Maggie Phillips: ‘Fargo, The Handmaid’s Tale and my life as a music supervisor…’

Kate Bush, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Fat City: our interview with a great music supervisor

From Van Morrison to CCR: Maggie Phillips

LONDON – Kate Bush and the hanging scene in The Handmaid’s Tale. Adriano Celentano in Fargo. Buzz Clifford’s “Pididdle” in Never Rarely Sometimes Always. That song of Kali Uchis in Shrill, Patti Smith covering Tears For Fears in The Great, Boris Gardiner in Moonlight and many, many more. A simple Music Supervisor? Probably not, because Maggie Phillips is the evidence of the art of music supervision. In this interview she’s speaking with Hot Corn about songs, choices, that song from a John Huston’s masterpiece and… Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

‘Hey, what?’. Maggie Phillips in tha house (great shirt, by the way).

First of all: what’s the most important thing to be a great Music Supervisor?
That’s a tough question. A great music supervisor needs to not only be creative with music but also on how to get the job done and done well, on time, on budget, all while managing different expectations, different opinions and different personalities. And you have to do it on multiple projects, all while making every project you work on a priority because they all should be a priority. It takes a lot of juggling, multi-tasking and a lot of time. So honestly, maybe the most important thing is a music supervisor’s work ethic and the care someone puts into their work.

How do you work with the directors? How do you know that the song is the right song?
I work differently with different directors. Everyone has their own way of making film or TV and I try to adapt and adjust to help as much as possible. I am servicing someone else’s creative vision, not my own. I share my opinion and tell the people I work with what I think is the right song and for me, its all about what feels right. I wish I could explain it better and a lot of other factors come into play – cost, period, lyrics, previous uses, the artist(s), etc. but at the end of the day, it’s what feels right. And ultimately what is right for me is not always right for the director or Showrunner so then it’s about getting them what feels right for them!

Is there a particular scene of all your work that you are particularly proud of?
I am proud of Kate Bush “Cloudbusting” in Handmaid’s Tale (see the scene below), so many songs in Fargo but I love “Prisencolinensinainciusol” in Fargo 3 (watch it here) and Britt Daniel’s cover of “Run through the jungle” Creedence Clearwater Revival in Fargo 2. I love Ariana Grande’s “One Last Time” in season 3 of Shrill, Patti Smith’s cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” in The Great – there are too many to list!

What’s your favourite movie ever?
Ha, impossible, ever? There are too many. Maybe Jaws?

Favourite use of a song in a movie?
I love the use of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night” in Fat City.

What’s your favourite record? The desert island record?
Again, impossible. I think it would have to be something complicated and something I’ve never heard, like some crazy obscure jazz record, so I could keep listening and hearing new things. Or alternatively, the reverse – something that feels like a warm blanket, like Van Morrison’s Moondance.

The song you’d like to use in a Tv series or movie?
That’s a secret!

Last question: choose a director you would like to work with (and why).
I mean everyone wants to work with her, but Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She’s brilliant and funny and creates these unapologetically complicated, flawed female characters that we love for their flaws and complications, but also their strength and perseverance. Also because I just want to hang out with her and drink cocktails.

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