A professional’s opinion on the script
By Winter Is Coming on in Speculation.

A reader that goes by the name of Brude contacted me with his thoughts on the pilot script. Brude has years of experience in the entertainment industry as a manager of screenwriters. As you can imagine, he has read thousands of scripts in his time in Hollywood and a few of his clients have become successful screenwriters, so he definitely knows what he is talking about. The write-up is very long and detailed, but it is a great read and provides a unique and interesting perspective on the script. Click through for the full review.

Over all impression:

The script is written with great economy, more so than I would have thought possible and I think that mostly it works because of this, but sometimes in spite of this, as well. Occasionally I was left wishing certain parts of scenes or lines would not have been cut, but if their was one thing I learned in my Hollywood days when reading adaptations, it was to judge a script more dispassionately, as if I am a reader/viewer experiencing this story for the first time. I have a feeling these missing bits are probably (for the most part at least) unnecessary, which is why David and Dan cut them. I think these inevitable changes were mostly necessary.


The Prologue and the first 10+ Pages:

The prologue lasts about 3 pages/minutes which may be a bit brief and possibly even feels a bit too brief, but I understand the need to show this quickly and move on. As for how it works as an intro in terms of pacing, think the opening scene of the BSG mini-series – it’s about as long and hopefully will have the same impact. The writers I think wanted to get to the wolf pups by page 10 or so (which they do by page 9, actually), because that is really the appropriate place to hit this mark in the script, at least as I always imagined it. One could have easily spent nearly 7 or 10 minutes on the prologue, but to do so would really throw viewers – it’s too much time to spend on something dramatically when you only have 60 minutes to introduce most of the important dramatis personae for the episode. The first 10 minutes of the script have 3 potential hooks for viewers: The Others, the beheading and the finding of the pups – if one of these doesn’t carry new viewers at least to, “the things I do for love,” then I don’t know what.

After the prologue we get the title credits which have been described and which I think could look beautiful. Showing the map is smart and helps the audience and the writers found a nice way to do that. We specifically see the regions from The Wall to King’s Landing; I wonder if future seasons will show us other regions of Westeros as they become more important to the story (The Iron Isles, Dragonstone, Dorne, etc.). The raven landing on the Iron Throne is a dead on perfect combination of images for the whole series: the Throne and a carrion bird perched upon it.

Daenerys’ Story:

Daenerys’ story is given to us in two sections as the summary has already noted. I think the other option is of course to spend one long sequence in the episode with Dany, but then you don’t get the sense of time moving and it also sets it apart too much from the main story. Cutting back and forth twice makes the Dany material seem more a part of the overall plot, which may be important for the audience so I think it’s the right choice structurally. Future episodes may have more or less of Dany as appropriate, some may spend the better part of the episode with her others may not touch on her story at all – we’ll see how this plotline gets spelled out over time, but in this first episode jumping to her story twice is ideal. And, if it doesn’t work, they can always re-edit and put them together instead, but I doubt it will go that way.

My one question is how they plan to denote to the audience the change in location. There will no doubt be some sort of establishing shot of Pentos before we cut to Dany in her dressing room, but the script doesn’t describe this in any detail. At some point and in some way the show will have to explain that Dany and Viserys are across the Small Sea, on another continent but as written the pilot doesn’t show that. Maybe that’s a question they plan to figure out to later in the production, and maybe they already have ideas about this. The dialogue does at least give us the basic set-up of Viserys’ plan to retake the Seven Kingdoms with a Dothraki army at his back. But I do feel that, like the opening with the map, it is useful for the audience to have a mental picture of how far away Dany and Viserys are from Westeros.

Overall, I think the Dany scenes play very well. As with everything else, the scenes are rendered with some ruthless economy, but I think it covers all the bases and hopefully spends enough time on her introduction. We get Dany and Visery’s in Pentos, their introduction to Drogo and then later the big wedding scene all in a total of about 12+ pages/minutes. The wedding action could last a bit longer than it reads on the page, so we might get as much as 14 minutes or so of Dany if they feel like drawing this out – that’s pretty good, in my opinion.


