40 under 40 — John Budion

Phi, 2003 — Recognized in: 2020


A photo of John Budion.

John J. Budion is an award winning Director, writer, and visual effects artist with over 20 years of experience in the Film and Television world. He started out his career at the tender age of 17, while concurrently working towards his degree at New York University, where he also pledged the Phi Chapter in the Fall of ’99.

John demonstrated his talents of directing and visual effects in a campaign for E*TRADE’s 2010 “Talking Baby” spots. Sneaking in his comedic style, the spots debuted during the Super Bowl that same year. The famous campaign has wracked up millions of views on YouTube and earned John a selection in SHOOT Magazine’s 2010 New Director’s Showcase.

John has had the opportunity to work with A-List musicians, actors, and directors over his career. Recently, he collaborated with Harry Connick Jr., in bringing Harry’s vision to life for his Broadway Tribute to Cole Porter. Additionally, his film credits include: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Midsommar, The Farewell, and most recently Marriage Story.

John made his feature film directorial debut last year with the writing and directing of his film ROCKAWAY, based on his childhood. After winning 9 major awards, including several BEST FEATURE FILM nods, ROCKAWAY attained a theatrical and streaming distributor. Hailed as an “Agonized and sharply moving film” by THE NEW YORKER, ROCKAWAY can now be found worldwide in over 200 countries on almost every digital platform!

My most meaningful work is by far my feature film ROCKAWAY. The film is inspired by true events and about my brother Anthony and me coming of age in the Summer of ’94 on Long Island. Every day I receive messages from all over the world of how our small indie, but powerful, film made them laugh, cry, cheer, and ultimately touched them. It is extremely humbling to hear these reactions from complete strangers.

ROCKAWAY doesn’t happen without Zeta Psi. The reason the film got off the ground is because of Cory Thompson, a Zete, who is also my Talent Manager. He saw something in the script and got the ball rolling. The film takes place in the Summer of ’94 during the NY Knick’s run at the NBA Finals that year. Two weeks from rolling cameras, I desperately needed clearance from the NBA, so I called Scott Mayo, another Zete, who was currently working for them. He got it done for us. A week into filming, production realized we were going to need more money to finish. Neal Barbiero, a Zete, raised the funding for us, and also served as an Executive Producer on the film. I was also the best man at his wedding. In total, over 15 Zetes were involved with ROCKAWAY. I am forever indebted and thankful to Zeta Psi. They believed in me.


A lot of words are always associated with Fraternities. The best word I can find to describe Zeta Psi is genuine. Trust in yourself, surround yourself with genuine people, and push for your dreams. If you do not have confidence and trust in yourself (something I have tattooed on me), why should anyone else believe in you? I came to NYC as a timid 17 year old. My first week I met Phil Gass, Benny Sherman, and Eric Choy. Three Zetes of genuine character. I would not be the person I am today, personally and professionally, if I did not believe in myself, and get so lucky as to meet and surround myself with the good-hearted humans of Zeta Psi. Work hard, fight for YOUR future, and do what you love!

For more information on John and his work:

  • Share this story!