GRRM comments on N. Ireland

George R. R. Martin has posted on his Not A Blog regarding the press release. He confirms that filming will be in October. He also gives some history on the Paint Hall, including an informative video, and teases that some more “exciting news” about the pilot is on the horizon.

At last it can be told.

The news has finally been made public, so I’m finally free to whoop and holler and share the great news — the HBO pilot of A GAME OF THRONES will start filming in October, in Northern Ireland. The announcement was made in Belfast. Here you go:


Yes, I’m thrilled. Ireland should be a great place to film. And the facility we’ll be using, the Paint Hall, is amazing as well:


Before it was a film studio, the Paint Hall was part of Belfast’s famous Harland & Wolff Shipyards, where the TITANIC and many other ships were constructed. The facility is pretty titanic as well. Of course, all of us connected with A GAME OF THRONES are hoping we’ll fare somewhat better on our own maiden voyage.

Yes, Parris and I will be going over to Ireland this fall to see at least part of the filming. Not for the whole shoot, alas, I don’t have time for that… but we have to be there for at least part of it. Maybe we’ll see some of you in a Belfast pub.

There’s lots of other exciting news on the pilot as well, but nothing I can share. Sorry, lips are sealed. You’ll have to wait for Mr. Benioff and Mr. Weiss… and HBO.

Winter Is Coming:
George stole my thunder a bit on this one as I had planned to make a blog post today looking more in-depth at Northern Ireland and the Paint Hall. Of particular interest is the video link he posted that states that Northern Ireland Screen is offering the Paint Hall free of charge, in addition to a $1 million grant, providing that the production use the whole facility and spends at least $4.8 million on N. Ireland cast and crew. I suspect this had a lot to do with the selection of this region and, specifically, this facility. This seems to be a great way to keep the budget manageable and means that they can spend more money on sets and cast to help make this production of the highest quality.

Also, regarding his mention of more exciting news, one would have to imagine he is referring to possible casting decisions. I have already speculated that these should be coming shortly and I think he is partly referring to them. But the way he kinda pauses and mentions HBO there at the end makes me somewhat suspicious he may be referring to something even bigger. I may be reading too much into it and maybe my excitement is getting the best of me, but could he be hinting at HBO planning to announce they will be picking up the series?


  • hopefully all the money they are saving keeps HBO from canceling due to the show being too expensive.

  • This is most excellent…I was thrilled to hear this today!
    I expect we will see a lot of Irish and UK actors now, as expected.
    It makes me wish that I could go to Ireland in October to see some of the filming or catch GRRM in a pub and have a pint :o)

  • I would love to see Ireland get behind this production like New Zealand did with LOTR. They could have something really special going on there.

  • TheBluick: That is what I’m thinking. According to reports about ‘Rome’ one of the biggest expenses for them was location. Shooting in Rome itself was expensive and the studio they used is supposedly one of the most expensive in the world.

    To be able to get a quality film studio to not only let them film there for free, but basically give them 1 million dollars to do so, I think will go a long way in keeping this series alive. It seems HBO learned their lesson where filming costs are concerned.

  • Well this is def. the best news so far. Good job on posting about it yesterday as soon as it was known.

    I suspect the “other exiting news” are about casting and directing and such. I think that even if HBO is planning on picking up the series this early, they will hold on to that announcement for as long as they can. They win nothing by committing to it this early when so much could still go wrong. The pause before HBO in GRRMs post (imho) is just to let people know that all announcements have to be cleared by HBO before being made.

  • Its a one hour pilot….I say again you don’t spend this much (with multiple locations, ie Scotland, Morrocco) on a one hour pilot. I think there picking up the show outright.

  • coltaine777: I am really starting to think that way as well. See the update I posted on the original press release post. There is now speculation that the pilot could cost around $8-10 million!

  • UUuh thats some dangerous speculations there. Dangerous because it would make for that much more of a dissapointment if it did not get picked up.

    But ofcourse, i’m on board, already!

  • Hope Morocco does not eat away the gains of free studio location :) If HBO pick the series straightaway, that probably means no waiting before writing/shooting next episodes (or shooting more episodes simultaneously out of order, to more effect even) no change to the pilot material needed, no recasting … I guess even this saves money AND we get to see the series sooner :)

    Hoping also for a good marketing campaign, as viral as possible, for which they will also have plenty of time. Any idea what the practice is with marketing issues? Who makes the calls, how much do they work together with the authors? Well, a bit too early to ask these questions … but hopefuly not much :)

  • I think that in a way, this project is benefiting from the fact that the world economy is in bad shape. The people who have cash and are willing to spend it now, are getting much more value for their money now than they were 5 or more years ago. The Paint Hall deal sounds like a “Please come spend your money here!” thing.

    Good news for what should be a pretty expensive production. If Rome had started filming now, it probably wouldn’t have been canceled like it was.

  • Great news, Winter! Sounds like HBO are really serious about this. Do we know how many of the other pilot projects have “exotic” shooting locations or is ASOIAF the only one? If so, I think that only helps it’s chances of getting picked up … and the whole free studio part can’t hurt!

  • There’s one thing I don’t get, so please enlighten me: Why is the potential HBO series referred to as “A Game of Thrones”? That’s just the first book, and I don’t think they’ll rename the show for every single season, should we be so lucky to get those. So will it be “Game of Thrones – Season 2” and so forth? Shouldn’t it be “A Song of Ice and Fire – Season 1: A Game of Thrones”?

    It’s a rather minor thing, I know, but I’ve been wondering about this for quite some time now.

