Game of Thrones: News

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New Audition Tapes

George R.R. Martin is keeping himself very busy, with Dance with Dragons, Fort Freak, and a host of other tasks and projects now that he’s gotten taxes out of the way. Among them? Reviewing the latest batch of audition tapes. This follows our previous report on the fact that casting is going on for the role of Daenerys Targaryen, which may or may not mean that Tamzin Merchant is definitely out of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

However, one other thing that hasn’t been mentioned very much is that it’s quite possible that casting has begun in the U.K. for the many roles that will need to be filled by the time late June roles around. As always, more information as soon as we get it.

TV Drives Book Sales

Variety has a brief report on television success for literary adaptions turning into publishing success. The obvious example is Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series which, boosted by the massive smash hit True Blood, have increased her sales across all her books. The article doesn’t mention the fact that all her Sookie novels were holding on to places on the New York Times Bestseller List (paperbacks) for weeks on end as the series surged in popularity week over week. We’ve had it at secondhand that sales of Harris’s books increased twenty-fold thanks to True Blood:

True Blood isn’t the only example, however. The Dexter series on Showtime has given the original novels (especially the first, which most closely formed the basis for the series) a significant boost, with sales having “have doubled every year since the series debut”. Another genre show, The Vampire Diaries, has helped sell a million additional copies of the series on which it’s based.

Random House is indicated as certainly being hopeful that HBO’s series will prove a success and will help fuel the growing fanbase for A Song of Ice and Fire. However, they do acknowledge that the significant length of the novels of the series—especially compared to the much shorter, lighter, self-contained Harris novels—mean that a greater commitment is needed from readers, and that this commitment may reduce the size of the boost in a series which is already very popular by any standard.

Fans Petition for BSG Composer

An online petition has been started by fans, attempting to bring composer Bear McCreary to the attention of HBO and the Game of Thrones producers. McCreary has extensive credits, having composed the music in part or in full for such series as Eureka, Human Target, Terminator: The Sarah Connors Chronicle (starring Lena Headey, cast as Cersei Lannister), and most famously Battlestar Galactica and its spin-offs Battle Star Galactica: The Plan and the currently-airing Caprica.

A Look at the Budget

After much research and math, we’d like to share our newest article: A Budget to be Reckoned With. Taking the facts and figures made available in the wake of the greenlight, we exhaustively try to sort out what the purchasing power of the reported £30 million ($45 million US) budget is compared to similar productions, past and present. It’s not a straightforward calculation, as average wages, tax incentives, and other such things have to be worked into it. However, the end result is that there’s serious cause for some additional jubilation: this is a big production by any reasonable standard.

The Appeal of Game of Thrones

The BBC has a new report examining why the anticipation level for Game of Thrones has been so high, interviewing fans and booksellers.

Of particular interest are producer Mark Huffam’s comments, reiterating that the natural, unspoiled beauty of Northern Ireland played a part in convincing HBO to set the fantasy drama there. He cites several locations as examples: “There’s the Mournes, Tollymore, the Antrim Coast and Shane’s Castle to name but a few.”

And from the article, just because it’s amusing: “The demand for suitably hairy extras was so great that some had to be recruited from local heavy metal message boards.”

Weekend Recap

This has been the busiest week for news about HBO’s Game of Thrones since the filming of the pilot, with a host of new information. To help gather all in one place, here’s our weekend recap of all the notable tidbits:

New Details from GRRM

George R.R. Martin has updated his official site’s News section regarding HBO’s Game of Thrones being green lit for a full season.

There are a couple of new, interesting details in his update: besides confirming that the plan remains for him to write one episode per season, and indicating he believes the show would air starting April or May 2011, Martin notes that a “return to Morocco is also possible, and other locations may be used as well.” It had previously been assumed that Morocco was going to be definitely be used to film the rest of the scenes on the eastern continent featuring Tamzin Merchant’s character, Daenerys Targaryen, but it appears that that assumption is wrong. The reference to “other locations” could mean that sites in Scotland such as the previously-used Doune Castle—where the fact that the site was open to the public led to certain leaks which were said to have annoyed HBO and the production team—have just as uncertain a future, doubtless for budgetary reasons.

Reaction from Coster-Waldau

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, the Danish actor cast as Jaime Lannister, provides some of the first actor reactions to the media following the announcement of HBO’s pick up of Game of Thrones. The two articles are in Danish, but in summary he notes that he’s to start filming somewhere around July 1st, that it seems Tom McCarthy will be reprising his directorial roll for the first episode to film (which is something we’ll look into), and that though his character is “bad guy #1” to start with, as with other HBO dramas, things are rarely so black-and-white.

Our rough translation follows:

BBC Video Report

BBC North Ireland has this report  discussing HBO’s Game of Thrones, including an interview with local producer Mark Huffam (who reveals that Shane’s Castle was used in the pilot—a detail we never knew before, I believe).

One interesting detail? The Northern Ireland government provided a £1.6 million (roughly $2.4 million) incentive for the production, and promises more cash incentives for continuing production. As we have previously discussed, this would be in addition to the cut-rate price given for leasing the Paint Hall, and the tax credit that could equal as much as $6 million.

