Phil Jennings – Diary of a Music Director
From humble beginnings as a runner for HBO Sports at Wimbledon, Phil Jennings is now a successful TV Music Director boasting clients such as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky Arts having worked with a long list of artists including Sir Elton John, Take That, Kasabian, The Cure, Chris Rea, Stereophonics, Primal Scream, Elbow, Paul Weller, Lana Del Rey and many more.
Phil’s path was by no means straightforward however. “Wimbledon was a fantastic introduction to the TV world and was more like fun than work.” Despite this enthusiastic start, Phil gave it all up for 10 years and chose to travel the world instead. 50 countries and 30 jobs later (including ambulance driver, youth worker and sports manager/entertainer in the former Yugoslavia) Phil returned to London to resume his tv career.
“I trudged around London knocking on the doors of every TV company I could think of – not surprisingly, many of those doors were shut in my face,” remembers Phil.
“Eventually somebody took pity on me and offered me a job as a runner in a TV graphics company.” After about 6 months of making tea, delivering kit around the country and learning as much about tv graphics as he could, Phil became a full time graphics op and eventually secured a position with MTV in Camden. After 6 months, MTV trained Phil to be a vision mixer and he stayed there for 12 years, during which time he was lucky enough to be working mainly on live music productions, cutting performances for some of the top music directors in the business.
Since leaving MTV 10 years ago, Phil has directed an impressive array of productions. The BBC’s Planet Earth Live saw Phil filming black bears in the wilds of Minnesota for 4 weeks, while a little closer to home he directed all the remote OB’s on BBC’s Springwatch for 3 years, taking him to some of the UK’s most beautiful and breath taking locations.
“I secured the position of OB Director by mimicking the sound of a nesting puffin at my interview (which makes a kind of moaning noise!) – the panel of three all had their mouths open by the time I had finished. I am still convinced that my puffin impersonation landed me the gig.”
Aside from mimicking the sweet music of birds, Phil has made a career predominantly from directing live music events – now his true passion.
“I still get genuinely excited when I am asked to direct a music gig.” Phil tells me. “There is nothing quite like walking away from a job knowing that you helped make an artist’s performance look amazing and that you had fun in the process.”
20 years into his career, Phil has certainly made a name for himself in the industry and is passionate about the music directing role.
“Directing music is a lifestyle, you have to be totally dedicated. I take on every job with total commitment and enthusiasm. I am always trying to push everything to the limits, particularly the creative output, to maximise the potential of each gig. I also like to have fun – this is one of the best jobs in the world and I absolutely love it.”