Due to the success of its Moonshots Program in 2018, Portal A rolled out the second iteration of the program. This time, with better and bigger offers. Jacob Motz shares more details about the program and why it differs from the first one.
Who is Jacob Motz?
Jacob Motz is the Director for Original Projects at Portal A. ICYDK, Portal A is an award-winning brand and original content company. They work with some of the biggest brands today, like YouTube, Lenovo, Target, Snapchat, and Google.
Recently, Portal A announced its second original content program, Moonshots. The program was first launched in 2018 and aimed to find, fund, and produce projects by digital-native talents. Social video experiments from different creators, like Mike Diva and Alexis G. Zall, were among the program’s first round of projects.
What inspired Portal A to create a second program, and what are the goals for this?
The first iteration of the Moonshots Program in 2018 bore fruits for Portal A. The goal behind the program was to get the company back to its roots of making content without gatekeepers and worrying about any network’s approval or tinkering with things.
Jacob Motz adds, “It gets us back to our roots of innovation. We really like the idea of taking what we do well across the branded side of our company, working on social media, and working with creator and Gen Z talent. And then trying to figure out new ways to create entertainment in that format.”
During the first iteration of the Moonshot Program, the company had several success stories that led to business wins. For one, they partnered with Alexis G. Zall and built a series called “Maybe Today Satan.”
Portal A took over her Instagram channel for a month and created a scripted horror series on it. They used images, videos, stories, and carousels. According to Jacob Motz, the company took a loss in doing that but did it as a way to innovate and create something new.
But this approach was definitely worth it.
Jacob Motz shares, “It became a piece of our relationship with Snapchat and Snap Originals. When we were meeting with them, they were looking for entertainment partners. In the case study of Maybe Today Satan, they saw a company that was willing to take a lot of risks and wasn’t scared by the kind of playful innovation necessary to create new shows on formats that aren’t your typical streaming entertainment or network entertainment.”
That meeting led to a variety of original projects with Snapchat like Action Royale, Best Snaps Show, Level Up with Stephen Curry, and more that have run for several years.
Recently, Portal A started talking about how they want to get back to some of that experimentation, innovation, and betting on themselves. The past year was a year of transition for Portal A due to the changes in the entertainment world.
“We felt like it was time to bet on ourselves again and create an environment and program where we could innovate and create stuff without gatekeepers,” Jacob Motz reiterates.
What makes the second program different from the first one?
Scale is the most significant difference between the two programs. Jacob explains, “The first reiteration of this was a bit more of an experiment. We went into it knowing what our goals were, but it was earlier in our evolution as an originals entertainment company.”
“So, having gone through that and seen the fruits of that labor, we now know how to do it better. We know how to bet on ourselves better. We know how to innovate better. So, we’re making it much more of a direct focus. It’s a big part of our original strategy this time around,” Jacob Motz adds.
The first Moonshot Program was a smaller piece of a puzzle. This time, Portal A is more dedicated to the program and putting more funds toward it. The company is dedicating $500,000 across production financing and team resources.
What types of projects does Portal A hope to fund and produce from this second program?
The second iteration of the Moonshot Program aims to support a wide range of projects. But for the most part, they’re more focused on original social series, like Maybe Today Satan.
They’re also looking for short films that speak to the story they’re building as both a documentary company and building off of the scripted work they’ve done in the past.
Jacob Motz continues, “We’re interested in some of the emerging technology popping up.. We want to be innovative around format, and that’s a central piece to this. We’re not interested in doing something we’ve seen before, so innovation is very important. Also differentiated creative points of view, which has always been something that we’ve focused on with our entertainment side of the company.”
What kind of resources do these elected projects receive from Portal A?
Besides the funds, Portal A is also giving project creators access to their expertise as makers, producers, and creatives. Portal A prides itself in its ability to partner with other people who are also creatives and are willing to work together to come up with unique and loud content.
Jacob says, “That’s something we want to continue to do. We’re less interested in giving people a check and having them make something versus finding people we believe in who have stories to tell or innovative viewpoints and working with them hand in hand to create something unique.”
How are you going to ensure the success of this program? What kind of impact do you hope to have in the industry?
“One thing we’re always talking about is distribution. It’s an obvious hurdle when you’re trying to make anything, especially on the internet. There is a deluge of content out there every single day, and it’s hard to rise above that noise,” Jacob explains.
