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Production

NI Report Heavily Features Game of Thrones

Northern Ireland Screen has posted the 2009-2010 Annual Report (PDF) on their website, which reviews the various productions, goals, and funding they were involved in over the previous year. We’ve previously reported on early reports regarding the publication, but this is the first time the public will have been able to see it.

Most notable? HBO’s Game of Thrones is very heavily featured. The cover pages make use of the first official still from the pilot, and there are references to the production through out the whole thing. There’s almost no new information to speak of that’s specific to the show, except for the fact that NI Screen gave their maximum grant of £1.6 million (roughly US $2.5 million) to the production not once, but twice: once to help fund the pilot, and once again for the first season. This was nearly 60% of NI Screen’s total grants made in the 2009-2010 period. You can read more regarding the budget of the series, and NI Screen’s funding of it, in our article, A Budget to be Reckoned With.

One last tidbit, a quote from the report which made us chuckle (and which is, we think, our first mention in a governmental publication):

‘Activity on the web was frantic, with the two main blogs "Winter is Coming" and "Westeros" vying with each other to be the first to publish hitherto unknown facts and information about the cast, locations and budget and to announce whether it would go to series.’

Sean Bean Update

This weekend we shared an ITN report regarding Sean Bean filming in London for the spy thriller Cleanskin. In the article, ITN notes that the production is a six week shoot, which led us to speculate that most of Bean’s scenes in HBO’s Game of Thrones will have to wait until October. However, as a poster notes, Cleanskin actually started filming in late February.

The filming that ITN was covering was a brief, one day reshoot, and not a sign that Bean will be occupied for weeks with that production.

Filming the Vale

We know that filming is presently going on for scenes set in Castle Black, as actor Luke McEwan (cast as Rast) tweeted he had finished his first day of work this past Friday, and we know that the Hand’s tourney is set to film starting around this coming Friday. But it seems something else is up for mid-August: shooting scenes set at the Eyrie and/or Vale of Arryn.

Or, at least, that’s what Brendan McCormack’s agents report on his profile page, indicating that he begins filming in mid-August. McCormack, cast as Ser Vardis Egan, will have a somewhat expanded role compared to the novel according to author George R.R. Martin, who indicated that he’ll be taking some of Ser Brynden Tully’s role.

At a guess, they’re either going to be able to make use of some of the exterior sets (such as the area of the tourney ground, or perhaps even Magheramorne quarry) to represent parts of the Vale of Arryn and the Mountains of the Moon, thereby minimizing amount of travel the crew has to do, or they’ll be doing some interior shoots at Paint Hall to represent the Eyrie.

Sean Bean Filming in London

But not for HBO’s Game of Thrones. In fact, Sean Bean is the lead in a new action/thriller film Cleanskin, which is filming in London as we type this. According to ITN, which provides a photo & brief video interview of the actor in his current look, the film will be shooting for the next six week.

(Note: See our update which, thanks to a commenter at the A Song of Ice and Fire forum, shows that this was a single day reshoot for a film that was completed in the spring.)

This fits with the news that much of the Winterfell footage is waiting until September to be filmed. Given that we had reports of Bean being available the first week or two of shooting, we suppose that they’ve done some work with him, but not a lot. The bulk of his scenes as Eddard Stark—both in Winterfell and King’s Landing—will have to be filmed at the end of September and right through to December, when filming is scheduled to end.

Some Production Notes

Just a few bits and bobs of information regarding HBO’s Game of Thrones production, for those who’re interested in the nuts-and-bolts.

  • Via silverjaime and Rimshot (commenting over at Winter is Coming, we learn that Shane’s Castle is once again being used as a shooting location; in this case, a part of the extensive property is being set up as the tourney ground for the Hand’s Tourney. From information we’ve received, it seems likely that this location will be used for filming in late August. We also learn that Magheramorne Quarry, site of the Castle Black exterior set, will see (or perhaps has already seen) filming there this week, or next week.
  • In related news, the local Norwegian newspaper Tromso.no has an interview with Amrita Acharya, cast as Irri. It turns out that, though the actress resides in London, she spent much of her early life in Tromso, Norway. She reveals the following about Game of Thrones (translated from the Norwegian):

    I’ve only been and filmed a single episode so far, and I haven’t met Sean Bean. He’s in another part of the storyline than the one I’m in. He’s mostly filming in Ireland, while the storyline I’m part of is filming in Malta. There’s a lot of established as well as fresh actors involved, and the sets are really huge.

    Given that she says she’s filmed, it seems fair to say that the majority of her scenes will be in Malta, but there are some things (interiors, primarily, we expect) that are being or will be filmed in Northern Ireland.

