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HBO Executives Discuss Programming

Stuart Levine at Variety interview HBO’s co-president Richard Plepler and programming president Michael Lombardo (who’s been a good source for Game of Thrones information) about their programming plans. Much of it deals with the challenges of programming when they have so many high-quality original series, mini-series, and documentaries, and having to turn away interesting, high-quality projects because they simply don’t have the room in their schedule.

They do discuss Game of Thrones to some degree towards the end of the interview, where they confirm it will air in the 2nd quarter. Here’s a few quotes:

RP: I would just say this: While it is a different genre, the storytelling piece, meaning the themes that it takes up—power and strife and people vying for their piece of the crown, metaphorically—those are themes that have been all over the network for years. And David Benioff, who’s the creator, had a wonderful line at the very beginning of this project. He said, “You’ll quickly forget where you are, because the themes are universal.” Having read all the scripts, I think that’s absolutely true.

ML: At this point, we have not seen any cuts. All we have seen are dailies.

RP: And the pilot. It’s beautiful.

And sci-fi fans and fantasy who have been very satisfied with “True Blood” are probably willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

ML: You know the interesting thing about this show is I am not a sci-fi fan, and this show really transcends the genre. When we first read the pilot script, there is nothing that really gives you a full hint of the magic in the Martin books. It’s a bunch of compelling and well-crafted stories. There are such interesting and complex characters that we were excited by the drama, not by the genre. I hope people don’t look at this as a genre play and refrain from taking a look at it, because I think it is much more than that.

RP: I think it’ll satisfy the passion of its natural fan base, but also intrigue and satisfy those people who might not typically be connected to the sci-fi genre. That would be fantastic for us, and I think that’s really likely.

Focus Group Rescheduled

Just have word in from HBO that the focus groups, which were scheduled to assemble next week, is now postponed. Everyone who has been scheduled to participate will be on the top of the list to be contacted to see if they’re available on the new date. So, if you’ve been selected, hang tight and wait to hear back from the market research group.

Belfast Trip Detour: The Moot

This is a detour from my set visit reports. You can get to the last segment before this by going here to Part 3.

I had made grand plans to go out for dinner at a well-reviewed restaurant after getting back from Magheramorne ... but after witnessing the traffic and realizing just how much I wanted to share with Linda (including uploading some photos for Linda to oogle over), I grabbed a quick bite at the Subway near my hotel instead. A couple of hours later, refreshed and ready, I took the short walk to Robinsons Bar where the Brotherhood without Banners had taken over the basement bar, dubbed BT1 (after the street code for the City Centre). Outside, I saw HBO’s representative with a reporter and cameraman from UTV who were waiting for George. A slight miscommunication led to a little delay prior to his arrival, and I soon joined Parris and some of the other BwB members to collect decorations and prizes for the charity raffle which the BwB was holding.

We got things set up just in time for George’s arrival, with many cheers and applause from the crowd. There were many extras present, many fans, and one very noticeable actor: Kristian Nairn, who plays Hodor. I ended up meeting some of the fellow GoT-watching fans, who were all very hospitable and pleasant! Among them was Joe Campo, an American actor/filmmaker and Belfast resident who’s made a quest of getting cast on the show, and it sounded to be like he was getting closer thanks to advice from GRRM. At some point in the evening, a number of actors started to arrive, and after this point I sort of start to get fuzzy on the conversations I had and their order. So what I’m going to do is just try to run through the actors I spoke to, and my impressions of them, as well as anything interesting regarding the production they mentioned. This will be in very rough order:

Belfast Trip: Part 3

Continued from Part 2.

Before we headed off to Paint Hall, though, we dropped by Fire and Blood production office. There, I finally got to meet Bryan Cogman, script editor for the series and right-hand man to the executive producers, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. I’ve sort of seen him as a kindred spirit, as he’s basically of keeper of the lore of the setting for the production, and is responsible for envisioning many of the little details that show up in the nooks and crannies (like a certain hefty book with a rather dry text). Bryan was very warm and welcoming, and didn’t seem to notice that I was looking past his desk at the concept art on his wall featuring things such as designs for Winterfell as well as a part of a storyboard of a very important scene (Bryan would later tell me that in many cases these were very early concepts and were no longer what was envisioned, but he kept them around because he liked how they looked).

