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Starz All-In on Historical Dramas

This may be of interest to expectant fans of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Chris Albrecht, head of HBO when the channel optioned George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series and now head of Starz, has revealed that his cable network is going to focus its development on historical/fantasy-flavored productions for the time being, according to this Variety report from the MIP TV exhibition at Cannes (familiar to GoT followers as the location where international broadcasting rights for Game of Thrones would first be negotiated).

Starz has already had a great deal of success with Spartacus: Blood and Sand, so much so that the delay in production in season 2 (due to lead Andy Whitfield’s ongoing treatment for a recently discovered non-Hodgkins lymphoma) has them considering a spin-off miniseries to fill time. They also recently acquired broadcast rights to Pillars of the Earth, a big-budget miniseries set in 12th century England based on Ken Follett’s international bestselling novel, and are bringing Arthurian romance-adventure Camelot into production.

This trend appears to be continuing, with Albrecht revealing that Starz is now also developing a mini-series titled William the Conqueror, based on the life of the Norman duke (known in his earlier days as William the Bastard) who would become King of England. There’s a choice quote from Albrecht as well: “The business model is going to be: If it’s got a sword, we want it,” Albrecht joked. “But (picking up) a good contemporary or futuristic piece right now might not be bad.” As to his former home, he calls HBO “kind of a colossus” as far as original programming goes, but he hopes Starz will carve out a niche as “entertaining”, suggesting this strategy is aimed at pleasing the crowds more than at pleasing critics.

What’s interesting about it is that Albrecht’s instincts seem to have been pretty solid, and his instincts have been indicating that there’s a definite place for historical/historical-fantasy original drama on cable. Others seem to agree, given Showtime’s bringing The Tudors to a close only to be readying Borgias to replace it as a sumptuous historical drama, and many more are making that very same bet with shows such as “The Medici” and “Pharoh” being produced internationally. Game of Thrones is the most clearly fantastical of the lot (it remains to be seen whether Camelot will take a more historical or fanciful approach), and certainly one of the highest-budgetted, so it may be argued that HBO’s taking the largest risk into unknown territory. Up to now, fantasy epics on television have been more along the lines of Xena than The Lord of the Rings.

It looks like fans of pre-Modern costume dramas are going to have a feast to choose from later this year and through next. Will all the bets on these costume dramas pan out? 2011 will let us know.

A Little News from C2E2

We have a report from C2E2 regarding GRRM’s remarks at the Q&A session on Friday night, (many) thanks to lady narcissa. GRRM remarked on the ages of the characters as they compared to the series:

“GRRM talked a bit about how well people age these days and how much better looking everyone is so they went with older actors to play the adult characters (generally 10 years older). With regards to the children’s ages, he talked about how he mistakingly didn’t age the children quickly enough in the first book…how the first chapter should have taken place 6 months before the second…so the children were made older for the tv series. He mentioned the obvious necessity for this with Dany and what she goes through and needing an older actress because you couldn’t go around trying to explain to the tv audience - but it was okay for 13 year olds to get married back in the old days.”

And in a somewhat more spoilery fashion (and spoiler-protected by the thoughtful lady narcissa), something of what his script for episode 8 of HBO’s Game of Thrones series will cover. Visit the linked report to read the full details there.

Kit Harrington in Posh

Kit Harington, the actor cast as Jon Snow in HBO’s Game of Thrones, is presently playing in Posh, staged by the Royal Court Theatre in London from April 9th to May 22nd. The Royal Court Theatre has release a photo of the young actor in his role as Ed Montgomery. Two more photos, out of costume, can be found here and here.

A notable feature? His long hair, longer than at the Eason’s Signing (see last photo). According to those present, Harington said he wore a wig for filming but if the series recieved the greenlight he’d grow out his hair, and that does seem to be what he’s doing.

For those in the London-area who might want to see the play and report on Harington’s performance, there’s a review with some commentary.

Thanks to The_Rabbit01 for the tip.

GRRM on the Script

In the course of a pre-C2E2 update, George R.R. Martin indicates that he had an excellent day of work, half of it spent on the book and half on the script for episode 8 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, something he says he never does, but it happened to work well.

He hopes for more days such as this, and will be back from Chicago on Tuesday.

He adds a final postscript: “Soon.” We leave the interpretation of this up to our readers.

TV Book Sales Followup

As an addendum to our earlier report on how much impact having a television show associated with a novel series can have, we were very interested to read Andrew Wheeler’s 2009 genre bestseller review which provides some hard numbers to go with the figures.

