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A lot of people love to create their own “mix tape” to share with the world, collecting favorite songs in one place in order to convince others of how brilliant their musical taste is. Unlike the rest of us, though, Maggie Phillips has turned this hobby into a career as a television music supervisor.
“I have always been the one saying, ‘Check out this new song,’” explains Phillips, whose credits include FX’s Legion and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. “Doing what I do, I get to share the songs with the whole world.”
While the job of music supervisor has been around for years, it’s a relatively unsung gig. In fact, the Emmys officially started honoring the discipline only last year. And while her personal musical input is important, Phillips says her job is ultimately “servicing someone else’s vision. I’m listening for Noah [Hawley, Legion’s showrunner] and Bruce [Miller, Handmaid’s showrunner].”
Her recent work has included pitching Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” for the mass hanging scene in the Handmaid’s season two opener (“There’s been a diverse reaction to that one”) and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” to depict the main character’s madness in Legion (“It felt like a perfect soundtrack for his mind”).
When assigned to a show, Phillips will usually sit down right away and free-associate songs that somehow connect with the series’ themes. That leads to a playlist she gives to the showrunners. Besides choosing the songs, she also has to license them, often within a tight budget.
Says Phillips, “I’m a trained artist and a very visual person, so when I get to combine that with my love of music, it’s like they both become another form of art.”
This story first appeared in the June 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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