Game of Thrones just began their 7th season, and it only seems to get better. Upon the show’s launch, it was the talk of everyone – both watchers and non-watchers alike. With the growth of popularity, also increased has been their budget and production scale.
There are fans from around the world looking at every word and action with such detail that it’s imperative that all departments are in perfect coordination and communication across this production, working together to ensure it’s able to deliver the season on time.
Thinking about process week after week got me thinking more about what goes into developing GoT, and the continued challenge to make each new season better than the last. The production of season 7 took seven months to produce sprawling multiple counties, with hundreds of cast and crew – a bigger scale than any other show on the air. Some of the overall contributors to this masterpiece are directors, cinematographers, editors, costume design, makeup, visual effects, sound, title sequence, music, language control, script writers, and managers to name a few. Each character comes to life with the work and coordination of multiple people from many departments. For example, costumes vary in material and are worn for two weeks before production to ensure a natural look. Wardrobe must order and acquire each costume, then coordinate with makeup/actors when this particular piece will be worn far in advance as well as how and when it will be put on– this takes a very well-tuned process. Now on to hair, there are over 2 dozen wigs used in the production – all corresponding to different actors which can take up to 5 hours to prepare. The scope of this production seems never ending and incredibly complicated.
Even the process of script procurement is complex and agile. The creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss work with script writer Biran Cogman to create the scripts. Once they perfected the process of writing each episode, they stuck with this formula. When one season is being shot, the next season is being brainstormed. Their creative process according to Brian Cogman is that they begin with “Character X’ starts at ‘blank’ and we want him or her to end up at ‘blank.’ Then, as we start to approach the end of production, David & Dan, in some years, will assign the various writers a few characters… we’d meet for about two or three weeks, armed with the work we’d all done individually, and throw it all up on the board. You debate, you use some stuff, you throw some stuff out, you think up some new stuff. Sometimes what you end up with is really close to the individual outlines. Sometimes it’s very different.” It’s an incredibly collaborative process, and apparently, works perfectly bringing depth to each character’s story.
Thinking about what the process map for a show like this must look like made me look at the show through a different lens. A typical day in the production of GoT consists of a team of hundreds sprawling 3 countries if there is a cog in any of the wheels the whole production could collapse. They meet this deliverable by shooting in 2 units at all times, each unit is run by a producer who coordinates with the shooting producers in all three countries. Each country offering a new set of obstacles, such as tight roads preventing set trucks from entering- meaning the crew must move every piece of the set and equipment themselves. After the equipment is in place, two rehearsals follow, followed by filming – shoot, shoot again, and reshoot. Then they must pack everything up and move to another set. Each set has their own and varied process to follow. The makeup departments have to travel together and be cross trained to create a consistent visual experience. Shooting in multiple countries requires constant communications between everyone at each location. And don’t forget about HR – they receive 86,000 applications for extras in their production each year.
In one day alone there can be about 450 crew members working behind the cameras. Season 5 was shot in 5 countries, with 151 sets, over 240 days, with 166 cast members (each with their own makeup and wardrobe), over 1000 crew members and over 5,000 extras. Not even to mention, distribution to 193 countries. Since then, the production and budget have only increased in size.
The process map for a production like this would be massive, with the main cast web that looks like this:
I’m pretty sure they will write a book about it one day. But it makes made think about the many things that all have to go right and the level and expertise and communication needed to make sure a production like this is a success.
Knowing more about what it takes to produce one day of filming for GoT makes me feel a lot better about coordinating efforts within my own organization.
Has the coursework changes anyone else’s views of the world around you? Does it make you question the process in which things are done?
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