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More Filming Locations in Northern Ireland

Location shoots seem to have been a major focus of HBO’s Game of Thrones production over the last couple of weeks. Castle Ward has been used extensively to represent Winterfell, and a reader of Winter is Coming photographed an area of Tollymore Forest Park which was clearly prepared for use. Tollymore was the location of the prologue scene during the pilot, and due to recasting it was one of the scenes scheduled to be re-shot for the first episode.

We now have a brief report from a fan, Emma Galbraith, who indicates that she, too, came across the Tollymore filming location almost two weeks ago. Besides that, though, she reveals some information that’s new to us. She indicates that an estate on the outskirts of Saintfield has been used for filming, and that the production has also been sighted in Saul, both in County Down.

New Photo from the Set

The Making Game of Thrones site has a new photo posted, featuring the Hand’s seat in the small council chamber. This chair was previously glimpsed in the “Raven” teaser, and drew some commentary from us in our screencapture gallery. Looking at it from this vantage point, we see we were well off the mark in suggesting it seemed inspired by the Rococo period.

UK Sees Game of Thrones in April

The Guardian is reporting that Sky—who recently secured exclusive broadcast rights to HBO’s original programming—is launching a new high definition channel, Sky Atlantic, to feature HBO’s programs as well as Mad Men, which they recently scooped up from the BBC. The channel will cost £19 a month as part of the Sky Variety Pack, and will launch early in 2011.

Most interestingly, Sky reports that Game of Thrones is set to begin airing in April. This likely means the show will be airing no more than a month after it premieres in the United States.

Casting Updates from GRRM

While getting back into the swing of things after his trip to Australia, George R.R. Martin has provided some interesting updates on casting.

The role of the youngest Stark child, Rickon, has finally been filled with the a Belfast-native child actor, Art Parkinson. He very briefly appears in the 2008 Northern Irish horror film Red Mist (produced by Mark Huffam, a key member of the Game of Thrones production):

art parkinson (1)

He seems about 5-7 years old here, so we suppose he’s in the 7-9 range, a good deal older than the 3-year-old described in the books.

More notably, the role of the maegi Mirri Maz Duur—a character who appears late in the first novel, and plays an important role in the narrative—has been given to Mia Soteriou (George writes Sotiriou, but the production confirms that Soteriou is correct). A vocal coach and theatre composer as well as an actress, she appeared in the international hit Mamma Mia!, and has a number of theatrical and television credits in the U.K. Looking at her photos, she certainly looks the part.

Finally, there’s been a minor change in the role Elyes Gabel is playing. Originally cast as the Dothraki warrior Jhogo, he has been redubbed Rakharo, another of Daenerys’s personal guards. The reason given was that it was felt Jhogo sounded too similar to Drogo. We discuss the differences between the two characters, such as they are, on our characters page.

Co-Executive Producer Dead at 60

Ralph Vicinanza, a co-executive producer on HBO’s Game of Thrones, has died at age 60. A cerebral aneurysm is blamed.

Vicinanza, along with Hollywood-based partner Vince Gerardis (who also shared a co-executive producer credit), ran the Created By management and production company which represents the film and television rights for most of the notable names in science fiction and fantasy, both past and present (among them are Stephen King, Larry Niven, Robin Hobb, Joe Haldeman, Isaac Asimov, and of course George R.R. Martin). It seems clear from the co-executive producer credit that Created By had a direct hand in bringing Game of Thrones to television. They are specifically mentioned by Martin when he first announced the HBO option on the series way back at the start of 2007.

Vicinanza had recently expanded his involvement from simply representing to having a more direct hand in developing projects, with his most notable other credit being one of the executive producers of FlashForward, which was based on Robert J. Sawyer’s novel of the same name. However, our understanding of Vicinanza’s co-executive producer status on Game of Throneswas that it was more a notional than a working position, and that his day-to-day involvement in the series was substantially less than GRRM’s.

Our condolences go out to his friends and family. A memorial service is planned on October 1st.

On Set Design

There’s been a new update on HBO’s official Making Game of Thrones site, this time a video—the first in an Artisans series of videos (yes!) from award-winning production designer Gemma Jackson. Here it is:

Notable details we spotted right off: a rendition of the 7-pointed star of the Faith, a closer look at the direwolf on the Stark banners, and the king’s feasting pavilion at the tourney fields.

