“They Wore the Red Suit” Documentary Examines the History, the Industry and the Magic of Being Santa Claus

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Every year, tens of thousands don the Red Suit for families, parties and parades, but only a handful of men have turned the portrayal of Santa into a full-time career. They Wore the Red Suit is a documentary from Power Plant Productions featuring the rare individuals who have devoted their lives to keeping Christmas magic alive by actually being Santa Claus 365 days a year.

When director Larry Peter happened upon a Santa visiting with children in 2010, it turned out to be a life changing encounter. While watching the man’s techniques and mannerisms with the children, memories of his childhood Santa flooded Peter’s mind. “I became quite emotional. It was as if I was standing in front of Jim Yellig again, the man who was my Santa fifty years ago,” Peter said, “and I missed him so badly at that moment. I realized how dramatically life changes for a child when Santa is taken away. The magic is gone, and most of us can never get it back.”

And so began a quest to discover how the mannerisms of a rural Santa Claus from the ‘60s could be passed down through generations to resurface fifty years later. The quest led Peter to the very origins of the Santa industry and vocation. After seeking out some highly respected professional Santas of today, such as Phillip L. Wenz and Michael Rielly, Peter was given insider status in a world that few will ever experience. He traveled to Santa theme parks, historic sites of Santa schools, as well as workshops and conventions for professional Santas. He even spent a day in the Red Suit at Santa’s Village in East Dundee, IL. Peter discovered that his childhood Santa, from a rural town with a population of 37, was revered among today’s Santas as an originator of the profession.

They Wore the Red Suit will examine Santa Claus from three perspectives: The legend of Santa, the vocation of being Santa, and the Santa industry – showing how all three have merged to form the public’s perception of Santa today – with a brief look at the history and evolution of Santa, beginning with archetypes even more ancient than St. Nicholas of Myra.

The film runs the gamut of human emotions – from whimsical coverage of Santa conventions, to the poignant and heartbreaking stories of the most difficult requests they’ve received from children. At the pinnacle are the tales of pure selflessness when these Santas made children’s wishes – some that seemed impossible – actually come true. These are not just men playing Santa. These men are Santa.

Power Plant Productions has been working on the film since February 2011, and it's been a labor of love – and expense. Peter relates, “What began as a small local story has taken us across the country. We’re seeking funding through grants, sponsorships and crowdfunding to allow us to complete for this Christmas season. We’ve launched a campaign on Kickstarter.com, a funding platform for creative projects. This allows the public to support the project and, in exchange, receive some unique prizes – such as special edition DVDs, title of Associate Producer in the film credits or even a screening in your city.“ The director adds, “If you’ve ever sat on Santa’s knee, I promise this is a project you’ll be proud to be a part of.” Filming is nearing completion as the post production phase begins.

Contributions can be made to the Kickstarter campaign are tax deductible. They Wore the Red Suit is a fiscally sponsored project of the International Documentary Association (IDA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Power Plant Productions notes that the Kickstarter campaign is not intended for their professional Santa friends. There are very special incentives for professional Santas at the official movie website (http://www.thesantamovie.com).

Supporters can follow They Wore the Red Suit on facebook and you’re encouraged to share the movie trailer with friends. Peter asks, “Please help us reach as many people as possible. Blog about it. Tweet about it. Our Kickstarter campaign ends on August 22nd.”

They Wore the Red Suit is scheduled for completion by the Christmas season and premieres are planned in many of the towns where scenes were filmed - Santa Claus, IN, Albion, NY, Bristol, RI and East Dundee, IL.

Power Plant Productions is a full service production company located in Tell City, Indiana and has been delivering award-winning commercials, documentaries, music videos and corporate films since 1997.

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Sally Houzanme
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