As UK production director at Momentum Worldwide, Phil Hodgetts leads a team of world-class production professionals across the UK. Throughout the past decade, Phil has produced award-winning live experiences and activations across the entire spectrum of experiential disciplines.
He has worked with some of the world’s largest technology brands including Microsoft, American Express and SAP, as well as being instrumental in launching new brands and products in multiple industry sectors.
As the previously much more siloed varieties of production blend into a world where many mediums and channels are used at once, Phil is leading a team of savvy all-rounders who he’s looking to bolster with more specialised talent in the near future. Here he speaks to LBB’s Alex Reeves about his career progression from live music, why upskilling his team is a constant focus, and why now is a particularly exciting time for event production.
LBB> What lasting impact has the pandemic had on how you and your agency think about and approach production?
Phil> It’s been interesting, although not entirely surprising, that the value of contingency planning has been brought into focus and that clients have become more receptive to investing budgets in alternative outcomes and back-up control measures. At times, we’ve had to ‘parallel-track’ multiple scenarios during pre-production, which has made us a much sharper and more agile unit. We’ve also had lots of fun navigating the tension between last-minute briefs and a scarcity of materials and crew.
LBB> Do you think a good producer should be able to produce for any medium, from film to events to digital?
Phil> I think it’s possible to flip-flop, but ultimately what’s at risk is the value of the output. There are a lot of transferable skills, and certainly most event producers I know possess enough tenacity and skill to diversify when required, but I think it takes years to really understand the mechanics of your medium and how to optimise them in a way that’s really meaningful for your audience.
LBB> And leading on from that, when it comes to building up your team at the agency, what’s your view on the balance of specialists vs generalists?
Phil> I consider myself to be a good all-rounder and I think I’m naturally drawn to similar individuals. Particularly at the moment, we’re a nimble department, so you’ve got to be able to wear multiple hats on my team. As we continue to grow and our service offering expands, I expect there to be opportunities for more strategic, specialist hires to bolster the core team.
LBB> What’s your own pathway to production? When you started out, what sort of work were you producing and what lessons have stayed with you in that time?
Phil> Like a lot of people, my way in was through live music. I was a club promoter and sound engineer until I joined a field marketing agency, supporting a gaming and entertainment brand. For three years I was a project manager coordinating sampling roadshows and retail activations. There, no creative work started until a tactical plan, backed up by insight, was locked in and delivery against KPIs could be guaranteed. Creative production was then layered on top. Part of my role now is to ensure that the same kind of tactical rigour and logic supports all the work that goes out of the door at Momentum.
LBB> If you compare your role to the role of the heads of production when you first joined the industry, what do you think are the most striking or interesting changes (and what surprising things have stayed the same?)
Phil> More often than not, these days, the most important segment of any event’s net audience is sitting at home. We’re reaching an age of technological maturity which, for this reason, will continue to redefine event production as a discipline. I think the job of production leads now is to live in the sweet spot between innovation and practicality to ensure that vendors are suitably vetted and to build a production team that is diverse, versatile and intellectually curious.
We also now have a huge responsibility to set new standards with regards to event sustainability and accessibility. Technology plays a big role here, too, but the biggest wins are to be found in the overhauling of traditional production practices throughout the supply chain.
LBB> When it comes to educating producers how does your agency like to approach this?
Phil> I think it’s vital that production managers are equipped with certain core competencies, particularly with regards to site management and health and safety. At Momentum, we invest a great deal in upskilling and certifying our production team to a high base level so we can be as valuable to our clients as possible.
LBB> To what extent is production strategic - traditionally it’s the part that comes at the ‘end’ of the agency process, but it seems in many cases production is a valuable voice to have right up top - what are your thoughts/experiences of this?
Phil> Without a doubt, production is an essential component of any creative strategy, particularly in events. Shoot me, but I honestly don’t believe that creativity has any value if it exists in a vacuum. Integrating production into the creative workflow provides the parameters, framework and real-life context so that good ideas can become great ideas and win awards. We’ve seen this demonstrated in the past with the introduction of health and safety legislation, and more recently with Covid controls and sustainability. Event creatives are having to ideate under increasingly complex levels of constraints, so we can’t underestimate the commercial and tactical value that production can bring to the conversation early on.
LBB> What’s the most exciting thing about working in production right now?
Phil> We’re on the verge of a very disruptive and reformative period in event production. It’s an incredibly exciting time to lead a team into such a challenging future.
LBB> And what advice would you give to an aspiring agency producer?
Phil> Send me your CV. I’m hiring!