You may have already seen this particularly cute video about the letter “M,” but did you know it was produced by three 2013 U-M grads? Josh Buoy, Chris Duncan, and Roddy Hyduk are the founders of Snowday, a storytelling studio in New York City that specializes in web videos, commercials, and short films. Most recently, they filmed a series of U-M bicentennial videos. We caught up with these entrepreneurs over the summer to learn what it is like to work for your alma mater and alongside your best buds from college.
How did the three of you meet at U-M?
Josh: Roddy, Chris, and I met in “Intro to Media Production,” in the winter of 2010. Chris actually starred in our first film as an actor. We all grew to love making short films together through the coursework. None of us came to U-M thinking we would become filmmakers. I was prelaw, Roddy was in the art school, and Chris was maybe going to act.
Chris: That was a very strong “maybe”!
Together, you started Filmic, a U-M student production company. How did that come about?
Josh: We created Filmic at the end of our sophomore year in 2011, wanting to get more production experience. We quickly realized there was a demand from the University for video storytelling as a way to tell the student experience and to tell stories about other parts of the University. As undergrads, we created around 20 to 25 videos with around 10 of our friends.
So, what was your first big break filming for U-M?
Roddy: We did a video for the Erb Institute, a partnership between the Ross School of Business and the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS). We were able to communicate the values of that organization and the University through film. It reached an audience that created a lot of value for them. It was super rewarding and led to more and more University pieces.
Josh: It was a big break for us, that summer after our sophomore year. The dean of students and vice president for student life asked if we wanted to produce four public service announcements to air in the Big House that football season. They were about various student life departments. In one, we incorporated Desmond Howard into a “Stay in the Blue” responsible-drinking campaign video.
After graduation, all three of you moved to New York. How long after did you set up Snowday?
Roddy: We each did our own thing for about a year. I worked at New York University’s Office of Interactive Media.
Chris: I worked at an ad agency called 160over90 in Philadelphia.
Josh: And I was directing an indie feature film, which was silly and dumb, but I learned a lot! We realized we had the team chemistry. And there weren’t cool opportunities offered or available to us, so we decided to bring the band back together and make our own company.
Roddy: In the fall of 2014, we moved back to Ann Arbor, and that’s when Snowday hit the ground running.
Chris: We spent two years in Ann Arbor building this foundation so that we could move the business somewhere that was a “bigger pond” and work with more companies.
Roddy: We wanted to get to a hub of production with a greater pool of freelance talent and greater access to clients. New York City made a lot of sense for us at that point.
How did you get involved with U-M’s bicentennial celebration?
Josh: Near the end of 2015, the University was figuring out what video storytelling they wanted to do around the bicentennial. Since we started working for U-M as Filmic and did some work for them as Snowday, they brought us into those conversations.
Chris: A big part of what we’re looking to do now is independent filmmaking. The commercial work we’re able to do can then fund projects that we’re interested in tackling outside of brands and partners. Personally, I’m very interested in documentary filmmaking.
Josh: It’s been a challenge to grow our business in New York while also maintaining our strong ties to Michigan. We’re a full-time team of five now. Having U-M in the portfolio, as one of the nation’s top public institutions, definitely stands out.
Gregory Lucas-Myers, ’10, is assistant editor of Michigan Alumnus.