For those wondering about some of the footage shown in the video, the fantasy cottage/building featured at one point is from Your Highness, and is not something that would be used for the Game of Thrones pilot.

Shooting Schedule and Locations

An article at the Irish Film & Television Network provides some great new details about Game of Thrones from HBO.

It again note the importance of Mark Huffam, a local producer, in helping to land the project in Northern Ireland. More interestingly, an approximate shooting schedule is given—June through to December, which fits pretty nicely with the rumored 30 weeks of filming a source has provided in the past—and then a list of shooting locations beside the Paint Hall.

Most of them are familiar to those who followed the production closely: Tollymore Forest Park (where the opening scene, featured in the first official publicity still, was shot) and Castle Ward (where scenes of Winterfell’s courtyard and gate appear to have been filmed). However, a new name enters the picture: Shane’s Castle in County Antrim. The castle proper has been ruined for almost 200 years, but from the description it sounds like the estate itself may be ideal for filming of exteriors in wide-open spaces.

Tamzin Merchant in New Trailer

Showtime has posted up a new, lengthy trailer promoting the final season of The Tudors, and it features quite a lot (and quite a lot) of Tamzin Merchant, the actress cast as Daenerys Targaryen in HBO’s Game of Thrones. She plays the ill-fated Katherine Howard, a young woman thrust into the arms of the mercurial Henry VIII. It’s this role that brought her to the attention of George R.R. Martin, according to previous remarks he has made.

Thanks to About Yea High at the A Song of Ice and Fire forum for pointing it out.

Give Your Casting Suggestions!

Now that Game of Thrones is greenlit, it’s time for fans to pile into the Casting Polls sub-forum. Forum member Smouldering Hound has started a fresh series of threads for suggesting actors to fill the many, many roles that may need filling as the nine additional episodes of the series start shooting in June.

If you’re new to Westeros.org and its forum, it should be noted that David Benioff and Dan Weiss—the executive producers of the series—are members of the forum, and while the pilot was rolling into production they specifically asked fans to pitch suggestions for roles. Our suggestion threads then seemed to have an effect as a number of roles cast were pretty much spot-on to names fans put forward, and hopefully this chance for fans to express their further ideas is going to help them to choose some more, great actors.

Some caveats: if you’re just signing up for the forum, please be patient, I manually approve the queue a couple of times a day (manual approval helps cut down on spam bots quite a bit). Also, when posting, try to focus on British actors—95% of the roles are going to go with actors who are part of the British actors association, as special exemptions are needed for non-Brits.

Trademarks Addendum

HBO is covering more ground than I realized. Thanks to a tip from raijap, we have this trademark filing with the U.K.‘s Intellectual Property Office. Very similar, for the most part, to the various U.S. trademark filings covered in previous posts, but presented in a much more readable package.

At a guess, with E.U. harmonization, this probably means these marks are good throughout the E.U. Interestingly, the representative legal firm is Spanish, and the second language of the filing was Spanish. This highlights how increasingly international HBO’s business is becoming.

HBO Trademarks Game of Thrones Games

Continuing the trademarking saga, HBO’s submitted documents on February 22nd for a International Class 009 trademark coverage for Game of Thrones To quote the text, that covers: “games; discs, cartridges and cassettes; downloadable virtual goods for use in online social networking sites; amusement gaming apparatus adapted for use with an external display screen, television receiver or monitor; sunglasses; all the aforementioned goods relating to an ongoing television series”

This doesn’t mean, of course, that HBO is getting into the gaming business (or sunglasses, for that matter, which is really “one of these things does not belong with the others” territory). But it does mean that they’re continuing to cover their bases. Speculatively, this may be opening a way for creating a promotional Flash game, such as Starz!‘s recent Spartacus: Blood and Sand and a number of other shows have had.

Game of Thrones Budget

Those Northern Ireland ministers are a talkative bunch, to say the least! After recently being quoted discussing the boost the Game of Thrones production can provide to the local economy, the minister Nelson McCausland offers this tidbit:

“...it is expected that each series [British term used for season] will be one year in production, with an overall budget for each series of around £30m.”

That’s about $45 million U.S., or roughly $4.5 million an episode. This is slightly less than the $5 million per episode rumored for Deadwood, and significantly less than the $9 million or so per episode of Rome in the first season (but it was a significant outlier as one of the most expensive television programs, filming in one of the most expensive locations in the world). However, it’s also significantly higher than the budget of many hour-long dramas on network television, and seems to make it more expensive than Showtime’s The Tudors. It should be remembered, however, that certain significant tax breaks, matching funds, and other support were offered to the production if they based themselves in Belfast.

A 1:1 comparison may not work very well, in that light, since the $4.5 million an episode in Belfast may easily equal $5 million or more spent in the U.S. Given that still image, and given the highly talented crew (especially in terms of visual effects), I suspect this is more than sufficient to set some jaw droppings when the show airs.