The enormous sales of Stephanie Meyers works are, of course, duly noted. Of particular interest to HBO and Game of Thrones fans, however, would be Charlaine Harris’s works. In 2009 she released not one, but two, novels. The first of these became the 25th biggest hardfback fiction seller, with half a million copies sold, while the newest one had sold 270,000 copies by the time the list was compiled, despite an October publication. More notably, in terms of paperback sales, she had nine notable works and sold just shy of 6 million copies in the course of the year.

Compare to 2007, where Harris’s All Together Dead sold just over 105,000 copies in the year (May publication date) and you can see the quadrupling of interest in new release, hardcover fiction from the author. As noted in the previous article, the impact on sales of A Song of Ice and Fire will probably be not quite so noticeable even if it’s a runaway hit, simply due to the already-high sales of the series and the greater commitment involved in reading them compared to the lighter, episodic Stackhouse novels. Still, the gains (especially in paperback) could be quite considerable.

Conlang in Film and Television

Although this interview posted by the Language Creation Society is with Professor Paul Frommer, most famous for having created the Na’vi language in the recordbreaking box office hit Avatar, there’s two reasons why expectant fans of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones should listen to it.

First, Professor Frommer’s remarks concerning the process of how he acquired the job, how he approached constructing the Na’vi language, and his experiences in teaching the actors and dealing with being on set, being called upon to create new language at a moment’s notice, and more, is certainly going to be informative about how the Dothraki language‘s creator, David J. Peterson, will likely be interacting with the television show. Details such as having MP3 files ready for actors to download onto iPods so they can memorize their lines are interesting.

Second, the interviewer just happens to be David J. Peterson. The interview was recorded in January, after he had done his work for the Game of Thrones pilot, and you can imagine his mentally comparing notes as Frommer reminisced on the process of constructing a language within the strictures of film making.

Blonder Peter Dinklage?

At the premiere for his latest film, Peter Dinklage was sporting longer, blonder hair than is his usual wont. Now, we’ll note that he just wrapped filming in New Orleans on Earthbound with Kate Hudson, so the styling may be for that; or, just as easily, it’s his personal choice and has nothing to do with Game of Thrones (I’m told that highlighting your hair months out from a shoot is probably not the most effective approach).

But ... it’s interesting to speculate, because when we saw it, what immediately leapt to mind is the description of Tyrion’s beard as a mix of pale and dark hairs. While in the novel, the hair of his head is supposed to be a platinum blond, might the production find it easier to take Tyrion’s beard for the whole, and mix blonde highlights with Dinklage’s darker natural hair?

Thanks to trio at the A Song of Ice and Fire forum for the tip!

Exec on Game of Thrones Reshoots

Michael Lombardo, president of HBO, has remarked to the Hollywood Reporter about the fact thatGame of Thrones will be ready to air at about the same time as Treme‘s second season, which the cable channel ordered with remarkable haste after having just aired the debut episode.  In speaking about Game of Thrones, he goes on to say, “It looks beautiful, the compelling scripts are just fantastic, we’re doing re-shoots but nothing major… The show is there.” The re-shoots were expected to deal with Michelle Fairley’s replacement of Jennifer Ehle in the role of Catelyn Stark.

The “nothing major”, however, is interesting. Given recent news, there’s the possibility of some decidedly major re-shooting in the near future… or is there? As we indicated in our original post, we recommend caution for those assuming with a certainty that the role of Daenerys has been recast. On the other hand, if they’re still searching for Daenerys, we suppose it’s true that there’s nothing major about the current reshoots… but Lombardo may be aware that future re-shoots may be much more significant.

Spoken Dothraki

The Language Creation Society has kindly provided some audio samples of a few of the words David J. Peterson has created for the Dothraki language. It’ll be great to hear more in the future as the series, and the language, progresses. The LCS have started up a Facebook Page for Dothraki, as well as a Livejournal account.

George R.R. Martin has shared his own relationship to invented languages, and finishes up with needing to find out what, “It is known,” is in Dothraki.

More on Dothraki

The Language Creation Society has posted the press release from HBO that we’ve reported extensively on. We’ve been told by the President of the LCS, Sai Emrys, that this will be the page to keep an eye on for future updates from the Society on their work for HBO.

We’ve spoken a bit with Mr. Emrys about the news. He’s added that they will look into posting audio files of spoken Dothraki so fans can get a taste of what they’ll be hearing on the show. As we noted from our initial report, LCS has the potential to provide all language creation services for the series, which could mean Valyrian and its dialects, and even the language of the First Men, could be on the table in the future. When I asked him about this, Mr. Emrys stated, “We’d be happy to create all the other languages in the world of ASOIAF,” although to some degree it will depend on whether the production company feels the time and effort has proved worth it.

And what decides that? Fan response and interest as the series air date approaches and the first season airs. If the production company believes that the created languages add verisimilitude and appeal for fans, they’ll likely commission more.

