Following the much-anticipated release of Sex Education’s final season, we sat down with music supervisor, Matt Biffa, to delve into his creative process and experiences while working on the show.
The captivating universe of Sex Education goes beyond its distinctive characters and gripping plotline; it is equally complemented by a carefully curated soundtrack. Since Season 4 premiered on Netflix in September, songs from the show have been dominating the Tunefind Top Trending songs chart, underscoring the show’s musical excellence.
After initially reading the script for season 4, which scene did you look forward to working on the most?
Matt: The biggest challenge is always the first song of the first episode, particularly as we were coming back after a long time away. I also felt like previous cold opens had set quite a high bar, particularly the use of “I Touch Myself” for season 2. Originally, I really wanted us to open with something massive by an artist like Prince, but after trying 50 or 60 songs, I realised that we had to cast the net wider. The Nina Simone song came to me while I was out walking the dog one afternoon, and it was the only song that everyone immediately agreed on, so that was it.
Every song in the show is a challenge, because the scene descriptions are usually pretty eye-opening, but the other one that I was really looking forward to was the finale. Knowing that this was the last song anyone would ever hear in the show definitely felt intimidating, so I kept squirrelling ideas away over the months leading up to the edit. I knew that we’d have a lot of differing opinions, so in this case I wanted to have a lot of ideas to draw on.
— Why did you feel that the music you had chosen in this particular scene was most fitting for it?
Matt: Otis and Maeve are missing each other, and Maeve’s starting to feel quite frustrated. The lyrics are pretty on the nose at first, but I loved how they play against the second half of the scene, where Otis fails to send back a nude after some pretty disastrous pube-shaving.
Which scene did you enjoy watching back most after final mixing took place?
Matt: Brandi Carlile’s “This Time Tomorrow (In The Canyon Haze)” really hit me hard when I watched it back. It was a song that I had a very strong feeling would work for Maeve’s story this season, and we actually tried it in quite a few places before landing on the end of episode 7. I was literally like a dog with a bone on that one – I love how the “I’ll always be with you” lyric plays over Maeve’s realisation that she’ll be OK, and at that moment she’s achieving a degree of closure regarding the relationship she had with her mother. I always took it that she also felt reassured at that moment that she’d be able to move forward without Otis, and that she had a glimpse of how her life could be, but I might have been overthinking it at that point…
What were the challenges for you on this project?
Matt: As I say, literally everything is a challenge with this show! The budget is never what everyone imagines it to be, and so I spend a lot of time managing the expectations of both sides. I’m forever explaining to the rights holders and producers what’s realistic, and that seems endless sometimes.
Traditionally, we argue and agonise over pretty much every cue, and sometimes there can be some pretty heated disagreements over song choices. I’ve seen 10-page email chains that span a weekend where people are vigorously arguing for and against a certain song, and it takes a lot of diplomacy to be in the middle of that and stay on good terms with everyone. But “Sex Education” is greater than the sum of its parts, so it took all of us to make it what it was. All of our personalities are in there, and I suppose I was in the middle of it all just trying to hold it all together and make sure we were doing everything with integrity.
Lastly, even though the show’s successful, we still get denials all the time. Some of the older approval parties take one look at the title and straight up interpret the show as being gratuitously pornographic. Sometimes I can talk them round – after 4 seasons I’ve really finessed my spiel about what the show is and what it hopes to achieve for teenagers – but sometimes they still find it dubious and deny. I’d usually have to call some rights holders before sending a clearance request, because getting a request with some of those scene descriptions out of the blue would be incredibly weird. So there’d be these hilarious phone calls where I’d be explaining that the song was going to play over three minutes of the cast constantly having loads of pretty insane sex, or that it’s a montage where Otis can’t stop pleasuring himself and gets caught by his mum in the car. You get hilarious mails back asking “how much jizz do we actually see”, or “how explicit is it when Jackson has a finger in his bum?”.
What was your highlight/most memorable moment of working on the fourth season of Sex Education?