New Scenes and Dialogue:

A couple of conversations have been invented with varying degrees of success. There is a scene between Cersei and Pycelle that isn’t in the book (because it would have to have been a Cersei chapter if it were) but I know much of the dialogue is culled from somewhere else in the book. I don’t remember what scene specifically (an Eddard chapter? Tyrion?), but it imagines the moments directly after Jon Arryn has died (we see his dead body in bed) and Cersei is told what his last words were. It’s a good scene and I had to remind myself it’s not precisely how it is told in the book.

The two that really stand out are used to introduce Jamie, something the novel deliberately avoids throughout the first book but which in the dramatic venue is probably more necessary at least to some degree. These conversations are between Jamie and Tyrion in a brothel in King’s Landing, another between Jamie and Ned during the banquet in Winterfell. There is also some new dialogue between Catelyn and Cersei at the banquet as well.

The Jamie/Tyrion scene is of course a completely new invention, but I think it works beautifully. It feels like a scene that might have been written for the novel but was cut and the dialogue is appropriate to the books and to the characters. It’s a well done scene and it also succeeds at feeling like a scene you expect to see on HBO.

Unfortunately the new conversation between Jamie and Ned during the banquet did not work nearly as well for me. Again, the purpose is to better introduce Jamie to the audience. The moment of tension between Ned and Jamie felt forced and unnecessary in this context, probably because the real Stark/Lannister conflict had yet to begin with Bran’s fall (the inciting event of this struggle I would contend). It also comes before the scene where Catelyn, Ned and Maester Luwin read the message from Lyssa warning them of the Lannisters’ possible hand in Jon Arryn’s death, so again, there seems less of a need for this tension at this point. Yes, the Lannisters have reason to be wary of Ned – they want Tywinn to be Hand, but it still doesn’t feel right and honestly it’s not as well written as the rest of the script (which is otherwise very strong). The dialogue in this part simply doesn’t “pop.”

Jamie comes off as needlessly peevish and confrontational. The scene action suggests it’s a kind of test wills between two of the greatest warriors in the realm, Jamie is trying to get a feel for Ned but Ned wants none of it and has other, more immediate concerns he’s trying to attend to. It feels very forced. The one thing that nearly saves this exchange is a comment at the end by Tyrion that is right on the mark and funny (I am not sure, but it might have come from some other part of the novel, but it’s all Tyrion).

All in all, the banquet scene lasts for 7 ½ pages (I’m including the Benjen/Jon exchange but not the Tyrion/Jon exchange outside), easily the longest single scene in the script. The Ned/Jamie exchange lasts for two pages out of this – that’s two minutes of screen time, but it feels like a dead spot to me in the story. I think they could have better spent these two minutes either adding a bit more detail to some other scenes elsewhere, or they simply need to just rework this encounter in some way. Fine, let’s make sure Jamie gets a good intro in the pilot, but let’s make sure it feels true to his character and is written up to par with the rest of the script.

Then again, if we get to know Jamie too well as a villain in the first season, his shift may not make as much sense later – part of the reason why that works later is because we DON’T know his mind very well, we don’t understand his motivations and we come to realize our understanding of him was simply a misunderstanding of point of view. Once we start to learn his motives he becomes among the richest characters in the series, but before that he’s of course a pretty one-dimensional villain. So, I’m divided on if I like expanding his character earlier on is a good thing or a bad thing.

A Final Observation:

The only major character that appears in the pilot that doesn’t get any sort of introduction, and I don’t think even has any lines, is Sansa. No doubt she’ll have more in future episodes. I honestly didn’t even realize this until after my second read through of the story, but I guess she isn’t much of an instigator in these opening scenes so it maybe makes sense that she is getting left out until probably episode 2. The journey south and her “romance” with Joffrey along the way will be a good place to show us what she’s all about.


