Q & A:
- What is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My fondest memory was working on a student run show called TNL, Thursday Night Live. It allowed us to put into practice all that we had learned in class. Today, I work side by side with many of those students. There were no grades, nor was any credit assigned; it was truly a passion project and it's where I learned most of my real world skills.
- What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
My first job was a contracted opportunity that resulted from collaborations at Hofstra. The job was to direct a music video for BET. Since the artist was someone I met while putting together a live performance piece at Hofstra, he understood that I had no experience outside of school and for that he made the process very difficult, but I learned a few valuable lessons from the experience. I learned the importance of managing capability with a vision and how to stand my ground in way of opposition while keeping the faith of my crew in its leader. Lastly, I learned how to have fun. In this business it's important not to take yourself too seriously; it's called the creative process because you have to work to get to that place that makes perfect creative sense. With that said, it's a lot easier to get there when you're allowed to stumble and make a few ridiculous propositions. The music video aired on BET and gave me a sense of confidence and accomplishment that to this day keeps me going.
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I currently own a content production agency called Hiccup Media. At Hiccup I am the creative director/director. My first real office experience (9 a.m.-5p.m., or so I thought) was working in post-production at a New York ad agency, Grey Worldwide. At Grey, I honed in on my story-telling skills and ability to manage clients. I also learned how to be treated as a full-time employee, which is essential when being the employer. I can confidently say that the connections I've made and kept at Grey, along with Hofstra, have led to all of my current career successes.
- What advice would you give current Hofstra students?
The advice I would give to current Hofstra students is kind of cliché, but true: make the best of your experience. It took me about three years into college to start ignoring all the emotions and politics, and to take responsibility and appreciate the craft that I chose to study. I was a bit of a rebel when it came to class structure, and I'm convinced that if I had experienced college any other way, I'd be in a very different place today. The classes weren't the perfect learning experience for me, so I decided to do extra, and Hofstra accommodated. I worked in the equipment room and as a teacher's aide. I also assisted students after class and off the clock. So again, my advice is to make the best of your experience, and find out what works for you. The truth is, no one else is going to benefit more from your educational experience than you.
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
- How has your degree helped you?
I owe everything to my college experience; the degree is simply proof of my scholastic accomplishments. In the real world people respond to work ethics, although I will say that there is a huge sense of camaraderie when it comes to meeting Hofstra alumni.
- Where did you get the idea to start Hiccup Media?
While working at Grey Worldwide, I continued to do business with other clients I had developed. Two of those would become instrumental to starting Hiccup Media. One was AOL Latino; I was only editor at the time working on all of their live music projects at night, and I saw a huge opportunity to take the entire operation over. I figured I could offer them the exact service they were getting without the hefty markup the studio was charging for their Manhattan suite. The second client was Connecticut Yankee, where I worked cutting the “World Poker Tour.” Connecticut Yankee went bankrupt and stored away its Avid Editing systems. I offered to take the systems out of storage and pay a monthly fee as long as I could produce money. This allowed me to start my business with essentially no overhead. Not everything worked out; my AOL client decided to take everything in-house to their new Time Warner facility and the system I had was not producing money alone. So the next step was to make the right partnership, which I did. I pulled at the time a Grey producer, whom I had done quite a bit of work for, and together we began bringing in business. With his contacts and my post-production skills, we started making Hiccup Media profitable.
- What is your favorite part of your job?
I love creating.
Since Michael Cruz's (B.S. '02) initial exposure to the world of film and television, he has made it his mission to master the complete process of visual production in a “creative” way. Throughout his 12 years of experience in the industry, Michael's talent for directing has enabled him to work on a variety of projects ranging from Web-based media to television commercials. In 2006, he co-founded Hiccup Media, a full-service creative content production company, with clients such as Sony, T.J. Maxx, MTV, Procter & Gamble Co., E*TRADE, Comcast Corp., TLC, and Dave Matthews Band, just to name a few.
Michael came to Hofstra, following in his older sister's footsteps. After a meeting with an academic counselor during which he professed his interest in the buttons found in the radio control room, Michael decided that a career in production was for him. He continued with his studies, immersing himself with the academic community and assisting fellow students while working as a teacher's aide. By the time he graduated in 2002, Michael had moved into visual production and completed a double major in video/television and film.
During his last year at Hofstra, Michael directed the programs' largest live production by the Class of 2002. There, he met an R&B artist for whom he did freelance work following graduation. While working as a video editor at Burnpeak in Connecticut, Michael worked on a special video project for Christopher Reeves' birthday, where he was also a guest at what would be Reeves' last birthday.
In addition to Burnpeak, Michael has worked at Connecticut Yankee, AOL Music and Grey Worldwide. Through creative planning and his relationship with CT Yankee, Michael was offered their Avid Editing system, enabling him to start his own creative content production company. In 2006, just four years after graduating from Hofstra, Michael founded Hiccup Media with Rob Simone, a fellow colleague from Grey Worldwide.
When asked why they chose name “Hiccup Media,” Michael responded, “We were fascinated by the mystery behind a hiccup … Even though you try to get rid of it, it keeps coming back. A hiccup has tenacity, which represents our drive.” Five years since the birth of their company, Hiccup Media maintains a growing clientele and strong case studies.