Matt: Probably the last ever session we had together to choose the song for the finale. We had 4 of those sessions, and each of them had about 25 songs laid to picture, meticulously edited so that each one was as great as it could be. The poor assistant editors had pages of notes from me asking them to cut an intro by 4 bars, come in at the second verse, cut the first half of the guitar solo, come back here, play through to the end. It drove everyone in my house beserk because they could hear me play a fragment of a song, stop it, then play another bit endlessly until I’d worked out what was best.
Anyway, with each session, no one could agree on anything – 4 people would love something, and one person would be totally allergic to it, so it was a very involved process. I realised though that every one of those meetings was potentially the last time we’d ever be in a room again. I kept detailed notes with the date and time, noting every reaction to every song. The last one was very emotional at the end – we inevitably felt incredibly reflective on what we’d achieved over the years. When I look back at the full 4 season song list, I feel incredibly proud – immodestly, I think there are some absolute bangers there.
Could you tell us a bit more about your other recent and upcoming projects?
Matt: I’ve just had “The Woman In The Wall” come out – that show was amazing to work on, chiefly because we managed to get an unreleased Sinead O’Connor song for the finale. She’d agreed to let us have it before she died, but then I had to iron out all the details, which was a delicate process. The song itself is unbelievably moving, and we stripped it down to just her voice for the first part of the use, so it’s almost unbearably powerful when you hear it.
I’ve got lots of projects happening with all the usual streamers but the next thing to come out will be “The Buccaneers” on Apple in November. For that one, I came up with a concept that was about as complicated and difficult as you could possibly imagine, and then I idiotically pitched it to Apple and the producers. They said, “sounds amazing, go away and do it”, and then I had to find a way to make the bloody thing real. So I got Stella Mozgawa from Warpaint on board to produce about 15 entirely new bespoke songs with all sorts of American female artists. I think it turned out pretty well, but see what you think when it comes out.
Thanks again for taking the time out to speak with us!
You can listen to the full soundtrack below.
Sex Education is now available to stream on Netflix.
Founding UK & European GMS President Iain Cooke (Amy, It’s A Sin) along with GMS full working board members Nick Angel (Bridget Jones Trilogy, Paddington 2), Sarah Bridge (The Crown, Theory Of Everything) and Catherine Grieves (Killing Eve, Slow Horses) announce they have joined forces to launch 45 RPM – a music supervision collective of some of the UK’s most respected, experienced and accomplished creative music supervisors.
45 RPM specialises in all aspects of music supervision for film and TV, from collaborating on the creative vision for the soundtrack, choosing the perfect song, helping engage the best score composers, negotiating the music rights and managing the music budgets as well as specialising in on-camera music supervision, all in delivering a nuanced and dedicated commitment to the creative industry.
With over 50 years of collective experience, the multi-award winning team’s recent projects include Wham! (Netflix), Champion (BBC/Netflix) What’s Love Got To Do With It? (StudioCanal), Extraordinary (Disney), Raindogs (HBO), Liaison (Apple TV), Mayflies (BBC), Back To Black (StudioCanal), Ticket To Paradise and BAFTA nominated See How They Run.
“We are very excited to bring our collective experience to 45 RPM. We pride ourselves in taking a unique approach to creative and collaborative partnerships. 45 RPM is the perfect opportunity to underline our shared ambition to not only work with established talent on a global scale but to also find and nurture the very best in new talent for our partners. A truly personal approach, drawing upon our ability to understand and interpret creative vision across music connectivity and on an array of projects.” said the 45 RPM partners.
45 RPM also has a non-exclusive deal to work on the development and production of all music services on all StudioCanal films and TV.
For more info visit : https://www.45rpm.film
The full festival program has been announced for the 66th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express.