A few minor things the script needs to address that aren’t made clear:

1) The passage of time from when the wolf pups are first found to when we later see them at Winterfell, clearly more grown; they aren’t newborns, suckling milk from rags, we have Ghost eating scraps under the table at the banquet and the still unnamed Summer following Bran to the tower. Two suggestions for this:

a. give Catelyn or Ned a line or two of dialogue explaining that it’s going to take a good month or more for the King and his entourage to travel from King’s Landing to Winterfell at the end of the Godswood scene. They could kibitz about how it’s barely enough time for preparations.

b. Have the pups be a bit more grown when they are first found – it could be that their mother was defending them and was killed in the fight, but didn’t birth them right there on the spot. They may be a good 8 weeks old already.

2) Related to the above, we only see Ghost and Summer running around Winterfell in these opening scenes and though we get a good bit of Arya in the script, we never see Nymeria even simply following her around. I think in the books they were being kept in the Godswood so as not to cause problems with the Royal Family, but it did stand out that they were absent or their absence was not explained.

3) When Catelyn approaches Ned at the Godswood he could be praying. As is he’s merely cleaning his sword. Maybe they are leaving the explanation of the differences between his and Catelyn’s faiths for later, but if we don’t see him praying we don’t necessarily get a sense that this is a holy place. It’s just a clearing in a wood with a big creepy, white tree that has a face on it – at least that’s what those who haven’t read the books will see. Without the book’s narration describing what the Godswood is, I think they could show us a little via Ned’s actions.

Recap of My Feelings on the Script:

Over all this is a very strong pilot script and I think as written it can work very well. I’ve noted a few issues and changes I’d like to see above, but even if not made I think the script is at least on par with “Rome” and certainly far better than anything in the first season of “The Tudors” (I thought the best parts of the second season of “The Tudors” was actually quite strong).

I do have the sense that the writers were maybe clipping down scenes here and there to fit everything they felt they needed into the requisite 60 pages. I wonder/hope that maybe HBO will give them a bit more leeway to go over the hard and fast 60 pages I think they were going for and flesh out a couple of scenes, even if only by a quarter of a page here or there. One or two more pages might let them get in just a few more lines or details that could really help add just a bit more to these sequences.

It was certainly exciting to be reading what we all hope will be lighting up our TV screens in the not too distant future. For most of my read I found myself being drawn into the story, losing myself in it at times even though I have read the novel four or five times by now. That bodes very well for how it might work for someone not at all familiar with the books, for the general viewers watching when it hopefully, eventually airs.

- Brude


32 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    what will the budget be on a production like this compared to other pilots?
    can computer-generated effect ruin it?

  2. Ryan Dunn
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    holy… great post. what a thorough critique of the pilot. i had an issue with the jamie/ned exchange as well, i’m glad this reviewer mentioned it. jamie has to remain a mystery, mostly uncharacterized, and therefore easier to hate.

    hopefully benioff and team get a chance to read this review. and thank you for posting. we’re all drooling now!!

    …ryan

  3. Omagus
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Ryan. Great stuff, and I am also wary of making Jaime seem too much like a villain early on.

  4. nicole
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I also agree with Ryan, great post!! This is a nice little juicy read. I’m going to stay undecided on my personal opinions on the scenes/exchanges because I have faith that HBO will do a good job. I would rather just look forward to seeing the finished product!

  5. Anonymous
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Brude.

    How much time is spent on the Stark kids? The series is ultimately about their generation. In particular I’m wondering about Bran–one episode doesn’t give him have a whole lot of time to introduce and endear himself to the viewers before he starts doing unintentional skydiving without a chute. (My personal hope is we learn about the white knights of the kingsguard from him, and how he dreams to become one of them)

    It makes sense that the other kids can be fleshed out in later episodes.

