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Jonathan Rowan

A childhood passion became a fulfilling career—and business—for him.

Jonathan Rowan sits in his director’s chair behind the camera, his eyes searching the script he’s holding until his actors are ready to begin. He quickly checks to make sure the shot is at the right angle before yelling, “Action!”

The Louisville, Kentucky native, who began writing short stories during middle school, developed an early love for storytelling—particularly in the horror and fantasy genres. And while in high school, he participated in dance performances, piano recitals, stage productions and singing competitions.

It wasn’t until he began his academic career at Northern Kentucky University in 2006 that he was able to merge all of his interests. Rowan, who chose a double major in pre-law and political science, initially had plans to become an entertainment lawyer after graduation.

Working in film never crossed Rowan’s mind until 2007, when he began working for NKU’s Media Services department, where he gained experience behind the camera with lighting, film production, editing and live event recordings.

“I was disappointed that NKU didn’t have a film school, but Media Services provided me a chance to be creative in a different way. I will forever be grateful for that experience,” he says. “I appreciate them taking a chance on me. I was just a little college student trying to figure out life who needed a job. I learned the basic skillset that I took with me into my professional career.”

"I’m able to use my platform to impact others...Knowing that my art is making a difference in the world—big or small—is all I can ask for as an artist."

Using the audio and video skills he learned on the job, Rowan created a digital media platform with his co-worker Whitley Dubose called the “Fresh Air Show.” The duo specialized in public service announcements and music-video production but also developed a web-based talk show.

And with more experience, both in front and behind the camera, as well as storytelling, Rowan took the first steps to his career when he developed a full-length feature film concept. One year later, in 2011, he began writing the script for whatwould later become “Slasher,” his first independent horror film.

Rowan was the first undergraduate student at NKU to successfully write, produce, direct and edit a full-length feature film. “Slasher” was screened on NKU’s campus in the spring of 2012.

“The greatest thing that happened to me during my time at NKU was my film, ‘Slasher.’ It was my first step in the journey to film,” he says.

But Rowan didn’t jump into film right away. After graduating from NKU with bachelor’s degrees in pre-law and political science, he became a teacher. For three years, he focused on teaching, creating content for his YouTube channel and producing “Slasher.”

After “Slasher” successfully exited post-production and made its public debut, Rowan put his law-school dreams on hold and moved 2,000 miles away from home to Los Angeles, California to embrace his calling. In the fall of 2016, Rowan began film school at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television.

“Moving to Los Angeles was the biggest leap of faith I have ever taken in my life,” he says. “I came out here initially without a place to stay, chasing the dream of attending film school.”

But that leap of faith paid off, and Rowan, while in film school, created his own independent media production company—Supastar Productionz.

In May 2020, with a fresh Master of Fine Arts in film production and a new company, Rowan wasn’t going to let a global pandemic stop him. He spent much of his time building relationships in the industry and proving his worth.

It’s safe to say that Rowan has successfully proven himself. He now has 11 films under his belt—“Slasher,” “Breathe,” “Shank’s Rain,” “Man Down,” “Beauty Mark,” "Heart Beats,” "Chocolate Milk,” "Runnin’,” “Invisible,” “The Ringing” and “A Dreamer’s Ambition.”

His films have found success and been showcased in several festivals all across the country, including Louisville’s International Festival of Film, the Social Justice Now Film Festival, Charlotte’s Black Film Festival, the LGBTQ Shorts Film Festival, Nashville’s International Black Film Festival and the DTLA Film Festival as well as many others. Several of them have won awards.

But for Rowan, his company—and his name—is about more than just recognition.

“I’m able to use my platform to impact others,” he says. “I love that people can watch my films and have a dialogue about mental health, domestic violence and other impactful issues. Knowing that my art is making a difference in the world—big or small—is all I can ask for as an artist. I reflect on my work and take moral responsibility and obligation to uplift and impact.”

About This Article

Jayna Morris ('22)
Editor, NKU Magazine
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Published April 2022
Photography provided by Jonathan Rowan
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