We would like to take this opportunity to highlight and celebrate all the music supervisors and composers who have been involved in the making of the movies that are showcased at the 2022 LFF. Congratulations!
|Projects||Year||_______||Country||Music Supervisors||Music By|
|The African Desperate||2022||US||Ben Babbitt/ Colin Self/ Aunt Sister|
|Aftersun||2022||UK||Lucy Bright||Oliver Coates|
|Aisha||2022||Ireland||Juliet Holohan||Daragh O’Toole|
|Alcarràs||2022||Spain/ Italy||Frederic Schindler||Andrea Koch|
|All That Breathes||2022||UK/ India/ US||Roger Goula|
|All That Money Can Buy||1941||US||Bernard Herrmann|
|All the Beauty and the Bloodshed||2022||US||Dawn Sutter Madell||Soundwalk Collective|
|Allelujah||2022||UK||David Fish||George Fenton|
|Argentina, 1985||2022||Argentina/ US||Pedro Osuna|
|Ashkal||2022||France/ Tunisia/ Qatar||Thomas Kuratli|
|The Banshees of Inisherin||2022||Ireland/ UK/ US||Carter Burwell|
|BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths||2022||Mexico||Lynn Fainchtein||Bryce Dessner|
|The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess||2022||France/ Belgium||Pascal Le Pennec|
|Blaze||2022||Australia||Andrew Kotatko||Angel Olsen/|
|The Blue Caftan||2022||France/ Morocco/ Belgium/ Denmark||Kristian Eidnes Andersen|
|Blue Jean||2022||UK||Chris Roe|
|Bobi Wine: The People’s President||2022||UK/Uganda/ US||Dan Jones|
|Boy From Heaven||2022||Sweden/ France/ Finland/ Denmark||Jean-Paul Wall||Krister Linder|
|Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power||2022||US||Sharon Farber|
|Brother||2022||Canada||Jody Colero/ Kaya Pino||Todor Kobakov|
|Butterfly Vision||2022||Croatia/ Czech Republic/ Sweden/ Ukraine||Dzian Baban|
|2022||US||Willa Yudell||Isabella Summers|
|Casa Susanna||2022||France/ US||Thibault Deboaisne|
|The Circus Tent||1978||India||M.G. Radhakrishnan|
|Close||2022||Belgium/ Netherlands/ France||Valentin Hadjadj|
|The Cloud Messenger||2022||India/ US||Nikhel Kumar Mahajan|
|Corsage||2022||Austria/ Luxembourg/ Germany/ France||Guillaume Baurez|
The Damned Don’t Cry
|2022||France/ Belgium/ Morocco||Nadah El Shazly|
|Decision to Leave||2022||South Korea||Yeong-wook Jo|
|Eight Deadly Shots||1972||Finland||Erkki Ertama|
|Emily The Criminal||2022||US||Nathan Halpern|
|Empire of Light||2022||UK/ US||Nicoletta Mani||Trent Reznor/|
|EO||2022||Poland/ Italy||Pawel Mykietyn|
|The Estate ||2022||UK||Andy Ross||Will Bates|
|The Eternal Daughter||2022||UK/ US||Ciara Elwis/ Maggie Rodford|
|Exterior, Night||2022||Italy/ France||Fabio Massimo Capogrosso|
|Fast & Feel Love||2022||Thailand||Mellow Tunes|
|Foolish Wives||1922||US||András Hamary/|
Getting It Back: The Story of Cymande
|Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery||2022||US||Julie Glaze Houlihan||Nathan Johnson|
|God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines||2022||US/ Japan/ Russia/ South Africa/ UK||Lauren Mikus||Reggie Dokes|
|Godland||2022||Denmark/ Iceland/ France/ Sweden||Alex Zhang Hungtai|
|The Good Nurse||2022||US||Katarina Julie Madsen/ Steve Tallamy||Biosphere|
|Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio||2022||US/ Mexico/ France||Steven Gizicki||Alexandre Desplat|
|Hidden Letters||2022||China||Chad Cannon|
|Holy Spider||2022||Denmark/ Germany/ Sweden/ France||Martin Dirkov|