  6. Jon Snow
    Posted December 31, 2008 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Agree with everybody-thanks a ton Brude.
    and if they age the wolfs, I think that might work effectively with Ghost.
    Winter, if you get a chance to read this, any way we can make profiles for the site?

  7. Anonymous
    Posted January 1, 2009 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    Thanks Brude and excellent post!

  8. Anonymous
    Posted January 1, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Regarding the special effects… backgrounds shouldn’t be a problem (go to youtube and search for “John Adams Visual FX (HBO)”)… the direwolves will be trickier, because they get huge really fast have to interact with live actors quite a bit. If they follow the books, Summer probably tears the assassins throat out by episode two.

  9. Oeffinger Freidenker
    Posted January 1, 2009 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    One quick question: what does “good economy” mean in that context? I don’t get it.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted January 1, 2009 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    It means that there is a lot of information from the book in a short text. I dout this Brude is a professional. I’m not impressed at all by the text, it’s just stating the obvious.

  11. Lordnedshead
    Posted January 1, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Thanks for giving us the run down Brude. Its all so exciting and I really hope it all goes forward.
    One comment on the Jaime/Eddard banquet scene. It sounds like it could really work to me. You have to remember that Jaime is the guy Ned saw sitting on the Iron Throne with the dead king at his feet. Eddard has long suspected the Lannister’s designs on ultimate power but because of the Baratheon/Lannister union he has been forced to stifle his opinion to Robert. Perhaps it might seem a bit sledgehammered into the plot at this point, but in the book most of the reminiscing about the past is done in thought. Showing it in a quick, tense, teeth-clenched conversation at the banquet seems like an interesting way to express the vieled animosity between the two Houses and more particularly between Jaime and Eddard.

  12. Brude
    Posted January 1, 2009 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Regarding the Stark kids, I think Bran gets enough time that you care about him before he falls and if his scenes are handled right I think it will work. He is made sympathetic in the same way as in the book we get a fair bit of time to get to know him, especially in the beheading/pups scene but after that too in a few more brief scenes.

    Regarding Lordnedshead’s comment, good point about their history together and their conversation does touch on why he’s known as the Kingslayer, which is needed at some point in the script. I still feel the dialog in the exchange is not quite up to the same level as the rest though. Very fixable though.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    I say all of the following as a card-carrying member of the Jaime Defense League, haha.

    The Jaime analysis has been hashed and rehashed, and I’m glad someone pointed out that Jaime and Ned do have some unresolved beef: it’s okay if there’s pre-existing tension between Stark and Lannister, b/c there totally is in the book. There’s Ned’s side, which is that Jaime’s a Lannister-come-lately-to-Robert’s-cause sitting on a throne that’s up for grabs; the knight who forswore his vows. For Ned it’s black and white, a question of loyalty. And much later, we see Jaime’s side: that breaking his KG vow was the noblest and most damning thing he’s ever done; that he perversely clings to some of the vows (not revealing Aerys’ secrets); he’s furious that Ned would dare judge him without full knowledge of the situation.

    But the Ned stuff comes across first, and we can only look with 20/20 hindsight at every single mistake he made that set him up for his downfall. Conversely, much of Jaime stuff is revealed way later, and only in his head. His actions begin reflecting his thoughts only after he loses his hand. Surface Jaime is still an asshole, esp. when people question his honor.

    So while people are wary of making Jaime too one-dimensional at first, the thing is that surface Jaime DOES act like an asshole. Where I CAN see hinting that there’s more to Jaime than being an asshole is how he treats Tyrion, which is redeeming because Tyrion is The Eternally Unloved. Readers tend to love Tyrion, who’s such an underdog, so they can grudgingly approve of Jaime because he defends the underdog. My first time reading AGOT, I was horrified by “Kill his men” and the death of Jory. The second time, I felt kind of a gratitude towards Jaime – he’s the only one who ever stood up for Tyrion because he actually loves Tyrion the person; not just Tywin’s supposed affront at the sullying of Tyrion’s (and therefore Tywin’s) name. Jaime doesn’t give a shit about Stark Henchman Number 2; he wants people to understand that you don’t just harm his defenseless midget brother without paying for it. So I think Jaime can be provided with that grayness, that escape hatch, if viewers understand that Jaime is the only one who stands up for the funny underdog midget character, lol.

