Game of Thrones is a television show that can be painful to watch. Painful, not because of low quality–nothing could be further from the truth. Painful because of the shocking twists and turns and emotional turmoil the constant loss of beloved characters causes. Even fans who have read the books that have been released so far find watching tragic scenes that they knew were coming to be quite difficult. Despite this, there is one thing which is most painful to all fans–the wait. Each season, ten episodes of Game of Thrones go by quickly, and the audience learns more about how and why winter will come to Westeros–eventually. The final episode will inevitably leave the viewer cliffhanging with several of the major characters, kicking off a one year (sometimes longer) wait until the next season. The long wait seems unjustified, as most TV shows pick up again in much less than a year. Game of Thrones is not most TV shows.
The production of Game of Thrones is on a scale beyond most feature films. Many television shows film on sound stages or back lots. Game of Thrones, however, films in places like Ireland, Scotland, Malta, and Croatia, with the list of locations expanding each season. The series does not have a singular, central plot line or character, so each individual character arc needs its own set of locations. The eventual Game of Thrones winter is shown coming to the Stark’s city of Winterfell, filmed in Scotland, while Daenerys Targaryen’s rise to power is filmed in distant Malta. This style of real on-location filming gives the show its massive feel, and makes the fantasy world seem like a real living and breathing place. What it also does is take time. At each of these locations hundreds of people must be outfitted with handmade costumes designed specifically for the proper characters and regions where they will be worn. Along with the costumes that must be created, props and set pieces must match their respective locations. Once all of these aspects of filming are taken care of, the actual filming can commence.
The Game of Thrones pilot episode took approximately one month just to shoot, when very few characters had been introduced and far fewer locations were necessary. With each of a season’s ten episodes afforded nearly an hour’s run time, the filming of a season takes the better part of six months. After the completion of filming comes post production, most notably the computer generated visual effects. TV shows are not often known for their wonderful visual effects, but the pilot had Robert Stromberg coming straight off of his work on the James Cameron film Avatar to work on visual effects. This kind of quality set the bar for the rest of the series, where the number of fantastical visuals only increases as the story progresses and grows in scale.
Each of these aspects in the creation of Game of Thrones requires a small army of artisans and creative workers to be fully realized. When one looks at all that goes into this groundbreaking show, it seems almost miraculous that the fans get to see the story progress as often as they do. So whenever Game of Thrones fans are itching for the next season they just need to remember winter is coming–eventually.
Opinion by Matt Isaacs