The Competition

We’ve found some interesting information that has some indirect relevance to HBO’s Game of Thrones, concerning Starz’s Camelot. This Arthurian drama which may well be called a direct competitor to Game of Thrones, and may have been so even when both were just ideas floating around the networks. As we’ve speculated in the past, Camelot may have been the Arthurian project that was being considered by HBO as an alternative to Game of Thrones at the time when Chris Albrecht still ran the Warner Brothers subsidiary, and if so it doesn’t seem like much of a coincidence that it ended up with Starz now that Albrecht runs that cable company.

In any case, back in July the Wall Street Journal reported that the per episode budget was around $7 million, an extraordinary sum more than half again the speculated budget for Game of Thrones: So extraordinary, in fact, that we cast doubts on it in our report. As it happens, we were right to. In a press conference at the end of August, executive producer Morgan O’Sullivan apparently confirmed that the budget was 34.7 million Euros. This comes out to about $46 million for the 10 episode series, which is exactly the same as what we believe Game of Thrones to be at.

The $7 million per episode budget may have been nothing but hype ... or it may be a hint of the fact that the purchasing power of Starz’s money in Ireland means the show has a budget equivalent to $7 million compared to a similar show filmed in the United States. The interesting thing, of course, is that the Irish and Northern Irish tax incentives and other advantages for film and television productions are pretty similar. That would then fit our own speculation that Game of Thrones stands nearer a $6.5-$7 million per episode budget when compared to a similar production in the U.S., when these incentives and other benefits are factored in.

One last thing for Game of Thrones fans. Executive Producer Morgan O’Sullivan had this to say about the future of Camelot, and the words certainly apply to HBO’s epic fantasy drama:

‘I’m expecting that we will run for five years,’ O’Sullivan told the press this week. ‘We’ve an order for one season - for ten hour-long episodes - from the Starz cable television network in the US but, generally speaking, companies don’t invest in something like this for a single season. To get a proper return on your investment, you need to be thinking in terms of a longer run. We have mapped out a story that will carry “Camelot” through four or five seasons,’ he added.”
What the Dispatches Tell Us

Okay, still processing Bryan Cogman’s Dispatches from the Seven Kingdoms. By now, the majority of episodes IV and V have been completed, as has a large part of episode III. Going through it post by post:

  • July 23rd: A new scene between Ned and Cersei, not from the novels and not in episode IV. From episode IV—written by Cogman—is a tender scene between Ned and Arya. At a guess, this scene is the one that leads up to her dancing master being employed. At this time, the first week or two of filming are largely in the Red Keep sets in the Paint Hall studio.

  • July 29: Ned speaking with Grand Maester Pycelle, also from episode 4. This corresponds with Ned’s fifth chapter, his second after reaching King’s Landing. Still at the Paint Hall at this point, it looks like.

  • July 30: Big small council scene, which we’re told is one of three fatured across three episodes in the first season. Now, the list of people attending this scene is interesting: Mark Addy as Robert, Aidan Gillen as Littlefinger, Julian Glover as Pycelle, Sean Bean as Eddard Stark. Is this an entirely new scene, or one significantly changed up? There are, to my recollection, only three small council scenes in A Game of Thrones, only one of which has Robert present. But in that scene, Barristan Selmy (played by Ian McElhinney) is also present, and yet he isn’t mentioned. This may suggest that Robert has been inserted into one of the two earlier small council scenes—featured in Eddard’s first and third Kign’s Landing chapters—while for some reason (probably simply streamlining the cast to focus on fewer characters) Barristan the Bold has been left out.

    Of course, we do know that the last of Ned’s small council scene has already been shot, in part or in full, because we saw it in the teaser—here’s a frame. Given what Bryan has said, we think we can now place that scene from the teaser (which may not be the same scene as he’s watching) as being in episode V, directed by Brian Kirk. Very compressed storytelling, as episode V then encompasses both the tourney chapter from Ned and his following chapter. Things are moving pretty fast, all considered, if that’s the case. At a guess, the three small council scenes he mentions may be in episodes III, IV, and V respectively… or IV and V, and then one scene down the road that’s a bit different.

