GOT Storyboard Artist William Simpson Gives a Glimpse at Season 3

By Cat Taylor

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Artist: William Simpson

Will is an internationally renowned artist who has worked on any number of comics including ‘Judge Dredd,’ ‘Hellblazer’ and ‘Batman.’ He’s been the storyboard artist on ‘Game of Thrones’ since the beginning, and his beautiful work has now been collected in the new HBO book ‘Inside Game of Thrones.’

What would you say is the main purpose of your job?

The main function would be to try and collate a director’s thoughts on to paper so you get a ‘comic strip version’ of what they are, going to film. When you read a script you do start to get images that explain how the story makes sense. You try and find a way that it should be filmed. There are many ways it could be done, but when you are working with a director you are interpreting their version of things. That interpretation is crucial; it’s their stamp on the program. Sometimes I get to interpret in my version, sometimes parts get mixed in. I always find that interesting.

You’ve also done comic books. What would you say is more challenging – working on comics or working off a film script?

One of the things that I found was that for me, there wasn’t much difference. I always had a very ‘cinematic’ style. I’ve always been more graphic, more realistic in style. I would say that in comics, you are looking for one image that captures a moment; in the film, you can break down all the shots – filling in detail and time. You have to imagine the shot from different angles, with different camera perspectives. It becomes a much more involved thing. They are almost opposites – but always interesting.

You’ve worked on a lot of different projects – what would you say is unique to working on Game of Thrones?

A lot of the projects that I’ve worked on have been films, so one director, one film. With this, each episode is like a film, with a different director. It can be a challenge to work for all five directors, all on different scripts at the same time, with changes to the scripts coming in all the time. When I do storyboards I try and get the energy into the images, maybe it’s left over the comics, but for me it’s important that when I director shows it to a camera man or a DOP they get a sense of the nuance, the feel of the shot. Sometimes that can be difficult if you have so little time.

After years of knowing the actors, do you find it easier to draw the people and capture that energy?

It would be lovely if you could concentrate on it the way you do with comics. For me, I do like to know who is playing a character. You do try and draw a version of them, it’s not always easy; some are definitely easier to get a likeness to than others. A lot of the time you have scripts before things are cast, so you haven’t a clue and you end up with Conan the Barbarian.

A collection of your GOT boards is coming out as a book now, do you look back on them now and think, “Man that is pretty on the money?”

There are maybe one or two – but for me it will always be the opening shot of the first season where the white walkers first appear. That was worked out meticulously with Tim Van Patten, because it had to work. It was going to be shown to executives, and it needed to show how the show could work, that everything was right and it could be done. I was watching it with a friend, and we were flipping through my copies and saying “God, this is this, and this is this …” That was pretty right on.