At the young age of 13, Jordan St. Jean could be found running around his friend’s back yard like a black ops soldier straight out of a video game, camera in hand, filming every moment. But the Bedford, N.H., native was also a talented three-season athlete, who eventually landed a baseball scholarship at Saint Anselm College. A nagging shoulder injury forced him to put down his glove for good at the beginning of his sophomore year, opening another door for him: filmmaking. “I’ve always loved filming. If I wasn’t playing sports, I wanted to make a movie,” says the 21-year-old communication major now in his junior year. “So, I just started writing down some ideas.” Fortunately, he already had a script in the form of a 150-page novel written while still in high school. The book, Obscurum, chronicles the actions and mental anguish of a Navy SEAL forced to fake his own death before joining a secret government operation.
St. Jean’s next step was to start his own production company, Elysium, and then begin filming the movie (on location at Saint Anselm, of course), with the goal of submitting it to film festivals and shopping it to studios around the country. Having already posted a trailer for the film on his YouTube channel, St. Jean expects to finish production next summer.
All of this work in filming recently caught the attention of more than just the online video community. The New Hampshire branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI NH) reached out to St. Jean late last summer to help support its “Decade of Hope” campaign which recognized the progress New Hampshire has made in the past 10 years to address suicide prevention. Having worked with Jordan’s mother, Elaine, on past projects, NAMI NH was aware of his talent as a filmmaker. The volunteer project would take him 240 hours over the course of five months, including interviews with high school students, law enforcement officers, program directors, and even New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan.
The filmmaker’s mother served as the focal point of the 15-minute video: her father took his own life 22 years ago after his wife’s death from cancer. Elaine St. Jean was still in college at the time, and was forced to drop out of college to support herself. Her story served as bookends to the video and (happily) nurtured the relationship between mother and son.
“I learned more about her story while doing the interview than I ever had before,” says Jordan. “It was something we just never really talked about. Now, it’s not the same touchy subject that it once was.”
In November, NAMI NH held its annual suicide prevention conference, where the “Decade of Hope” video was screened before an audience of more than 300, including the St. Jeans. Members of NAMI NH thanked St. Jean for the generous donation of his time and the quality of his work. What followed was a standing ovation and an outpouring of emotion that involved hugs, handshakes, and a few tears.
“It was an incredible feeling. Everything I’ve done up to this point was to boost my own resume and gain exposure in the film business, but this was something that mattered to thousands of people.”
The backyard game that started with toy guns, ski masks, and a cheap camcorder could be his path to a creative career.