    In other news, I’m not surprised that Sansa isn’t prominently featured. By the time she has her first chapter in AGOT, some of the other characters have already had three. IIRC, isn’t her first chapter already on the kingsroad, the date with Joffrey? It IS really late in the game, so they’re being true to the story.

    This post made me so excited! I like the idea of the brothel scene too, and I can’t bear for HBO to pass up something this good!

  14. world-dancer
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the professional review, Brude.

    It all sounds wonderful. And while I can be a picky fan about what was cut and what was added, I accept that these things need to happen. The important part is that the story and main characters remain basically the same.

    Based on your Ned/Jaime dialogue comments, I would hope that they change dialogue some to leave Jaime as the villian because the pilot ends with him throwing Bran out of the window. Any sympathy he builds up in that episode goes out the window with the kid because Bran is very much a good and innocent kid. Revealing Jaime’s reasoning in the first episode may come off more like making excuses given his last act of the episode.

    As I recall, the Jaime sympathy reveal was done after a good build up of seeing him support Tyrion and watching him journey with Brianne, who had no sympathy for him. He wins our sympathy when he wins hers, and there really is no better foil in the matter of being the Kingsguard.

    I would hope that the writers keep in a bit of history but not provide details yet, so that it catches the imagination and people wonder how Jaime got away with it and how ambitious he is.

    I like your idea that Ned should be praying in the Godswood because that would establish things. I’d be all for saying some sort of prayer while polishing his sword, since it would establish something about how the religion is perhaps not as interested in definitions of “nice” as the ones we’re familiar with (and the one Catelyn seems familiar with). Short changing religion would only cause problems with the three religious angles GRRM has going.

    My thoughts on setting Dany are that they could revisit the map from the opening credits and use that to show a location much further away. Using a map cut between the different parts of the story may become very important after everyone leaves Winterfell and goes wandering hither, thither, and yon.

  15. SuperBeast
    Posted January 2, 2009 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    This is very encouraging.

  16. WinterIsComing
    Posted January 3, 2009 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Jon Snow: You can use your Google, LiveJournal, WordPress, TypePad, AIM or any other OpenID login.

    As for profiles, your best bet is to create a Blogger account. I don’t think you need to have a blog to create an account. Once you have an account you can make yourself a profile.

    Hope that answers your question!

  17. Jon Snow
    Posted January 4, 2009 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    thanks Winter

  18. Anonymous
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    I am normally very positive about these types of posts but I find it hard to believe that Brude has read thousands of professional scripts. The grammar in the first paragraph is so atrocious that I have not been able to read the rest. Surely a professional would not make so many fundamental errors as ‘over all’ (insted of overall) and ‘their’ (instead of ‘there’). The punctuation usage is beyond the pale too…

  19. Marko
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    My thoughts exactly … I was disappointed in the quality of the language, although I’m no native speaker of English. Read the whole thing, though, and am still excited about the pilot and the potential full series :) My fingers are crossed.

  20. world-dancer
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Anon … LOL

    You’re holding professionals to quite a standard when typing up quick blog post comments.

    I’m a professional copy editor, and I sure don’t bother with spellcheck for something like this (and the errors you’re pointing out wouldn’t be caught by spellcheck even if he used it). The longer my post, the less likely I am to reread it, or to delete and go back multiple times, thus accidentally ending up with errors, etc. Look at how long his post is. He probably rewrote things as he remembered them.

