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Portal A Innovates with 'Moonshots' Program: Q&A with Director of Original Projects Jacob Motz

by Jordan P. Kelley, Content Director, BrandStorytelling

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Content creation is currently king - and if we've learned anything about the content landscape as that has become a reality, it's that no one platform, medium, or format lasts forever; it's the evolution of the form that's become the norm. But it's impossible to predict the efficacy and profitability of what's just around the corner when it can't be quantified yet.

In order to find out, innovation has to lead before performance goals can follow. The folks at Portal A have demonstrated an understanding of this principle with the launch of Moonshots - a program dedicated to producing projects that experiment with everything from the latest creative tools to alternative formats, unique content subjects and more.

BrandStorytelling caught up with Portal A's Director of Original Projects Jacob Motz to learn more about what's coming out of the Moonshots program and why driving innovation is vital to continuing to create great digital content:

The Moonshots program aims to take Portal A "back to its innovative roots." Can you share more about the inspiration behind launching Moonshots and how it aligns with Portal A's creative vision?

A simple way to think about Moonshots is Portal A’s R&D Lab, allowing our team and community of creative partners to embrace experimentation. The inspiration for Moonshots comes from the genesis of Portal A – before working with brands, the company’s roots were in developing and producing original series on Youtube in the early days of internet video. Our goal is to create that space for ourselves again, developing new formats and uncovering new talent without the typical constraints of brand or network-funded projects.

How does the Moonshots unit differentiate itself in the rapidly evolving landscape of digital content creation?

If you are a marketer, you are focused on measuring content performance against your brand KPIs, and if you are a creator or entertainment platform, against your viewership and retention goals. These are essential metrics, but not the only way to judge the quality of content. Moonshots is a vehicle to be creative and experimental for creativity and experimentation's sake. How often do you see that these days? 

Portal A has a history of collaborating with influencers and creators. How has the experience of working with YouTubers like Mike Diva and Alexis G. Zall influenced the evolution of Moonshots?

Creators will always be on the frontline of creative innovation on emerging entertainment platforms. For us, it is critical to partner directly with the folks who live and breath this ecosystem (and understand this audience) to keep us on our toes creatively. Creators are wired to see what’s coming next – combining their vision with our expertise and point of view has been central to our success across our branded and independent work.   

The projects under Moonshots involve a mix of emerging technologies like AI and short-form video. Can you elaborate on how these technologies enhance the storytelling experience?

Emerging technologies are very exciting for us as they open new ways to craft entertainment. AI specifically came through last year like a bit of a wrecking ball and scared a lot of people in the creative community, which emboldened us to try and wrap our heads around it. Take away some of the fear. Tools like that really are just that, tools. Short form video on the other hand is something we believe in very much as a format for storytelling - a lot of our scripted and unscripted work with Snapchat over the last several years has been in this space – and something that we believe is still fertile for development. As an industry, we’ve only just begun in understanding how to bring real entertainment formats into the short form space, and we are keen on helping pioneer a few of those successful formats via Moonshots. 

The current slate spans multiple platforms, including TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. How do you tailor the content for each platform's unique audience and format requirements?

Distribution strategy has also been core to this company’s identity from the earliest days. We’ve learned it the hard way. No matter how good an idea, we know that if we don’t understand the distribution platform, or if we don’t have a plan to reach audience built directly into the idea, it’s going to disappear into the ether of the internet. We have a fantastic strategy team at Portal A, and they keep us creatives honest, especially as it relates to distribution. Identifying our plan for distribution early, and being able to drill into the specific language, audience expectations, and best practices of each platform, is non-negotiable. 

Can you share an example of a project that pushed creative boundaries or took an unexpected turn during the development process?

One Moonshot I’m extremely excited about is centered around a young Olympic athlete, Bella Sims. Bella is insanely talented, is poised to be a breakout star in the 2024 Olympics, and also happens to be a magnetic personality. We targeted her IG channel as ripe for a new format, and worked with her to find an authentic insight to her journey. In this case, it was the lack of a typical teenage life due to the strenuous training schedule of being Olympic athlete. This insight led to the series BELLA SIMS NEEDS A LIFE – a wish fulfillment series in which we give Bella all the moments she longs for from a “typical” teenage life – which works specifically for Bella’s story but also could be replicated across other athlete channels in the future. This series started as a typical short form video format, but quickly pivoted into a week long takeover of her Instagram account, utilizing every tool available on the platform, from stories to mixing media on carousel posts. 

How do you envision the future in terms of continually pushing creative boundaries and staying at the forefront of emerging trends in digital content?

As creatives, we have an historically unique opportunity to engage with audiences in real time, versus the months-long and years-long timelines to develop and distribute content from more traditional models. We don’t have to wait to be accepted into a film festival, or go through the long development process to hopefully find a home for our show idea, or wait until a brand gives us a green light for a new campaign. The feedback is immediate, which is refreshing and inspiring. Our goal with programs like Moonshots, and the reason why we’re in this space to begin with, is to be more experimental and less precious, embracing experimentation and even failure in the name of learning and growth.


About Jacob Motz

Jacob leads the charge for originals development for Portal A.

Before that, Jacob worked as a Supervising Producer in the Los Angeles office of Portal A, doing all sorts of interesting production things.

Prior to Portal A, Jacob was Executive Producer and Head of Production for Fullscreen, Inc.


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