By Cat Taylor
It’s here, it’s finally here! We are a few episodes into the third season of Game of Thrones, the season that David Benioff and Dan Weiss were determined to get to from the beginning. For those amongst you that have read the books, you know that Season 3 features some of the most game-changing, event-filled storylines to date. For those who haven’t…brace yourselves.
In Belfast, preparations have already begun on the next season, but before I get to that, let’s look back at some of the behind the scenes action for the three episodes that have aired so far. After every few episodes, I’ll be filling you in on some of what went on behind the camera and, hopefully, a few little extras you may have missed.
If you've been following the blog, the opening scene may have seemed a little familiar. An ending for us was the beginning for you—that opening was shot on the very last day of filming in Iceland.
Other travellers: The first time you see Daenerys, she is on the deck of a ship sailing over open water. In reality, the ship was built in Banbridge for a very different purpose. Because Production Designer Gemma Jackson and her team have super powers, you probably didn’t notice that ship spent a good deal of the Battle of Blackwater on fire. It was the only scene that Emilia Clarke shot in Belfast this season; everything else was on location in Croatia and Morocco. It took one day.
In the second episode, "Dark Wings, Dark Words," Bran has a dream in the woods. It was a two-splinter-units-in-one-location day, which always makes things crazy. That's a real raven Bran is chasing, brought in especially for the scene by our team at Birds and Animals. (From not quite as far as our white raven in Season 2— that bird had to be brought in all the way from Austria!) The main unit was just down the road in Gosford Castle, where we were filming a scene in Littlefinger’s brothel—one from this Sunday's episode. Daniel Portman (Pod) was having a very busy day indeed with several new friends, including the very bendy Pixie Le Knot. Two ends of the kingdom on a single driveway. What luck.
Season 3 introduces us to several new and important characters and I don’t mind admitting that one of my favourites is Lady Olenna, played by the incomparable Diana Rigg. There was palpable excitement in the office on the day she was confirmed, and more than a few extra people came to set on her first filming day. We also get to meet the Brotherhood Without Banners; we’ll see more of them as the series progresses. What I can tell you is this: The day we filmed that meeting between Arya, Gendry, Hot Pie and the BWB was not nearly so pastoral and spring-like as it appeared. It was just bloody wet.
Did you spot someone in a cameo? The soldier singing lead in "The Bear and Maiden Fair" is local boy Gary Lightbody, of Snow Patrol fame. He taught the song to the extras before they rode down the track, a song that we’ll certainly hear again. If you were wondering, Jamie and Brienne really were riding back to back on a single horse—the dismounting was something of a process.
Speaking of horses, did I mention the ring the White Walkers laid out got covered by a snowstorm the night before filming? The Art Department had to take an industrial blow torch (also known as a flame thrower) to the horse models to defrost the "flesh." The blood then had to be re-splattered onto the snow so that it was visible. That’s a fun day at work, but all our days are. If you're a regular reader, you’ll know what was happening the day Melisandre and Stannis said goodbye on the beach– and not a tractor track to be seen!
The Greens Department—the crew that insures the scenery is as it should be, adding trees and vines, or flowers and hedges— is also responsible for things like the beach. But the most amazing transformation I saw firsthand was the Master Torturer's chase of Theon through the woods. The chase was actually filmed over several locations, on the open grounds of Tollymore Park and in the woods of Shane’s Castle. When we first scouted the woods, the ground was thick with foliage that stood taller than our heads. There was no clear space for our tracking vehicle and the ground was unsafe. In days, the team had cleared it to a flat forest glade and placed our stunt branch. The difference was amazing. Almost as amazing as one of our stunt riders yelling, "WEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!" at the top of his lungs as they thundered over the steep open fields at the start of the chase… I’m not sure, but I don’t think he was at all scared of speed.