and SFA alumnus Derek Wayne Johnson, known for his work on “John G. Avildsen: King of the Underdogs (2017),” “40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic (2020),” and “Stallone: Frank, That Is (2021).”
“I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with Derek on a feature film last year,” Silvas said. “Derek will be returning as an SFA alumnus to help teach and mentor the undergraduate students throughout the duration of the shoot.”
The rest of the crew will be comprised of undergraduate students from the filmmaking program who will work on the film for credit towards their degree. The film program at SFA produces a feature length film every summer, and the students working on the film spend the school year prior learning and building their skillset to work on these feature productions.
For more information about how to help support the summer film project, visit
For more information about SFA’s filmmaking program, contact the School of Art at (936) 468-4804.