  • According to David J. Peterson, creator of the Dothraki language for HBO, the Dothraki lexicon has grown to encompass over 2,300 words.
  • Finally, on a lighter note, here’s Finn Jones (Loras Tyrell) and Conan Stevens (Gregor Clegane) on a horse two horses (photo courtesy of Finn Jones). Look out, Isiah Mustafa! The two are currently being put through an intensive crash course in horsemanship in the U.K., according to what Jones and Stevens have previously stated.

Malta Filming Update

There is an interesting note for followers of progress on HBO’s Game of Thrones series in his post announcing his cancelling an appearance at New York Comic Con.

Besides noting he plans to visit Belfast (main location for shooting of the series) after attending Octocon in Dublin, he notes the possibility that he’ll also visit Malta (site of location shoots for many of the scenes set in Pentos and regions east). As Octocon takes place in mid-October, it seems like the Malta location shooting will cover the bulk of that month and a good part of September as well. As we’ve previously reported, the Malta shoot has been stated to take six weeks. Mid-September through the end of October seems likely now.

Conan Stevens Blogs From Belfast

There’s a terrific blog post from Conan Stevens (cast as Gregor Clegane, the Mountain that Rides) from Belfast, in which he recounts details such as his diet, his training regimen, and his run-ins with Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo) and Rory McCann (Sandor Clegane, the Hound) at the training center, as well as bumping into executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. He mentions that he’s started work on a short, brutal fight sequence he’ll be taking part in, the choreography being handled by stunt coordinator Buster Reeves and his team. 

Finally, after a question from us, he discusses seeing and trying on Gregor’s armor for the first time, and was very impressed by the work that was done. As he notes, having professionals making armor for you is a fair sight better than making it yourself (as he did when he was part of the SCA).

On Monday, he’ll be taking part in “intensive horse riding lessons” from a famous horse riding stunt team, and feels that with all this intense training and this film footage, he’ll be able to apply to be an accredited stuntman in his native Australia.

The Mountain That Flies and Other Notes

Actor Conan Stevens, cast in the role of Gregor Clegane, has posted on his site that he is now flying to Belfast to begin preparations for his scenes. He writes that these include, “... armour fittings, swordtraining and horse riding lessons (it’s been a long time since I rode last) to do before my filming starts.” Given earlier reports, we’re guessing the Hand’s tourney may be scheduled for late August, giving Stevens two-three weeks of intensive training ahead of him.

In other news, a poster by the name of DrNick at Winter is Coming has stated that a friend who was involved in the pilot was asked if he’d be available to shoot in Malta sometime in September. It seems likely that there may be some overlap with Winterfell exterior shoots, which seem likely to also take place in September. However, it’s probable that Malta may be used only for the initial Daenaerys scenes and perhaps the final scenes, whereas the Dothraki sea sequences between will be filmed in Northern Ireland given all the horse-riding extras the production has picked up in Ireland.

Last but not least, today is a new day of filming, and unlike last month (which was very rainy and kept the first week’s shooting to the Paint Hall) we seem to have a cold but sunny outlook in Belfast. The photo is from Paul McAnearney, a member of the crew. If I’m not mistaken, the photo is taken in the vicinity of the Paint Hall, but if the weather holds we may well hear of location shoots finally beginning.

Winterfell in September

A tweet from an individual involved in the production reveals that HBO’s production plans seem to have scenes set in Winterfell waiting until September to start rolling, and they’ll last through the rest of the shoot it seems. We wonder if this might mean that the pilot reshoots—at least those parts set in and around the North—will be waiting until then?

Production Blocks

It was recently noted by an extra, known as Rimshot, working on the production that the show was preparing to film a three-episode production block. This has led to a good deal of confusion as to just what that means, but thankfully Adam Whitehead, U.K.-based book blogger, steps in to explain this over at the A Song of Ice and Fire Forum. Here’s the key paragraph:

“The block system sees several episodes combined into one solid block of filming and production lasting many weeks, maybe a month to two months. This block will involve the same behind-the-scenes personnel, and will be designed to maximise efficiency and minimize costs, so episodes set in the same location, using the same guest or recurring actors and so on will be combined, regardless of the actual transmission order of the episodes. Most notably, the same director will be assigned to the entire block. The block will be prepped, read-through, go through pre-production and budget meetings and then filmed and put through post in one long process. Usually whilst one block is filming, the next director will be stepping up and prepping the next block so the actors go from filming one block to the next (sometimes with a short break between them).”

Do check the rest of his post, as Adam compares to the more usual American network production method, and details how Doctor Who has used the production block method.

Filming Starts

Sometime in the wee hours of the North Ireland morning, production began on HBO’s Game of Thrones. It doesn’t sound like the first day’s shooting will be taking place at the Paint Hall studio in Belfast, given this tweet from production secretary Paul McAnearney where he realizes that he’ll be standing in the rain come today.