  • August 3: The first day on location, at Leslie Hill as we previously reported (here’s a Ballymoney Times article about this. We can see from the Behind the Scenes featurette that footage was also shot there on the next day if we read that slate right, and that it would all have been for episode III, directed by Brian Kirk. A new name is mentioned, Paul Jennings, as stunt coordinator. Jennings has some significant credits, including Batman Begins (where Buster Reeves, the series’ fight arranger, was the lead stunt double for Christian Bale). Post-production digital effects will be used to expand the Leslie Hill area to represent the Dothraki sea.

  • August 5: Filming at Leslie Hill is done and we go to the “opposite end” of Northern Ireland. This was a bit confusing, but Leslie Hill’s to the north of Belfast, whereas we believe Sandy Brae is in the Mourne Mountains region in the southeast corner of the country. If that’s right, Vaes Dothrak is well-situated in a region that has some mountains, as the Dothraki city is situated next to the holy Mother of Mountains. The usual cast you expect will be there is there.

Now, to the present. Bryan mentions scenes with Bran and Tyrion’s stand-in. Hrm… Tyrion’s stand-in? Scenes from Bran’s bedchamber? This leads us to some speculation, to say the least, about the content of episode IV. But, equally possible, it’s general shooting of scenes from the first episode. The original pilot is in the process of reshoots, due to recasting and various other tweaks. We know from recent reports that Castle Ward has been used for filming for the last several days.

A final comment: if large parts of episodes III, IV, and V have been shot… might it make sense that Brian Kirk is in charge of four of the total episodes of the series? Certainly, III and V are definitely Kirk episodes, and it seems difficult to imagine so much of IV having been done if they were constantly switching directors from shoot to shoot during the day. We’ve also previously reported the possibility that Kirk is in charge of the reshoots for the pilot episode, which may be what’s presently being shot.

(Oh, and as a bit of trivia, the scrolls can be partially read if you reverse the image. “Aegon Targaryen, the Fourth of his Reign, King of the Andals and the First Men” can be clearly read. Nice! We’re going to guess that the scroll is one among many on Grand Maester Pycelle’s table. Of course… there’s a lack of reference to the Rhoynar. There’s a couple possible reasons for this, perfectly consistent with the setting—and, in particular, with that particular Targaryen king—and we hope one of those reasons are relevant.)

New Making Of Post

There’s a new post at HBO’s official Making Game of Thrones production blog, written by writer and producers’ assistant Bryan Cogman. In it, he describes being at the location which represents Winterfell—probably Castle Ward—and watching Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran.

And then… there’s more, as they link to backdated entries from earlier in the shoot. Fascinating material, stretching over many weeks! For example, in this post from the first day of shooting (July 23rd), he says that Cersei and Ned are having a juicy scene which is not from the books. I suspect this would be a scene in King’s Landing from other things we have heard about the early part of the production. And then after that, a scene from his own episode, episode 4. He notes that most filming in the first weeks was at the Paint Hall and the Red Keep sets there.

There’s really too much to digest right off, so go ahead and read it yourself. The dispatches run through August 5th. Our thoughts on what it says about the production schedule will come later.

Call for Extras on Malta

Discussion about the urgent call for extras led @DocFourFour to note that open calls for extras are often advertised in newspapers. One thing led to another, and the magic of the Internet led me to this call for extras from the 19th. Is this for HBO’s Game of Thrones? If so, it reveals some interesting things about production plans.

First, we can’t absolutely confirm the “international television production” in question isGame of Thrones. However, looking at the Malta Film Commission’s list of productions, we’ve been able to rule out most of these. Kammerspiel, The Medium, and Valleta Living History have all already filmed. 247 Tage is a modern piece, rather than period, as is Tailor-Made Murder and Christmas, Lent Easter. Adrift

sounds similar, though we can’t find anything

appears to be a US-Italy co-production about Robinson Crusoe. This leaves the question of just what The Last Roman is, and whether it’s filmed already or not; we’ve been unable to find any information in this regards, but we’re going to suppose it’s unlikely. It seems likely that the list is done in chronological order of filming, in which case, The Last Roman—whatever it is—filmed earlier in the year. Finally, Sky is due to film a Sinbad TV series in Malta ... but not until February of next year.