GRRM on Malta

George R.R. Martin has a “Not a Blog” post discussing the filming in Malta. It is a bit spoilerish for those who’ve not read the first book! He discusses where he’s watched filming set in King’s Landing involving Maisie Williams’s Arya Stark, as well as a scene featuring Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen “at the edge of the Dothraki sea”.

Not all has gone well. GRRM confirms reports we’ve had that a unexpected, massive rainstorm washed away a Dothraki encampment set. Also, a little tongue-in-cheek, he claims two actors have taken a “dislike” to one another and one was left bloodied after a fight ... which we’re guessing may be a reference to a fight scene mishap rather than any genuine hard feelings (we hope!)

Belfast Trip: Part 2

Continuing my Belfast trip report. Here’s Part 1.

At breakfast, we met none other than Isaac Hempstead-Wright, the younger actor playing Bran Stark. It seemed he had just wrapped filming at Castle Ward and was to head back home, though his mother, Helen—who was absolutely lovely to speak with—said she thought he had two or three scenes left to do for the series. Isaac was incredibly sweet and polite, making a point of getting my name exactly right and using it. They left us to get ready to go, and not long after Parris departed to layer up for the Paint Hall and Magheramorne visits. George and I discussed the world book (during which I learned something about one of the characters who’ll appear in the three Dornish chapters he’s moved to The Winds of Winter) for a few more minutes before moving on ourselves, and I went downstairs to wait for them and our transportation. Fortunately, Isaac and his mother were also in the lobby, waiting for their pick-up, and I had a great conversation with them.

Report from Malta

I was off in Belfast when this report came in from a Russian fan who happened to be in Malta when filming of Dothraki scenes were taking place. shares the report, with providing the English translation. It’s a terrific piece of reporting as they paid close attention to some of the details we’re all eager to know about, such as weapons and clothing. Regarding their description of the arakh, I believe we’ve glimpsed one previously.

Funnily enough, Linda sent me a text message about this report while I was visiting with Bryan Cogman, and I told him about it. He confirmed that they had been filming the wedding scene around that time, though on that particular day (Thursday) they had moved on to something else.

One last detail I should note is I have a separate report in from someone who was at the Azure Window who confirmed that they were, indeed, shooting right down by the shore.

Belfast Trip: Part 1

I had originally planned to write this rather backwards, starting with the Moot and then going back, but as I sat down to write all of this, it just seemed easier to start from the beginning. I hope to get parts out every few days, depending on whether I need to run it by HBO to make sure any details I post are okay to share or not. But this first post is, I think, unobjectionable since it covers the time from my arrival in Belfast to my time prior to reaching Paint Hall.

Belfast Moot Photos

Many, many terrific photos from the Moot that happened last night. None taken by me, alas, as my phone camera lacked a flash, but here’s a few examples and links to the galleries where they’ve been posted:

Wyvernwoodhas some of the best shots I’ve seen so far. Here’s one with myself and George chatting with Finn Jones, and Mark Addy’s in the shot:


DrNickVC has posted several terrific pictures. I particularly like this one, featuring (from left to right) Gethin Anthony (Lord Renly), Eugene Simon (Lancel), Joseph Altin (Pypar), DrNick himself, Luke McEwan (Rast), Mark Addy (King Robert), and Finn Jones (Ser Loras):

DocFourFour (aka Rimshot) has a great series of photos he took through the night, including many of the raffle drawings.

I’m sure there are more out there, but these are a great start. Hope to have my own Moot report, with some details I picked up from the actors, later in the evening. Still recovering from the whirlwind trip!

Focus Group Closed

The focus group announced last week is now closed. Here’s the message from the market research company running this focus group:

Hi A Song of Ice and Fire Fans,

Thank you so much for your interest in our upcoming focus groups.  As a result of a massive and enthusiastic response to our post, recruitment is now closed.  We apologize if you did not have a chance to apply. If you have already been in contact with one of our representatives, you will receive a follow-up call soon.  Thanks again for your support.  Your passion for the series is inspiring!