Keep an eye out on Westeros.org and the Language Creation Society for more news and interesting developments in the future.

Dothraki Language for Game of Thrones

HBO has sent out a press release concerning the Language Creation Society, which was hired to created the Dothraki language as shown in HBO’s Game of Thrones. That the producers had hired a linguist to develop the Dothraki language for the pilot has been previously reported at the time that the pilot was being filmed in Northern Ireland. The press release, with additional details and commentary, follows:

For Immediate Release April 12, 2010

EXPERT CREATES LANGUAGE FOR NEW HBO SERIES GAME OF THRONES

David J. Peterson, an expert language creator from the Language Creation Society (LCS), has been chosen to create the Dothraki language for HBO’s upcoming fantasy series GAME OF THRONES, based on the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” by George R.R. Martin.

When GAME OF THRONES executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss needed a language for the Dothraki, Martin’s race of nomadic warriors, they turned to the Language Creation Society.  The LCS solicited and vetted a number of proposals for the Dothraki language from its pool of experts, with Peterson’s proposal ultimately being selected by the GAME OF THRONES production team.

Peterson drew inspiration from George R.R. Martin’s description of the language, as well as from such languages as Russian, Turkish, Estonian, Inuktitut and Swahili.  However, the Dothraki language is no mere hodgepodge, babble or pidgin.  It has its own unique sound, extensive vocabulary of more than 1,800 words and complex grammatical structure.

“In designing Dothraki, I wanted to remain as faithful as possible to the extant material in George R.R. Martin’s series,” says Peterson.  “Though there isn’t a lot of data, there is evidence of a dominant word order [subject-verb-object], of adjectives appearing after nouns, and of the lack of a copula [‘to be’].  I’ve remained faithful to these elements, creating a sound aesthetic that will be familiar to readers, while giving the language depth and authenticity.  My fondest desire is for fans of the series to look at a word from the Dothraki language and be unable to tell if it came from the books or from me — and for viewers not even to realize it’s a constructed language.”

“We’re tremendously excited to be working with David and the LCS,” says producer D.B. Weiss.  “The language he’s devised is phenomenal.  It captures the essence of the Dothraki, and brings another level of richness to their world.  We look forward to his first collection of Dothraki love sonnets.”

Did you know?  (Hash yer ray nesi?)

The name for the Dothraki people — and their language — derives from the verb “dothralat” (“to ride”).

The Dothraki have four different words for “carry,” three for “push,” three for “pull” and at least eight for “horse,” but no word that means “please” or “follow.”

The longest word in Dothraki is “athastokhdeveshizaroon,” which means “from nonsense.”

The words for “related,” “weighted net,” “eclipse,” “dispute,” “redhead,” “oath,” “funeral pyre,” “evidence,” “omen,” “fang” and “harvest moon” all have one element in common:  “qoy,” the Dothraki word for “blood.”

Dothraki for “to dream” – “thirat atthiraride” – literally means “to live a wooden life”; in Dothraki, “wooden” (“ido”) is synonymous with “fake.”

The word for “pride” – “athjahakar” – is derived from “jahak,” the traditional long braid worn by Dothraki warriors (“lajaki”).

More information about the Dothraki language (and their love poems) will be released over the course of the series.

From a fan perspective, this latest news is quite remarkable because it shows the degree to which the producers envision the series as an immersive experience, bringing viewers into the living, breathing world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. The novels only feature a handful of words and phrases in the Dothraki language, as Martin has noted he’s not a linguist and only creates words when he needs them. The television show is apparently intent on extending this, in a way not dissimilar to how the Klingon language was created around the nucleus of a handful of phrases written by James Doohan for the Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The number of words reported—1,800, with a detailed grammar—is said to be right in line with “language that is actually meant to be used to communicate.”

We believe we’ve discovered the original call for submissions sent to the conlang community. It was first posted on September 4, 2009. One can see that the details fit the series: graphic violence, a fantasy setting with some prepared vocabulary, a pilot with the possibility of 10-12 episodes a season. According to this page, David Peterson provided the most interesting proposal but other names are mentioned.. One leaps out at us: Bill Welden, a Tolkienian language expert who was involved in The Lord of the Rings films. On his Livejournal, Peterson wrote at the end of 2009 of 2009 that the, “biggest bit of unexpected news was the television job to create a language. Still can’t wait to say more about that. Come March, I should be able to say everything. This project, though, cut into my August, September, October and November.” He had posted some additional information at the start of November:

But, of course, the largest enterprise I undertook over the course of the last month (two months, really) was I applied for a job posted by the LCS. Without going into details, the job was to create a language for an upcoming television show. The application process was exhausting (took most of my free time for the past two months), and there were a ton of excellent conlangers applying. At the beginning of this month, I was informed that I’d moved onto the final round, and this past Friday, I was informed that I’d won.