The Dancing Master’s Dancing Master

In a follow-up to our recent item about the legendary fight choreography William Hobbs being involved in training Miltos Yerolemou for his role as Syrio Forel in HBO’s Game of Thrones, Miltos has commented over at Winter is Coming that while Hobbs is not officially associated with the production, he’s taken a hand in helping Miltos develop the Braavosi waterdancing style. Miltos also confirms that Buster Reeves—who was Christian Bale’s stunt double in the Batman films, and helped develop the superhero’s unique fighting style—is still involved as fight choreographer in Game of Thrones after having arranged the fights in the pilot.

As with many of the actors, Miltos has been in Belfast for read throughs and rehearsal, and apparently has run through some of his fight choreography with Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark.

One other thing mentioned is the fact that Hobbs discussed the Rob Roy fight with Miltos “at length”, which may give a sense of the approach they’ll be taking with Syrio’s superlative waterdancing skills. For your edification (and because we really think it’s the best bit of fencing choreography we’ve ever seen), the climactic fight scene from the film, choreographed by Hobbs:

Castle Black Rising

As we recently learned, Castle Black was set to be built at Magheramorne Quarry. Now, a fellow fan by the handle of silverjaime has shared the first photos of the site, taken about a mile away from the building site (the nearest the public can get to it). The first picture is here, while a zoomed and cropped version can be found here. It looks like the quarry wall will serve as the Wall, either colored to look more like ice in CG, or perhaps used as a base on which to lay greenscreen.

Silverjaime also visited the Paint Hall area, and fell into discussion with the dialect coach for the production, Brendan Gunn. Gunn informed her that while the production would us “UK accents”, he did not provide details of whether there’d be regional variations other than to confirm that Aidan Gillen (cast as Littlefinger) would not use his native, Dubin accent. Gunn has previously worked on a very large number of films, including Michael Collins, The Butcher Boy, Meet Joe Black, and Snatch (where he helped Brad Pitt develop his Tinker accent). He also happens to have served as the dialogue coach for A Shine of Rainbows, a film which featured Jack Gleeson, cast as Joffrey Baratheon.

A video of Gunn discussing the dialects of A Shine of Rainbows is embedded below:

Selecting a Composer

Over at “Not a Blog”, George R.R. Martin responds to a query regarding a potential composer for the HBO adaption of Game of Thrones. What GRRM indicates is that the production team has already narrowed down the list of candidates for the job and have interviewed the leading contenders, and that no new names are going to be looked at. Which suggests to us that the decision is probably quite imminent, presumably with an eye towards having the composer start his or her work as soon as possible.

George says he has his own favorite among the leading candidates, but we shall see what develops.

Highlights from the Fact Sheet

The fact sheet has quite a lot to absorb, so here’s the highlights in terms of new actors and crew that we’ve not heard of before today.

Lets start with new crew. First up, two new directors of photography have been named. Marco Pontecorvo and Alik Sakharov are both veterans of past HBO productions, particularly Rome. Pontecorvo recently made a mark as a director for the film Pa-ra-da, which garnered him several awards as well, while the Russian-born Sakharov received an Emmy for his cinemtaography on during the Rome episode titled “Passover”.

Joining them on the production side are a few new directors. For us, the most notable is Alan Taylor, an HBO go-to guy with many HBO productions under his belt, as well episodes of shows as diverse as Lost, Mad Men, and Nurse Jackie; he won an Emmy for his direction of a Sopranos episode, and has several other noms from the Director’s Guild Awards. The other new director named is Daniel Minahan, another go-to guy who’s directed episodes of Deadwood, Big Love, and a notable five episodes on True Blood.

Production designer Gemma Jackson and costume designer Michele Clapton remain on board with the production, which is very good to see. Though we’ve known this for a good while, I’ll note that the fact sheet confirms that the writing breakdown remains the same: executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will write seven of the episodes, while Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson (of Buffy and BSG fame), and George R.R. Martin will write one episode each.

Of note for the production? Morocco is out—something George hinted may be a possibility a long while ago—and instead it looks like the second location for shooting will be Malta. Malta, rich in scenery—especially medieval castles, walls, ports, and so on—and a spare beauty will doubtless serve for shots of Pentos and the like, and will be an excellent locale if the series goes forward to a second or third season
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And following the production teams and notes? The actors. Oh, boy, the actors. There’s so many of them!

The most significant additions to the list must be James Cosmo as the Old Bear, Jeor Mormont, a casting George revealed which is not yet on the fact sheet (see here for two other roles GRRM has confirmed). After that, it sure looks like Jerome Flynn as Bronn (Official Site) is the most noteworthy casting choice.

After that are the guest cast, which makes up the bulk of new additions to the casting rolls. I’m just going to paste them all below: