In the midst of strong winds, broken homes and flooded streets, one video with a simple plea for humanitarian aid from alumnus John Hanby gave many Houston families a sigh of relief after Hurricane Harvey.
Hanby, founder of local video production company Fractal Visuals, recently put his company’s resources to use by making a video asking for donations to help Hurricane Harvey victims. Since the video was posted on Sept. 11, it has received over 100,000 views.
Hanby said he founded the company during his junior year of high school, and it grew through the network of Houston-based connections he made at UT. Producing this video on his own was a way to offer help to company members affected by the hurricane, and he said it was the least he could do after everything they had been through.
“I have a lot of friends, family and crew members that have been negatively impacted by the hurricane,” Hanby said. “I wanted to find a way to use our talents as a video production company to generate more awareness about the ways people can give back and help rebuild those communities.”
Keeping the video production simple, Hanby said, was essential in focusing less on emotional images and more on a short, easily distributable message inviting citizens to come together in support of victims. Through his company, he sent the video to more than 15,000 people via an email campaign and shared it on the most viewed part of its website.
“You can search the internet for hours and find all this information and images,” Hanby said. “But the goal is for it to be about the core message (of) bringing awareness to how people can contribute rather than (just) seeing it is bad.”
Barbara Jones, Fractal Visuals’ head of social media and a UT alumna based in Houston, was strongly affected by Harvey’s path of destruction. She said her employer’s response was touching.
“The trees in our front yard were bent at a 45 degree angle, the flooding lasted for about eight hours and came up about half of our driveway,” Jones said. “(When) he sent it to me like two weeks ago, I thought (this video) is the most thoughtful thing he could do.”
Though she knew her employer was concerned about the well-being of all the company members stranded in the destruction, she said the video came as a welcome surprise.
“After watching John’s video, it was like, ‘This is it, people are taking this seriously,’” Jones said. “It helped a lot knowing someone from this entirely different city, who had no idea what was going on, could text me and ask, ‘Are you okay?’”
Preston Poole, a longtime friend of Hanby’s and current Fractal Visuals director of media relations, said he was also impacted by the hurricane and was moved by Hanby’s actions. Poole said he is certain the video is making a difference for many.
“We had been talking one day about how my family lived in the Houston area,” Poole said. “He sent me the video, and I was really touched that he went out of his way to make something like that for his friends and family and all the people affected by Harvey.”
For now, Hanby hopes this short video will help viewers become inspired to donate whatever they can to the cause and help those whose have been changed by Harvey.
“There is so much that can be said about something this tragic,” Hanby said. “It was really hard to boil it down to something everybody can see and have accessibility to.”