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Area high school student writes and directs first film

By Caitlin Nearhood • Mar 1, 2019 at 5:00 PM

SANDUSKY — An area high school student soon will become one of the youngest directors on any major streaming service platform.

Jonathan Perry, a junior at St. Mary Central Catholic High School, will release “Subnivean” via Amazon Prime Video on June 12. He wrote and directed the large-budget short film, which was filmed in Marquette and Ishpeming in Michigan’s upper peninsula during the last week of December.

Those who have an Amazon Prime account will be able to access the PG-13-rated film.

Locally, “Subnivean” will debut May 21 at Sandusky’s Cinemark Stadium theater, where the cast and crew will host a question-and-answer session with the audience. Community members are invited to attend the premiere.

The 17-year-old Perry began his early career in the film industry four years ago when he began writing scripts online for other filmmakers and selling the copyright to his work. After writing nearly 40 scripts over the course of two years, Perry made about $10,000.

He wrote the script for “Subnivean” a year ago. The word subnivean means “situated or occurring under the snow” and the film is inspired by sibling rivalry.


“After a vicious chase home from gathering firewood, an innocent boy unknowingly leads his brother to fall through an isolated pond. The boy has to accept and use his twisted hallucinations of hatred as his only hope to break the ice and save his brother in time or die trying,” Perry said.

Someone offered to pay $4,000 for the “Subnivean” script, but Perry turned it down, he said.

“I took a second look at it and I saw a personal connection like no other script I wrote,” he added.

Perry decided the film might be his golden ticket into directing his a large-budget feature film, so he used his college money to fund the production of “Subnivean.”

To create “Subnivean,” Perry collaborated with more than two dozen students at Northern Michigan University, providing them with valuable industry experience. Additionally, he partnered with a crew member who was a part of the fifth “Transformers” movie and the band ODESZA for promotional sound mixing.

When deciding on film locations, Perry worked with a Hollywood-grade location scout and decided that the natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula and the frozen bodies of water in Ishpeming made for the perfect location to film the movie.

On set, Perry connected with actors and others assisting with the production. The crew of more than 20 people included seasoned professionals and college students from Northern Michigan University.

About a month ago, Amazon Prime Video signed the film, which is now in post-production. “Subnivean” lasts about 44 minutes.

“I think with how far these actors went on set, Amazon saw that (in the rough cut) and that’s why I think they’re signing with us, because this film is something no one’s ever seen before,” Perry said.

Perry wants to submit his movie to film festivals, as he hopes to be nominated for an Academy Award someday.

“(Filmmaking is) definitely something I want to do the rest of my life,” he said.

His next project? Writing a feature film this summer that’s expected to be in theaters in a few years and directed by a well-known Hollywood director, Perry said. Its starting budget is $1.5 million. But Perry also wants to focus on college and may attend the University of Southern California’s film school.


To get an exclusive look at the film, text “Subnivean” to 555888. Additionally, the team will post exclusive content that can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, named across all platforms at @subniveanmovie. For more information, visit www.subniveanmovie.com.

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