....

Until someone somewhere leaks the information, or I’m given the okay by the network, I signed a thing saying I wouldn’t say anything about the series, so all I can say for now is that it’s a major TV network, and the show is, at this point in time, guaranteed a pilot (and I’m guaranteed work for the pilot). If the pilot is picked up, the show will get a one season run, and I’m guaranteed work for the first season. Thereafter, I imagine it will depend on the show’s popularity, the quality of my work, and the direction of the show. Still and all, very exciting!

On December 2nd he remarked that the job proved to be less work-intensive than he had expected, suggesting that the amount of Dothraki used in the pilot is not as great as first envisioned; or at least, the amount of work that went into preparing the “artistic language” for the show was greater than what ended up on screen to start with. Examples of Peterson’s constructed languages can be found at his page on the Language Creation Society website.

The Language Creation Society was founded in 2007 and it seems they offer language creation services for television, film, fiction, and other endeavors, with Game of Thrones appearing to be their first major client.

Dothraki Wedding Dancer

This Is Local London, a conglomerate of local newspapers, has posted a brief article concerning a 26-year-old dancer, Kelechi Nwanokwu, who appears in HBO’s pilot for Game of Thrones. It seems likely she is one of a number of dancers who performed in the Dothraki wedding scene, a scene we’re guessing was choreographed by Javier de Frutos. A picture of Ms. Nwanokwu and other dancers can be found at GRRM’s “Not a Blog”, when he posted about the wrap party in Ouarzazate, Morocco.

Correction: Dany Casting in the U.K.

This is what we get for being over-excitable at the moment. Below we discuss a casting call for a new TV series from a “Major American production company”, shooting to start in June, lasting 6 months. We assumed that it was very likely for Daenerys. However, a bit of googling reveals more details of the role:

“Description:

Playing age 14-18 years.

With the face of and Angel and the Heart of a devil, the leading lady in this groundbreaking TV series is from a Spanish family that have moved to Italy. Has to be very petite and Manipulative in nature. RP / Neutral Accent.”

At a guess, this is for Showtime’s Borgias. For the sake of completeness, we’ll maintain our full speculation below, but we’ll emphasize that it’s clearly wrong. False alarm!

Thanks to the sharp-eyed Rabbit, it looks like the mystery of U.K. casting calls for Dany—something we were sure was taking place, but could never find any evidence for—may have been resolved. There’s a notice at the Casting Website in the U.K. which states the following:

“Major American production company is launching a new TV series to be aired to a UK audience. Looking for the leading girl to star in this ground breaking production. 6 Months filming from June.”

Most notably? Closing date is given as March 21st, which implies a couple of things: the call must have gone out at least a week prior to that date, and perhaps longer, and that the U.K. casting may have already progressed to the point of narrowing down to a couple of choices there. Given GRRM’s recent reference to looking at audition tapes from HBO, we might assume they’re starting to get pretty close. However, we do know that casting is still going on in New York City, with head shots and resumes still being solicited for actresses.

It’s entirely possible that this is for some other show entirely, but the timing fits perfectly with what we’ve been told before: June start and ~24 weeks of filming. To be fair, the same might be said of Starz! Camelot, also set to begin production in June in Ireland. If we can get a definitive answer as to what production the breakdown was for, we’ll report it.

International Rights

George R.R. Martin clarifies the situation for international viewers, in regards to if and when they will be able to watch HBO’s Game of Thrones on television in their native countries. GRRM goes through a list of countries and territories:

Canada: HBO Canada will air it at the same days and times as in the U.S. Canada, the show will be seen on HBO Canada, same days and times as in the US.

Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, and Chile: It will air on HBO Latin America, though days and times may vary.

France: It will air on Orange.

Israel: It will air on DBS.

Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic: It will air on HBO Central Europe

Asia: It will be offered by HBO Asia to countries within their territory, but not all will necessarily carry it (in some cases due to content restrictions in those countries).

As for the countries not listed here… next week in Cannes, the MIPTV trade show will be attended by broadcasters and program directors from around the globe. HBO will have a presence, screening its shows and selling foreign broadcast rights. Game of Thrones will be on the table as well, and Martin says that in a few weeks HBO should know which countries will be opting to air the series.

Arya at her Needlework

GRRM has shared a great pair of photos showing Maisie Williams—cast as Arya Stark—posing with Valyrian Steel‘s replica of Arya’s sword, Needle. She looks very Arya-like, if we may say so! Valyrian Steel has two additional photos on their site

GRRM also confirms that filming commences in June in Northern Ireland. Not all actors may be in the area at that time, however, as Jason Momoa and Nikolai Coster-Waldau have both indicated they’re scheduled to start in early July.