A New View of Iceland

What did the 'Game of Thrones' cast and crew do on their summer "vacation"? They went to Iceland. Filming in the warm season allowed the production to luxuriate in luscious, green landscapes instead of huddling for warmth as in past years. Go behind the scenes of the summer shoot:

Season 3 Wraps on a Frozen Mountain

By Cat Taylor


Photo Credit: Helen Sloan

After months of working long hours, in multiple countries and on different units, sometimes things blur together. The start of shooting feels like years ago, the end of last season even further back, but it’s all come rushing back because here we are, on the very last day of shooting, and the scene we are filming is from the very beginning of the first episode, directed by Dan Minahan. We have come completely full circle in 6 months.

We are filming by special permission at the power station in Krafla, high on the top of a mountain with steam plumes from a geothermal spa nearby twisting into the sky. Every so often a waft of the sulphurous waters blows by. It’s not really a welcome visit.

We have lost 7 minutes of light per day since arriving in Iceland. Winter is coming – and seems to be on a tight schedule – so every moment counts. It’s always hard to keep to time when you are also shooting a big stunt, something that has to be done right the first time, as there is no time to reset the scene (or in this case, the stunt). When that stunt also involves VFX, it’s even more important to get it right. Added to that, on the other side of base camp a small splinter unit with a single camera is filming some insert shots, so cast members are running between the two areas to make the best use of the day.

Finally, it’s time to film the big scene. Anything involving fire is always going to be one of the most dangerous things to shoot, and when it’s fire and a person everyone is on high alert. The stunt and safety teams are close at hand, and all non-essential crew are moved back to base. When the flame drops, there is only a short window of maybe 20 seconds to get the shot, and once the stunt man is lit, that’s all the time you have, whether you get it or not. Let me just say this: We got it.

It’s then a race against time as the sun begins to set over the mountains, and the very last shot of the season is a tough one. Our extras are knee deep in the heavy snow and must trudge through it repeatedly, with the light dwindling overhead. It’s an epically beautiful, haunting shot, and for me, it will be how I remember Iceland this year. Well, that and the Hakka-like chant of the Night's Watch extras when the final cut was called.

Mance Rayder’s Camp

By Cat Taylor


Photo Credit: Helen SloanSome of you may have read a previous post where I talked about our first meeting with Mance Rayder and how hot his tent became with all the SFX fires and torches burning throughout the day.

Even if we are filming on a Lava field here in Iceland, it’s not hot anymore – the car display indicates the temperature is minus 11 degrees. It’s day five, and all of Mance’s camp, not just the inside of his tent, is laid out before us. The camp is the product of months of work from the art department and weeks of construction by the local crew. It is spectacular.

Walking from base, the edge of the camp is only a few feet away, but the site is like a fantasy. If you can ignore the cameras and crew, you might believe you were actually inside a wilding village. Our extras (the men all with fabulous beards of course) work in between the huts or huddle around fires, and even children run through the snow to greet a visitor from the Wall, in their own special way.

It’s also a day when our friend Ian Whyte, who plays the White Walker, is back in a different role, one we haven’t seen before. He’s got some awfully big shoes to fill for this particular scene.

A few behind-the-scenes moments from today: How about our fantastic SFX boys setting up a grill behind one of the huts at the edge of camp and handing out hotdogs to anyone who wanted them? Or the fact that in the magnificent wide shot up and over the camp there were certain crew who couldn’t clear the shot fast enough after setting a prop, weapon or flame and had to curl up inside the tents, waiting for the cut?

Arrival in Iceland Marks the Beginning of the End

By Cat Taylor


Photo Credit: Helen Sloan

This year’s on-location shoot in Iceland is quite different from last year’s. We are shooting a month earlier and for only eight days, whereas we were in Iceland for nearly a month in 2011. The trip, our first to Iceland, spanned three main locations and many hundreds of miles, with stays in Svinafelljokull, Vatnjokull, Vik and many locations surrounding each base.

For Season 3, we were lucky enough to see another part of Iceland entirely as we are based in the Myvatn Lake region in the North, a few hours from the town of Akureyi.

It was not the most auspicious of starts on our first Monday in Reykjavik – a storm had been coming in from the ocean and all domestic flights were grounded from early in the morning – a worry because all our directors, ADs and producers were scheduled to do a two-day recce of all the locations for the shoot, beginning the next day.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, a recce is a chance for the director, DOP and the crew to reconnoitre the location and finalize the details of how that scene will work – in what direction the camera will shoot, where the actors will walk, where the best light angles will be and so on, down to the best place for base (close, but out of sight and far enough away that the generator can’t be heard, is the ideal).

Finally, at 3 pm in the afternoon we received word that the airport in Akureyi was open and those who needed to fly out raced to the airport – some people were driving and had hit the road hours before – to catch the first plane. After a short flight over the stunning mountains and glaciers, we arrived only slightly windswept at our hotels and practiced in our snow boots again.

We may only be shooting for eight days, but within that we will work with 3 directors/directing teams: Alex Graves, David Benioff and Dan Weiss and Dan Minahan covering scenes from five of the 10 episodes in Season 3. We've got a lot to do, and baby, it’s cold outside.

On Our Way to Iceland

By Cat Taylor


As I type this, I am on a late-night plane from Heathrow to Reykjavik, and I could not be more excited. For me, the last few days have been endless packing and sorting as I close down the office for the guys until we find out about Season 3, but suddenly I am on the plane and flying over the UK, Scotland and then north.

North of the Wall. Multiple locations, 18 days. The wildlings, the wolves and worse all await us. For Jon and the Watch, it’s a journey of discovery. For me it’s a journey of 4x4s and quad bikes.

There is no doubt that shooting will be a challenge. Remote locations, only four or five hours of light each day and challenging weather, but I cannot wait for the chance to see a country I have always wanted to visit in the way we will. The Icelandic government has given the show access to locations that you could not go as a regular visitor. We are going at the perfect time for snow and possibly the Northern Lights.

What more could you possibly ask for (other than extra gloves)?