HBO Updates: Dinklage and the Moot on DVD

Some interesting HBO-related items today. First, word from GRRM and Parris is that HBO is considering sending the documentary team they have on-hand to prepare promotional and DVD extra material for Game of Thrones to the moot in Belfast on Thursday (note: registration to take part has now been closed, as the party has met the limit placed on them for the venue), to record the goings-on for a segment. It’s terrific that the production is embracing the fans even more clearly!

Also, the Making Game of Thrones site has been updated with a quote from Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) regarding his character’s relationship to his sister, Queen Cersei (played by Lena Headey). Noting that he and Headey are good friends, he notes his sadness that they have very few scenes this season, a lament I believe we’ve heard from Headey herself. Hopefully the second season (*knock on wood*) will more than amply address that concern!

We noticed that the item was posted in the name of Steve Marzolf, a journalist who also writes copy for HBO,producing “core site content (episode guides, character bios, etc.)” and also conducting interviews for Behind the Scenes features such as those we’ve been seeing in the Artisan series. It seems like he’s already been at work covering the production.

NYC Focus Group for Ice and Fire Fans

The following is from a market research organization to fans of A Song of Ice and Fire:

Today we have a very exciting opportunity for all our A Song of Ice and Fire fans living in the New York City and surrounding area.

We are currently recruiting fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series to participate in a focus group discussion happening on November 9th in New York City. This will be an exciting opportunity to share your thoughts, passion and ideas with fellow fans.

If you:
a) have read and enjoyed Game of Thrones and b) are able to attend a 2.5 hour discussion group on November 9th in New York City (all participants will be required to supply their own transport). Please, contact us either by email (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) or by phone (212-473-6000) and we¹ll give you more details.

Hodor on Hodor

Fans at Octocon in Dublin this past weekened recieved a pleasant surprise when Kristian Nairn, the actor cast as Hodor, appeared with George R.R. Martin to discuss HBO’s Game of Thrones. The Rabbit and LugaJetGirl, two fans who were present, have written up reports on the panel which can be found Here and here respectively.

Among the more notable bits? A composer for the series has been selected, but has yet to be announced, according to the report. Also, Kristian provides an intriguing piece of information regarding a change in the character’s appearance.

As an added bonus, the Rabbit took a few pictures of George and Kristian together. Here’s one of them:

Kristian Nairn and GRRM
Bronn in Action

After posing a quiz question (a rather spoilerish one at that, actually—naughty, naughty!), HBO has posted a new still from the Game of Thrones production that features Jerome Flynn as the sellsword Bronn. Flynn’s almost unrecognizable to my eye, and I suspect this photo will ease the concerns of some who know him best (or perhaps worst, depending on who you ask) from his Robson & Jerome days when his casting was announced. He really looks the part!

Making Game of Thrones: Fruit Ninjas and Secret Messages

Bryan Cogman provides a post written during the Shane’s Castle tourney filming for HBO’s Game of Thrones, filmed back in August, and it’s full of interesting details ... like the Fruit Ninja craze that has swept the crew. And that the tourney—depicted in two separate chapters of A Game of Thrones—is split across episodes IV and V. But one detail leapt out at us as just the sort of thing we love best, that graphic artist Jim Stanes was working on the production and that he had done a great design for House Royce (Bronze Yohn and his sons were at the tourney in the novels).

We quickly found his blog, where we noticed he worked on Kingdom of Heaven (David, Dan, if you’re reading this—we’ve always imagined the Dornish look much like that!) and then @straphe pointed out to us that Stanes had uploaded the Targaryen arms back in December. I did a little more digging and stumbled across this beauty, described as a coded message from the production.

Before the image loaded, I of course thought it was Lysa’s to Catelyn .... but the script is so radically different from our own (which is what is being used for Westerosi)

that I believe it represents a Valyrian script as used in the Free Cities

. Of course, the fact that he uploaded it back in December suggests it was from the pilot, where only Lysa’s message to Catelyn really makes any sense.