|Horseplay (Los agitadores)||2022||Argentina||Pedro Irusta|
I LOVE MY DAD
|The Inspection||2022||US||Animal Collective|
|Into the Ice||2022||Denmark/ Germany||Steve Tallamy||Kristian Eidnes Andersen|
Paul M. Young
|Klondike||2022||Ukraine/ Turkey||Zviad Mgebry|
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
|2022||UK/ US||Spring Aspers|
|Last Flight Home||2022||US||Morgan Doctor|
|Leonora Addio||2022||Italy||Nicola Piovani|
|Living||2022||UK/ Japan||Rupert Hollier||Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch|
|Love Life||2022||France/ Japan||Olivier Goinard|
Maya Nilo (Laura)
|2022||Finland/ Belgium/ Sweden||Arnaud Blanpain||Per Störby Jutbring|
|Malintzin 17||2022||Mexico||Diego Espinosa|
|Medusa Deluxe||2022||UK||Toby Williams|
|Meet Me in the Bathroom||2022||UK||Karen Crossan/|
|Mini-Zlatan and Uncle Darling||2022||Sweden||Stein Berge Svendsen|
|More Than Ever||2022||France/ Germany/ Luxembourg/ Norway||Jon Balke|
|My Father’s Dragon||2022||Ireland/ US||Jeff Danna|
|My Imaginary Country||2022||Chile||José Miguel Miranda/|
José Miguel Tobar
|My Policeman||2022||UK/ US||Kle Savidge||Steven Price|
|My Robot Brother||2022||Denmark||Povl Kristian|
|2022||US||Barry Cole||Bartek Gliniak|
|Name Me Lawand||2022||UK||Tom Hodge|
|2022||South Korea||Young-gyu Jang|
|Nezouh||2022||Syria/ UK/ France||Rupert Hollier||Rob Lane/|
|Nil by Mouth||1997||Margot Core||Eric Clapton|
|The Origin||2022||UK||Adam Janota Bzowski|
|L’Origine du Mal|
Origin of Evil
|2022||France/ Canada||Philippe Brault|
Palm Trees and Power Lines
|The Passengers of the Night|
Les passagers de la nuit
|The Passion of Remembrance|
|Peter von Kant||2022||France/ Belgium||Clément Ducol|
|Pretty Red Dress||2022||UK||Phil Canning||Brijs|
The Queen of Spades
|2022||Germany/ France/ Austria||Fritz Ostermayer/|
|Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical||2022||UK/ US||Becky Bentham||Tim Minchin|
|Robe of Gems||2022||Argentina/ Mexico||Santiago Pedroncini|
|She Is Love||2022||US||Chris Hyson|
|She Said||2022||US||Nicholas Britell|
|SHTTL||2022||Ukraine/ France||David Federmann|
|The Son||2022||UK/ France||Ian Neil||Hans Zimmer|
|The Store||2022||Sweden||Giorgio Giampà|
|The Stranger||2022||Australia||Jemma Burns||Oliver Coates|
|Subtraction||2022||Iran||Sami Rad||Ramin Kousha|
|Summer with Hope||2022||Canada/ Iran||Soheil Peyghambari|
|The Swimmers||2022||UK/ US||Kirsten Lane||Steven Price|
|2022||US||Mandy Mamlet||Abel Korzeniowski|
|Triangle of Sadness||2022||Sweden/ France/ UK/ Germany/ Turkey/ Greece||Mikkel Maltha/|
Under The Fig Trees
|2022||Tunisia/ Switzerland/ France/ Qatar||Amin Bouhafa|
|White Noise||2022||US/ UK||Danny Elfman|
|Winter Boy||2022||France||Yoshihiro Hanno|
|The Woman in The White Car||2022||South Korea||Ha Geun Yeong|
|Women Talking||2022||US||Mandy Mamlet||Hildur Guðnadóttir|
|The Wonder||2022||Ireland/ UK/ US||Sarah Giles||Matthew Herbert|
|The Woodcutter Story||2022||Finland/ Netherlands/ Denmark/ Germany||Peter Albrechtsen||Jonas Struck|
You Won’t Be Alone
|2022||UK/ Serbia/ Australia||Andrew Kotatko||Mark Bradshaw|
This month we feature an exclusive interview with Gareth Allison, London-based Music Supervisor at BT Sport, who shares insight into his career to date and what inspired him to pursue a career in supervision.
