We’ve all heard the “study abroad changed me” story, but when was the last time you heard how study abroad facilitated the founding of a successful company? More specifically, the founding of a company focused on telling other people’s stories?
Meet Mojo Creative, the videography and photography collective founded by former classmates, and now colleagues, Mike Barbalace, Sean Fitzgerald, and Jonah van Bemmelen.
Mojo Creative marries the vivacious, youthful energy of its passionate founders with a disciplined approach to production and a tasteful, cinematic style unique for creatives in their twenties. The disciplined intentionality of their work likely stems from their formal education in video production, marketing, and business, combined with their professional experiences as creatives for other media syndicates, such as iHeart Radio, prior to founding their own venture.
As many a college romance or bromance, Mojo Creative began at none other than a college party. Barbalace, an American student from Arcadia University, met Fitzgerald, a student at the local university in Brisbane, at a Halloween party while studying abroad in Australia; just like that, a creative connection was formed. Even after Barbalace returned home to the States to complete his studies, him and Fitzgerald kept in touch. Committed to exploring their collective creative potential, Barbalace boldly moved to Australia to work with Fitzgerald after graduating.
While Fitzgerald matriculated, envisioning a career working with scripted content in films or television, working with Barbalace filming “real people” at local sporting and community events in Brisbane proved epiphanous, convincing him to pivot into a career in creative media. Consequently, Fitzgerald and Barbalace decided to move to the United States to start a company together. Van Bemmelen, another Arcadia University student, joined the team, and Mojo Creative was formed.
“Obviously, Mojo Creative is a company, but we never want to come across as ‘corporate.’ I see us first and foremost as just three friends with cameras, three creatives who are passionate and want to deliver something that will give everyone goosebumps,”
While many creative media collectives focus primarily on one genre of work, Mojo Creative is extremely versatile in their ability to capture every moment “vividly, passionately, and honestly” for a wide range of events.
To date, their portfolio includes live performances by Khalid, The Lumineers, and SZA, MMA tournaments, weddings, and even the Special Olympics.
For a collective so involved in high-profile events, they are intentional about remaining unpretentious and mission-oriented, providing creative media services for the Special Olympics, the Hearts of Gold fashion show, and even van Bemmelen’s neighborhood youth baseball team.
“There’s no specific event I’m intrigued by; I’m intrigued by people in general, in capturing different people’s emotions as they’re doing what it is that they love to do. Not everyone can afford to pay for promotional videos, but they still deserve to have their stories told,”
Not only does Mojo Creative cater to a variety of events and subject matters, but their work products are a deliciously unique blend of each individual’s creative styles, offering a layered complexity that transforms all of their videography and photography from content into art.
Fitzgerald’s style is characterized by cinematic close-ups, capturing the emotionality of his subjects with an eye for dramatic detail. Barbalace balances Fitzgerald’s focus on the details with atmospheric, wide shots capturing the collective energy of their subjects and venues. Barbalace and Fitzgerald brought van Bemmelen into their collective because of his moodier style and predisposition for creative direction, working with clients to not only capture their brand, but to help create it.
As Mojo Creative continues to expand into the tristate area, they are not only skillfully competitive, but creatively competitive in their ability to provide a fresh perspective and intimate rendering of their subjects in a space often saturated by more superficial, commercial-like content. The founders of Mojo Creative characterize videography, as distinguished from ‘taking videos,’ by its ability to capture a narrative with a sense of style and a provocation of empathy.
“You don’t take a photograph, you make it,” said Barbalace, quoting Ansel Adams. “I think that’s applicable now more than ever, in both a literal and figurative sense. We’ve got such an array of styles, editing software, and equipment now that a photo can become much more than a photo. It’s something you truly create.”
Both of these photos were captured at Mt. Joy’s concert, yet van Bemmelen and Barbalace capture completely different perspectives of the concert, illustrating Mojo Creative’s stylistic diversity.
One of Mojo Creative’s primary strengths is their versatility, offering videography, photography, graphic design, and marketing expertise in a “one stop shop,” as their marketing lead, van Bemmelen, likes to say. However, Mojo Creative is much more than a one-stop shop of skilled creatives producing quality content; they are visionaries advancing the potential of visual media to offer new perspectives and kindle empathy.
“There’s so much more to the world than any one person could ever hope to see, and videography and photography give us a window to see and empathize with other people in the world,” Fitzgerald reflected.