“We are lucky to have crafted a strong team of strategists over the years. I think we consider ourselves best in class when it comes to sorting out how to get things seen, how to make sure content that we make has as good a shot as possible to be relevant.”
One of the biggest things creators struggle with is figuring out what to do next after making content — and that’s what Portal A’s Moonshot Program tries to answer.
Portal A has been making loud and unique content for 12 years, and that gives its team more nuts and bolts in terms of expertise — from its creative team, producers, and editing team.
Jacob Motz adds, “We are very hands-on, and we want to make sure whoever we’re partnering with, we’re able to take any blind spots they might have and turn them into strengths.”
Is Portal A currently working on any projects for the second program?
Among other projects, Portal A is working on a short film documentary called Family Trip. They’re packaging it as a traditional series but have already shot a short film that explores a new phenomenon of psychedelic family therapy.
Jacob Motz continues, “It’s [about] families sorting through some wounds, some trauma, and looking for healing via psychedelics with a facilitator. And we’re working with an extremely talented filmmaker, Sean Dunn, and his producing partner. Sean has been making 45-minute documentaries and releasing them online for years. And we see this as a way to work with him to create something bigger than he has had an opportunity to build in the past..”
What are the biggest challenges that you expect this program will have?
Jacob Motz thinks pushing innovation is one of the biggest challenges they’ll encounter in this second program. Jacob cites that this is natural as the entertainment in the world nowadays is copycat-based. He adds, “A lot of this stuff we find ourselves developing early and having incoming from outside creatives are things we’ve seen before. These are ideas we feel familiar with in a way that we’re not interested in.”
Given this status quo, Jacob expects to come across challenges about how they will push the envelope on the innovation side. This causes discomfort to everyone on the team as it’s something they’ve never seen before. But on the other side of the coin, they’re okay with being uncomfortable and actually embracing this phase.
Jacob Motz adds, “Typically, if you’re uncomfortable around a concept, that means you’re probably on the right path; it will be something unique. So that’s a challenge we’re looking forward to.”
Another challenge Jacob expects the program will face is finding extremely effective distribution plans for some of the projects from the program, especially on social media. For Jacob, the reason behind this is due to the unpredictability and volatility of social media. He says, “That’s another challenge but one that we feel like we’re uniquely suited to face.”
What advice can you give to creators interested in applying to this program? What qualities are you looking for?
To enjoy Portal A’s Moonshot Program, creators have to be playful, innovative, and passionate. These projects are meant to be content that’s innovative and uncomfortable to create. And for Jacob, “The only way this works is if somebody has the heartbeat for the project through and through.” In short, it’s crucial for Portal A that creators who show interest in the program have concepts or ideas coming directly from their hearts.
Jacob Motz further explains, “A lot of what I’ve been saying to the people who have been starting conversations with us is that, ‘the bullseye is pretty small.'”
“The more folks who see their submissions as the beginning of a conversation the better because they understand more of what we’re looking for, and we start to understand more of what their voice is and what they’re trying to offer. We’re going to get to a place where we find a crossover, and we find that perfect project,” Jacob states.
Jacob Motz advises all creative hopefuls not to feel discouraged when they hear a “no” from Portal A. Instead, creatives should see that as one step along the path of building a relationship with the company.
Any creators looking to participate in Portal A’s moonshots program can reach the company at email@example.com.
What’s next for Portal A after the second program? How do you see the company evolving in the next coming years?
Portal A is going to continue to bet on itself, and it will be bigger, brighter, and bolder as they move forward. The second iteration of the Moonshot Program is just the beginning.
“We are going to be bold, but we’re also going to be smart. We’re going to look for the right projects. As we move forward, we hope to build a narrative around this innovation, creative voices, and different viewpoints,” Jacob shares.
In the future, Portal A expects these projects to level up to more premium swings in the marketplace. And Jacob Motz, along with his team at Portal A, will aim to achieve that goal (and more) by proving that they can be innovative and bet on themselves.
The team has seen in the marketplace that traditional buyers gravitate to that because they’re seeing someone else take that chance. He explains, “It’s a very risk-averse business. And until you show these buyers what’s possible, they’re not going to leap in. But I see a world where we can prove a lot of these formats.”
Portal A has embraced a forward-thinking mindset and thinks about what entertainment will look like in the future. They’re starting to build the frame of that now using experimental swings that they can use in the coming years.