When did you first learn about music supervision and decide it was something you wanted to pursue?
I’ve always been influenced by the music used in games, TV and films. I used to include my favourite theme music on mixtapes which resulted in the music from ER, Magnum PI & The A-Team being alongside tracks by Radiohead, NOFX, Hundred Reasons and other alternative rock bands. All sounds quite preposterous now that I think about it.
It wasn’t until I read an interview at University with Skins Music Supervisor Alex Hancock in the NME that I learnt there was a job where you picked music for TV and films and got paid for it.
From that moment I focused my studies on sync and music supervision and that led me to doing my dissertation on the history of sync, from the talkies to the present day.
As part of that dissertation a few music supervisors were gracious enough to answer a research questionnaire for me and that gave me a greater insight into what the role really entailed as well as opening a few doors to me for work experience.
What were you doing before?
Previously I’ve had various internships with labels, sync agencies etc. and those eventually led to my first job at a boutique electronic publisher where I was responsible for signing writers, pitching for sync and much of the administration duties. Although the business failed I learnt so much.
Immediately before starting at BT Sport I was actually working a 10pm – 7am night shift packing car parts. Obviously it wasn’t something I was planning to do but I think it’s important for people to know that careers aren’t always linear and it took me a while to find a job that I now feel very privileged to do.
Was there a particular ad/film that inspired you to explore music supervision?
Looking back now there are so many moments which combined music with media that clearly influenced the younger version of me – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, The OC, The Blues Brothers & Trainspotting to name a few.
One particular moment that still stands out is the come down scene in Human Traffic which used Orbital’s Belfast – that track has stuck with me ever since and I guess the film opened up a whole world of Dance music to me and led to me being a headphone Junglist when I’m stuck doing admin now.
Generally I think anything that broadened my taste or that endorsed what I was already listening to, that became an inspiration.
Tell us about a project you’ve worked on which you’re particularly proud of and why?
In 2021 I was asked to commission an artist to write and perform a song which reflected on the impact the murder of George Floyd has had on society and on sport a year after his murder.
We ended up working with the brilliant Kay Young who encapsulated everything we were hoping to say but from her own unique perspective.
Kay drew upon her own personal experience, to educate and articulate a subject many people feel far removed from.
You can view her incredible song Change HERE
and the whole It’s Time To Change Film HERE
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in the job?
The biggest challenge is always trying to ensure all the stakeholders are as happy as they can be and that’s especially difficult when most of our projects are such a quick, almost immediate, turnaround.
I may be working directly with one person, usually a director or a producer but in the background there’s an editor, a sound mixer, heads of department, executives who can sometimes all have a say in how they want something to sound and that’s difficult when they’re not necessarily communicating directly with me.
We’re a small team so I can guess that’s an even greater issue for many Supervisors.
What’s your dream project? Are there any particular directors, brands, artists or composers you’d like to work with?
One of the things I love about working in Sport is that it covers almost every emotion but I’d love to do something a little longer form, a series that develops over time and where there’s more opportunity to try out different or unusual ideas, maybe something my mum might want to see too.
What’s the best/your favourite use of music in a film or advertising?
I’d find it hard to choose a favourite of all time that wouldn’t be a cliché but I recently watched The Figo Affair, the score by Rival Consoles is so good.
I’ve also just finished watching Under The Banner of Heaven which has another excellent score, all guitar based which felt especially rare at the moment. They’ve also used East Hastings by Godspeed You! Black Emperor which is a song I adore.
What advice would you give someone looking to become a supervisor?
Don’t be shy, say hi.
Listen to as much music as possible but also try to understand where and why it came about. Listen to the radio, read interviews and generally immerse yourself.
Also, be prepared to be a tool to help fulfil your collaborators creative vision and set aside your personal tastes and judgement.
Thank you Gareth for taking the time to speak with us at GMS, we wish you all the luck in your future work!