Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were at the Austin Film Festival where they shared all the lessons they learned, and how unprepared they were, for making the hit HBO series.
The ending of Game of Thrones tore the internet and fandom apart. The show became a worldwide obsession and still is. We will likely never experience another phenomenon like that on TV again. So it is hard to believe that two writers -- with limited television experience and a few specs and sales under their belt -- could launch such a landmark series.
But that is exactly what they did. As fans of the books, they pitched to HBO, got author George R.R. Martin to sign off on them as the creative forces behind the show, and helped usher in a new era of prestige (and expensive) TV. While attending the Austin Film Festival this past weekend, Weiss and Benioff gave a candid Q & A about their low experience level when the show started, the mistakes they made in that infamous first pilot (that was rejected, recast, and reshot), and what their creative process was in shaping stories for the series with a limited writer's room.
Their skillset and understanding of the filmmaking process grew with the show -- and eventually, arguably -- grew out of it. But with any unmitigated success story comes lots of drama. Questions about competency, rushing plot, and what happened when the books ran out complicated the final seasons.
While we were not lucky enough to be in the audience for the Q&A, Twitter user, and writer, Needle & Pen live-tweeted the session. This is a transcript of what was tweeted and has been verified by other news outlets.
Check it out!
Wow, lots to unpack here.
First, let's highlight that Twitter is not the best place to judge context or jokes. Without being in the room at AFF, you can understand why a lot of people are upset over them "bragging" that they didn't have much experience before landing the show. It is hard to not feel for them when they describe how they had to learn all their lessons in real time. On set.
There was no way to predict that the show would become the success it was, so it was kind of cool hearing how they adjusted on the fly, and trusted their more experienced friends to help them plug plot and character holes.
Some positive things to focus on:
- The found Jason Momoa from a fan's casting website that had their dream wish-list.
- They worked on a pitch that sold the show, focusing on pitching the pilot over the whole series.
- When times got tough, they relied on their friends to help them
I laughed at them saying the maps that people used helped them a ton. I got lost watching the show a few times and would print out maps when the show started. From there, I would try to figure out what happened where. (This didn't help in the final season at all.)
Another interesting detail was how they actively pushed magic out of the story. They liked the politics of it all and how that impact the pending war, so seeing how much effort they put into making it a more grounded story.
While most of what made headlines are the controversial statements, attention must be paid to how open they were with their process and the learning curve therein.
Though some criticisms are valid. These guys clearly needed an actual room of writers once the show got going, just to help track the story while they dealt with everything else. And the lack of consistent female voices to help shape that story surely held them back when fleshing out some key plotlines, especially the ones dealing with assault.
To that end, a more diverse group working behind the scenes would have helped them achieve more diversity on-screen, which was a popular criticims leveled at the series.
No matter the case, use the thread as a list of lessons for you. Can't wait to see which of you creates the next $100+ million TV masterpiece.
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