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Meet Michael Johnston from Momentary

March 29, 2016

Momentary is a video production studio that uses storytelling for social impact.

Working with not-for-profits, social enterprises and social businesses, Momentary supports them in making effective marketing and communications campaigns with video content.

Momentary Founder and Creative Director Michael Johnston shares his story of developing a passion for social impact storytelling and his journey as a Crunch 2016 participant so far.

How did Momentary come about?

When I was in high school, my eyes were opened to the world outside of my own bubble through working with a community housing organisation in Hawthorn and hearing their stories.

From then on, I volunteered in South America and India and I realised that there’s a lot of stories and they deserve to be told; I realised by telling these stories we can create awareness and influence social change.

In terms of film making, I made a lot of short films and documentaries whilst studying Media at RMIT and that became a passion of mine.

From there, I decided I wanted to find a way to use documentary film to make the greatest social impact, and try and make a living from it.

Firstly, I dabbled in broadcast media by pitching a feature documentary to SBS, ABC, Madman Entertainment and Film Victoria. However, I questioned how much impact a feature film could have or if I would make a larger impact working with not-for-profits and helping them tell their story.

I decided that at this point in my life, rather than making long-form content that might get 10,000 views, I’d rather make short-form content that might get a million views. I felt like that was going to make the biggest impact and that’s how Momentary was born.

How has it been taking not-for-profits on this journey of telling their stories?

I feel very fortunate to work in the not-for-profit and social impact sector, firstly because of the people. Everyone cares about their job and the cause that they’re trying to help, so you’re working with very genuine people.

I think content marketing and using storytelling as part of marketing and fundraising campaigns is becoming more common. I’ve been to several conferences over the last six months where people have discouraged just using facts, statistics and a piece to camera from your CEO. Why not tell the story of a beneficiary? Why not tell the story of your impact? This is the current trend in the industry.

A lot of organisations can see that benefit, both in terms of using video content and in using storytelling to talk about their impact, so it’s just about finding the story within an organisation and then working with them to make the video.

Often people will say that they love the idea and are really interested, but it’s a whole other matter about whether an organisation has a budget to fulfil that. Video is often seen as an expensive media platform, so we provide a variety of solutions that are affordable for all organisations on any budget.


Michael Johnston filming for the YMCA at Falls Creek (image supplied)


How did you and the team at Momentary come together?

Our team is currently growing in size – we should have a consistent team of eight contractors by the end of this month.

For me, I’ve learnt that people who care about a cause and have a passion for social change are likely to make the best videos for our clients.

In terms of sourcing team members, I have approached people to see if they are willing to get involved and people often get in touch with us. When you meet someone, you can immediately tell if they have a genuine passion and desire to make the world a better place and those are the kind of people I want to get on board. Skills and experience are important, but not as important as dedication to the cause.

When I launched Momentary online, we clearly articulated our vision and mission. It was amazing how many people came out of the woodwork, whether I knew them or not, to say Momentary was exactly what they wanted to do – they wanted to work in the social impact space but didn’t know how to. To me, if Momentary immediately strikes a chord with them, then that’s indicative that it means a lot to them.

By having that very specific vision, we’re easily going to be able to get the right people on board, people who are passionate and can identify with what we’re hoping to achieve.

What prompted you to apply for the Crunch?

I’ll always be learning no matter what stage Momentary is at, or whatever the future projects might be. I’m always keen to learn absolutely anything I can and be surrounded by people who have relevant expertise and knowledge.

I really value the coaches, the staff and the mentors provided by Social Traders and they’re the main reason I applied for the Crunch. Having access to mentors of a high calibre is a fantastic resource for me to continually learn, discuss any problems or issues that I have and rack their brains for any advice that they can give me on this journey.

How have you found it taking the time out from day to day operations to take a step back and work on the business?

It’s very important to put time aside to look at the bigger picture.

I’ve been very busy in trying to get Momentary off the ground, but it has been a really valuable experience to go back and assess our assumptions and see if we have a viable solution that’s actually going to work.

The industry changes every year, so you can never be too advanced to step back and question everything.

What’s been the most valuable thing you’ve learnt through the Crunch so far?

I set Momentary up with the vision to make the world a better place working with purpose-driven organisations, but I never set up metrics to measure and articulate our impact.

That was a really valuable lesson for me, it took me back to look at some of the projects I did last year and think about how can I measure their impact – how much money did those organisations raise, how much awareness did those videos make, how many views, likes, shares and comments did they receive. That gave me a great structure to measure the different metrics of my impact, which can be categorised into awareness, engagement and participation.

Now, I can assess my future videos with those same metrics and I probably wouldn’t considered it without the Crunch program.

How have you enjoyed the Crunch cohort experience?

It’s been fantastic. Any accelerator that allows you to work in a large cohort is extremely valuable.

It’s very encouraging to work alongside people who are like-minded in terms of their ambitions to start their own project and make a viable career through social impact – especially for sole founders like myself.

Most of our friends and family haven’t started a social enterprise, so who do you talk to about the issues that you’re going through?

Being in a cohort is also extremely motivating because everyone is going through the exact same things that you are. You can help each other through the journey, give each other advice and share skills as well. Plus you learn from each other’s experiences, mistakes and learnings – of which there are many!

From the beginning, it felt great to be a part of a social enterprise ecosystem.


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