Phil Joanou is a storyteller. Crafting visually compelling stories is his life’s work, and he’s done it in every medium, from features to television to documentaries to music videos to, most recently and perhaps most dynamically, commercials.
No matter the format or genre, Joanou’s vision is set apart by an eye for stylish imagery and a gift to tell stories with his camera, which he’s been doing since he was a teenager. Initially inspired by “Jaws” in 1975, he began making films with his family’s Super-8. Within a decade, Joanou had graduated from USC Cinema, with the coveted Best Student Film prize under his arm. From there, he went to work for his mentor, Steven Spielberg, directing episodes of the acclaimed series, “Amazing Stories.” In the years that followed, Phil Joanou earned his stripes as a feature director with hits like “Three O’clock High,” “State of Grace,” “Final Analysis,” “Entropy,” and “Gridiron Gang.”
Joanou ventured into television teaming with filmmaker Oliver Stone on “Wild Palms” and with Sydney Pollack on Showtime’s “Fallen Angles.” Phil’s deep love for non-fiction came to the fore with documentaries, including the highly influential and critically acclaimed “Rattle and Hum,” about the legendary Irish rock band U2 and the American version of Michael Apted’s award winning “28-Up” for which Joanou won a Peabody award.
When Joanou’s not developing and shooting his long form projects, he pours all of his time and passion into his commercial work. Since joining MJZ in 2004, Joanou’s work has continued to thrive, with wild success making spots for clients like the UPS, Gatorade, Nike, Lexus, Honda, T-Mobile, EA sports, Visa, ESPN and Bud Light.
In 2007, Phil Joanou was honored with Addys, AICPs, and statues from Cannes, for a variety of projects, and was responsible for two of the most lauded and, yes, controversial spots of the year, GM’s “Robot” and Trojan Condoms’ “Evolve.”
In 2004, Phil Joanou maintained his longstanding relationship with U2, by collaborating on groundbreaking videos for tracks from “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.” Joanou’s own commitment to raising awareness about world hunger found expression in 2009, when he directed a World Food Program PSA, featuring an “unplugged” Christina Aguilera, performing an impromptu rendition of “Beautiful” at Hollywood and Highland, with an open guitar case in front of her, collecting donations for “hope.”
Joanou took home a bronze from the National Addys for the :60, entitled “World Food Program.” That same year, at that very same show, Phil’s work for the US Air Force, “CZAR,” took home another bronze. The spot was also recognized for the season’s best music, sound design, and audio post by Shoot Magazine.
In 2011, Joanou reunited with the US Air Force to shoot “This is Not Science Fiction,” which earned him yet another Bronze at the Addys. That same year, at that same show, he took home three additional bronzes for Carl’s Jr.’s “Green Hornet,” Visa’s “The Chase,” and ESPN’s “Hauler Race.” In early 2012, Joanou helmed the Super Bowl launch for Bud Light Platinum with “Platinum Work” and “Platinum Factory,” and shot a campaign for The Partnership at Drugfree.org, with powerful results. The spots, “Enabling” and “Denial” address cross-generational themes of addiction, and shine a bright cinematic light on the often overlooked problems of avoidance, shame, guilt, and fear, in parents whose kids are addicted.
If you need to reach Phil Joanou, we know he can be found every Sunday in autumn, at home in front of his TV, obsessing over every NFL game.