So, lets assume it’s Game of Thrones. This casting call was originally published in August, and clearly is basically the same: men and women with medium to long hair, men willing to grow beards, horsemen, and drummers (an interesting detail, actually, but we suspect this may relate to the use of drums at the wedding scene). The newest call from the 19th gets rather more specific, which suggests they are trying to fill particular areas where they’re lacking.

So, now it’s fair or blonde men and women specified, as well as Gozitan men and women of Mediterranean appearance. If this is for the TV show, that reveals that the Malta scenes are going to include a significant amount of non-Dothraki. These could be extras for Pentos, or to represent the Western Market in Vaes Dothrak, or they could even be a radical change to the ethnicity of the Lhazreen people. There’s also the possibility that some scenes meant to be set in King’s Landing will be filmed there, as per our earlier report.

The Gozitan men and women, on the other hand, clearly indicates that the island of Gozo is also being used for filming. Gozo, part of the Maltese archipelago, is known for its scenic hills and natural beauty, and we can’t help but notice that they have terraced hills that put us in mind of the description of the Free City of Norvos that Drogo’s khalasar travel past. The island could be intended for the bulk of scenes and scenery set on the Dothraki Sea that are shot in the Maltese archipelago.

We’ll update if we’re able to gain any confirmation regarding the casting call being related to Game of Thrones.

Muscular Dothraki Warriors Wanted

Extras NI has put out a fresh, urgent call for extras to be Dothraki Warriors. The specific brief is for “dark, swarthy skinned, muscly men that are at least 5 ft 10 to 6 ft 6 in height”. Contact information is provided in the above link.

It’s been noted to us that second unit filming in Malta was already supposed to have begun, and principal filming was set to start in October. Could the urgency of this call for extras be a suggestion that there’s a problem with obtaining sufficient extras at the Malta end?  It’s interesting to wonder whether any of these extras will find themselves offered a trip to Malta for the several weeks of shooting there.

GRRM on Game of Thrones

Thanks to LordMountainGoat, we now have video of George R.R. Martin’s Worldcon panel in which he discusses the series. As previously reported, George had wanted to show some of his personal materials and to go into more depth, but at that time HBO was very closed-mouth. Therefore, his discussion of the series is fairly general. Still, makes for interesting listening as he discusses the genesis of the series. Note that there are spoilers:



 

New Gallery Images

We’ve added screencaps fromHBO’s Fall/Winter 2010 preview video, featuring Sean Bean as Eddard Stark and Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy, to the gallery. These shots are interesting in that they probably give us our best idea of how the series will look when it hits the air, as the teaser footage makes use of a very dark filter and the behind the scenes is straight-up documtenary footage.

Directorial Minutae

One of the details to come out of the new material from HBO is a hint of what directors are doing. We’ve previously reported on the fact that Northern Irish director Brian Kirk was confirmed to be filming two of the episodes of the series. The behind-the-scenes twice show slates bearing Kirk’s name as director of the depicted scenes, with episodes #3 apparently featuring the Dothraki and Viserys sequences seen in the preview, and with episode #5 featuring Lady Catelyn in the Vale.

However, a recent report reveals that Kirk was involved in reshooting at least one scene from the pilot, originally directed by noted actor and director, Thomas McCarthy. Given the loss of the Doune Castle location as well as the recasting Catelyn Stark, it seems likely a very large portion of the scenes set in Winterfell will need to be reshot (much as the recasting of Daenerys and the move to Malta for filming Dothraki scenes likely means heavy reshooting there as well).

If Kirk is handling the reshoots in their entirety, rather than filling in for McCarthy for certain scenes, that would suggest he’s a lynchpin in determining the shooting style of the production.

Filming at Castle Ward

As reported last night, Castle Ward is once again being used to film Winterfell scenes. Being open to the public on a number of occasions, some fans of the series have been able to drop by and take a look at the constructed sets there, getting a glimpse of a number of interesting features. We have new pictures taken today, courtesy of silverjaime, while filming was actually in progress on a scene featuring Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran Stark. In fact, in one of them, you can just glimpse his lower body behind some sort of screen:

Isaac's scene

Word has it that many different locations will be used throughout Northern Ireland. Among those we know of that have or will be used are Magheramorne Quarry, Shane’s Castle, Castle Ward, Tollymore Forest Park, sites in Ballymoney and Ballycarry, and doubtless quite a few more.