Storytelling by Moonlight
04/02/2014 03:00PM ● Published by Annette Winter
By Michael Jaenicke
They have garnered awards for their historic preservation work in downtown Fayetteville. They have collected more than 70 national and international digital video honors and in the process helped nonprofit organizations raise millions of dollars. They’ve crawled through the woods, flew in a Black Hawk and meandered down a river to capture a story.
Jan Johnson and Pat Wright, masterminds behind Moonlight Productions and the city’s newest event venue SkyView on Hay, have been revolutionary and trend setting women in the business world for the past two decades.
But when the spotlight and cameras are turned on them, the footage clearly casts the super charged duo as storytellers, using captivating images and carefully constructed words.
They write, shoot, produce, direct and edit videos that are factual, informative, moving and accent a subject matter in unique and appealing ways. They have style but more importantly substance and class. They believe in dreaming big, working hard at their craft to meet goals and always remember the philosophy behind their success.
“If you do what you love the money will follow,” said Wright, who was teaching business classes at Fayetteville Tech when she started her partnership with Johnson, also a college employee. “A lot of people chase money and end up unhappy in jobs. And for me, what I do has to make a little of difference in the world. We just use our experience and creativity to tell stories. Fayetteville frequently and unfairly gets a black eye in that regard. We find plenty of compelling stories.”
Producing them with creativity, at heart they do not lack drama, realism and follow the path of a person or cause with vigor to propel it into the mainstream of the viewer. Johnson followed her passion and tossed in a quiet confidence into the formula. “Don’t ever be intimidated, do what you love to do,” said Johnson on advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. “Life is a series of problems and setbacks and it’s how you address them and go forward that counts.”
Delivering the Message
Work with charitable groups, city organizations and the U.S. Army are staples for Moonlight Productions, which has produced hundreds of TV, web and video programs used to market products and causes.
“Jan and Pat are proactive and very personable and definitely have heart and a way to get the message out about nonprofits,” said Roberta Humphries, director at the Child Advocacy Center. “They help nonprofits get their stories out there. They show it all and tell the stories like no one else can tell it.”
Carolyn Hinson, communications officer for PWC, said Moonlight Productions has a rock solid reputation and an eye on the future. “Pat and Jan are visionaries,” Hinson said. “They can see things and make it happen like few people in our community. They’re extremely giving and love this community. You know they’re going to do it right and on time. People who have used them and moved away and return to work with them again speak volumes.”
Moonlight has captured 26 Teddy Awards and 11 Communicator Awards, six Aegis Awards, four Addys and three Aurora Awards.
Three Teddys came in 2012 for “Fayetteville Now: A Vietnam Oral History Project,” a project for Methodist College and an All-America City. The three Aurora Awards came from working on productions with the Airborne & Special Operations Museum, Fayetteville Area CVB and “The Defiant One,” a documentary, which chronicles the plight of a blackballed Hollywood actor during the McCarthy era.
Other clients for the productions company include the Cameo, Womack Army Hospital, the United Way and many other for-profit companies.
In 2009, the pair was given the Athena Award, a leadership award presented to a woman for professional service; community service and actively assisting women attaining leadership skills in their professional lives.
Quite fitting, the award was inspired by a Greek goddess known for her strength, courage, wisdom and enlightenment.
Winning two Carraway Awards for historic preservation in North Carolina is another impressive accomplishment for Johnson and Wright. “Jan and Pat have worked tirelessly on behalf of our community, always giving back and always stepping forward,” said George Breece, a mentor and admirer of their work. “On project after project, those projects that in particular help improve the image of our community, you can always count on the two of them to be there lending expertise and professionalism. I am proud to call them my friends and appreciate so much all that they have done for the greater community.”
After renovating an old three-story building at 221 Hay St. in 2002 with their own labor, which included the Rainbow Room, an event venue, they leaped into action on another Hay Street property and converted it into a multi-use three-story haven.
The 15,000 square foot facility aptly named SkyView on Hay, is located at 121 Hay Street, features four spaces, three kitchens and two vaulted areas, a ballroom, Zen room and is an ideal setting for meetings, conferences, reunions, weddings, showers, birthdays and other celebrations and mileposts. Ceramic tiling, stylish lighting, large glass windows, state-of-the-art music and video technology and other classic immunities are standard fare. The open space design concept makes it easy to convert a space into an atmosphere that fits the occasion.
The latest and perhaps most intriguing project for Johnson and Wright is the addition of Level 3 at SkyView on Hay. It opened in September 2013. It is there they create and capture digital memories from events, histories of families and companies. “No one is doing the kinds of things we do in that studio,” Wright said. “It’s a picture book for people to come and tell their stories. It’s important so these things don’t get lost.”
The area the duo want to venture into deeper is documentary work, a place they feel a pulse of humanity dripping to be told.
“That’s where we really enjoy and are fortunate enough now to be able to pick and choose some of our topics,” Johnson said. “We do them in our off time but it’s really our passion.” Wright said they were working on a documentary that has the pair excited. “I can’t say exactly the content matter, but to us it’s huge and like much of our work has connection to things such as the rights and abuse of women and children,” she said.
Ohio native Wright came to Cumberland County in 1989 and Oklahoma native Johnson a year later. It wasn’t long before they began infusing themselves with Tar Heel blood, with a special emphasis on all things Fayetteville. Networking with the right people was essential, on both a personal and professional level. “Getting to know and work with Sister Jean Rhoads made us understand many things and we considered that a gift to do work on The CARE Clinic,” Johnson said. “She’s an incredibly inspiring woman. People like George Breece, Larry Loucks and Robert Marion are so motivational and inspiring mentors and colleagues.”
Loucks helped the pair form a business plan and knew their success was only a matter of time. “I saw two very motivated individuals who had a joint dream and tended to be on the same page,” Loucks said. “They tackled every assignment I gave them. They just needed a bit of direction and guidance in the business aspect and followed the stepping-stones to bigger and bigger things. If everyone in the world could do it then it wouldn’t be special. Pat and Jan constantly amazed me with what they did, gave to the community and their clients, and their many achievements.” Louchs devoured their spirit and free-flowing ideas. “He listened and listening is the key to everything,” said Johnson, who taught English as a second language to five nationalities of children, including a stint for two years in Korea. “He heard our passion and drive, believed in us and then picked up the phone and called the bank.”
The capitol has been multiplied by the creative forces of Johnson and Wright. “Jan is a wiz at the books and we’re both heavily involved in the creative process,” Wright said. “She’s extremely creative, detail orientated and can spot a typo from 50 paces. She’s also a former instructor of the year at Fayetteville Tech, so she transfers and communicates with people at a very high level.”
Wright manages online activities for the businesses. “She’s a technical guru, the brainwork of the operations and has taught me so much about videography,” Johnson said. “And technology is driving us. Our love affair with video has carried us and propelled us through tough times. What we keep seeing is bigger and more technological things we’d like to attempt. We’re certainly headed to bigger things in terms of social networks. I think one thing that’s great about Pat is how that she has boundless energy and is always extremely positive and receptive to new ideas.”
Breece said the female duo have been successful in traditionally male-dominated work for many good reasons.
“They’re intelligent, determined, innovative and always produce work that helps the community,” he said. “They tell it like it is and do it how it should be done.”
Eva Hansen, president of Partnership for Children of Cumberland County, called the pair “pioneers.”
“And ground breakers who make it look so easy,” said Hansen, who is in the same women’s group Network Organization with Johnson and Wright. “They’re champions for nonprofits in the community. They have great technical minds and marketing skills to connect all the dots. They take pieces of a story and put together a puzzle that always tells the story in the best possible way.”