    You would likely be appalled by some of the writing I saw regularly from Ph.Ds who actually wanted to impress my boss at the first publication I worked for. Spelling and grammar aren’t signs of a professional unless what they’re writing is for a professional publication, and even then the writer doesn’t have to care about spelling or particularly grammar if he’s writing in a casual style. It’s the editors who care and must match it to a style manual. When they’re paid to.

    I think Brude’s comments ring true as a professional analysis of someone who is either in the business or has studied writing long enough that he can fake it. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  21. Edd Tollett
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    BrudeWollen has been posting on the ASOIAF boards for many years before an HBO adaptation was ever in the works.

    He has posted stories in years past about his work experience. Fake forum personas very rarely persist for any length of time. …and when they do, you can usually smell the wish-fulfillment as their lies become more fantastic. They don’t move on to other, less flashy careers.

    This would be an epic low-intensity troll if Brude was a fake.

  22. Balerion
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Ditto Edd Tollett’s remark. Brude’s the genuine article.

    F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t spell worth a damn, I don’t see why Brude should be held to a higher standard. ;)

  23. Anonymous
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Interesting aside: One would assume that a professional would know the difference between the use of “their” and “there” in the first paragraph.

  24. Beheddard
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    People make mistakes. Jackass

  25. Anonymous
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, but “there”, “their” and “they’re” is almost as big a pet peeve to me as when people say “nu-cu-lar weapons” or “ecks-cape”. It melts my eyes and burns my soul. Jackass

  26. Anonymous
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Has this turned to a Corner Gas thread?
    Jackass!lol

  27. Brude
    Posted January 5, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    ::sigh:: I know the difference between their, there and they’re. I also know the difference between too, two and to, then, than, its and it’s in case you were wondering. If I’m guilty of anything it’s not proofing my post before I sent it in.

    As for my background, I spent about 5 1/2 years in the film biz, from my internship with a major producer, to production work (mostly indies, docs. and a commercial or two) to working for two management companies (one year as an assistant, 2+ more as a lit. manager). I quit because making movies is a lot like making sausage. Also, I hated lying to my own clients (especially the ones I considered friends), even if it was for their own good most of the time.

  28. world-dancer
    Posted January 6, 2009 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    A job is never as glamourous or what people think when you see it from the inside.

  29. ebv
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 2:05 am | Permalink

    Spelling and grammar aside (if you’re going to put yourself out as a professional, expect some of that), overall nice post. Catching the lack of Sansa was great, and the Jamie analysis was stellar. That said–I can’t believe I’m about to critique a critique–but I felt there was maybe too much plot summary and not enough analysis (enter me: vomiting on my computer screen as I transform into my English Professors).

    Brude–any chance you could delve deeper into some of your comments? Plot summary is nice, but I personally would love to read more analysis and insight. I.e., let us in on why you think the intro is so short yet still impactful, what could happen to his character later on if Jaime gets bogged down too much in an added exchange and what ramifications that could have for the series, why a writer might find herself easily falling into that pratfall, etc.?

    Seriously, I’m nitpicking. Please don’t feel obligated to cater to my or anyone else’s literary whims. Thanks for the post!

  30. Brian
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    A nice glimpse inside the mindset of an industry professional and a reassuring quality for this most ambitious project. Thanks Brude!

  31. Anonymous
    Posted January 7, 2009 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Nice post.

    I have to disagree with the comment about the tension between Jamie and Ned being unnecessary and unbelievable. The books infers that Ned may not care for Jamie. Ned saw Jamie sitting on the Iron Throne after the Mad King was slain, and didn’t seem too happy about it.

  32. Anonymous
    Posted January 14, 2009 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    Why not just have Viserys looking at a map with the Free Cities region and the Seven Kingdoms clearly visable?

    At worst Illyrio could have a ‘world map’ hanging somewhere in his house. Granted we havn’t seen a map like that yet other than those drawn by fans but we’re supposed to see one including the Free Cities and Seven Kingdoms at some point in the future if I’m remembering correctly.


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