  • If they titled every season “Game of Thrones” it would still fit the series. Also by naming it GoT I think they will draw in more viewers then with something as long winded as ASoIaF IMO.

  • Or maybe they’ll go with “George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones”, then “George R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings” etc., etc.

    Or maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

  • A game of thrones is the general theme behind the whole series. It defines what the whole series is about. At least so far…

  • Game of Thrones is the better marketable name. Same thing as True Blood, whose book titles were not that catchy as well.

    Short punchy titles are all the rage now, be glad it isn’t just called Thrones. :)

  • About your hope for a series pickup in regards to the HBO news that can’t be mentioned yet – as much as I’d love that I can’t believe they would do that. With that many pilots in development and nothing but a script so far that would be a highly unusual move. But still…. :D

  • Anon: The other two big drama pilots currently in consideration at HBO, Treme and Boardwalk Empire, shot in New Orleans and New York, respectively. So Thrones is really the only one.

  • The name “A Song of Ice and Fire” was what put me off the series for so long. It just SCREAMS cliche-fantasy. “A Game of Thrones” is marginally better.

    (As much as I admire GRRM’s writing skills, I don’t think title-writing is part of his rich repertoire…)

  • Game of Thrones does a much better job of describing the series to this point. It also seems the better title if they are looking at attracting a genre-crossing audience. GoT would probably get alot more Tudors, Rome and maybe even The Wire and The Sopranos viewers than the much more fantasy sounding A Song of Ice and Fire.
    Four books do far and I think all we know about what the actual Song are a few lines of Rhaegar’s as glimpsed by Dany in Quarth. No one really even knows what the Song is yet (yeah its realatively easy to speculate, but no one knows for sure yet).
    This is great news. It looks like things are starting to heat up. I’m really hoping we get some even better news in a week or so. Wolverine is out next week, so I doubt we’ll here anything else concrete before then.

  • Marko: The nice thing about filming Dany scenes (and eventually Dorne scenes?) in Morocco is that for at least season one, they’ll need very few interior shooting locations.

  • Fantastic news! I am also guessing HBO wants to go right into season 1 production… they can always quit if things arent going well… but now they have a studio into 2010 and beyond.

  • I’m pretty certain the further announcements have to do with casting and possibly a big name director for the pilot (Rome had Michael Apted). These kinds of announcements will come from an HBO press release – the way it works HBO writes a press release and Variety and Hollywood Reporter usually print it nearly verbatim as a story. A lot of the “stories” in the trades are really just slightly edited press releases. I helped write one once and then saw it get picked up by the AP and printed elsewhere like on CNN as “news.” It was kind of weird.

  • excellent, cant wait until 2010 (fingers crossed) when the greatest fantasy series of all time comes to life

  • Well, you have a baseline for your per episode cost. 4.8 million! It’s undoubtedly going to be much higher, particularly for the pilot.

  • That “Paint Hall” building is definitely HUGE, so unless they are going to build some really vast sets, it’s total overkill.

    Building these sets will probably consume a major part of the pilots budget. Tearing everything down after only two weeks of shooting and storing it for a possible rebuild after the pilot has been observed by the HBO bigshots should be quite expensive as well…

    Also, bringing some actors/workers etc. into employment for only a few weeks doesn’t seem to justify that big government announcement. Northern Ireland is not Somalia, and a one time investment of 6-10 million dollars is not likely to show up in the regions economical statistics….

  • Ashli: yup, they need Morocco for the exteriors, no doubt they found some good locations. Not so expensive then, and I guess the local prices are relatively cheap, so apart from travel costs … it should be okay :)

  • @Brude:

    yes, that’s the way it works. I once promoted bands/live music events, it’s the exact same thing there. And why not? Even if the press relaese turns out to be complete bullshit, at least it’s OFFICIAL bullshit, and you got someone else to blame for it… ;-)

  • Apparently I’ma as excited as everybody else here :D Ireland should be great shooting locatioin for fantasy series, with all the castles and such (maybe someone has some photos of Northern Ireland? i’ve never been there and all i really know about it might be just some stereotypes). Anyways, thats one of the best news ive heard in a long time (the best news when i learned about Watchmen adaptation being in production;).

    PS. Great blog, btw :)

  • This is freaking awesome!!! Cool, finally some good news. An excellent decision to choose Northern Ireland, the beauty of Ireland is largely unmatched save in a few instances here and there.

    There are soo few worthy TV programmes these days, especially TV series and the few that I like are either over or about to be cancelled. The thought of having a potential great, epic quality TV project, such as “A Song Of Ice And Fire”, come to life, is very encouraging! Hopefully HBO will make ASOIF a full-fledged show and stick with it for the duration.

    This news made my day, and many days to come… I eagerly await further announcements on this matter. Martin hinted in his posting that there was more information related to the pilot, but that he wouldn’t comment any more!!! Damn…still I wish all parties involved only the best in everything and good luck!!!

  • Hello eveyone. I not familiar with the source material but I am very familiar with the paint hall, having worked on several productions there over the years. I’m from Belfast and a member of an extras agency that regularly supplies extras/stand-ins/actors/crew for just about every major production that comes through our wee town!
    If you want an idea of the kind of set that can be built in the Paint Hall then I suggest you rent ‘City Of Ember’. It was filmed in here in Belfast in the summer of 2007 and I worked on it for 3 weeks. The set built for it was one of the largest sets ever built for a film. I would often walk through it’s squares and streets in between shots and it never failed to amaze me. The guy that designed the set also deisgned the sets for ‘Titanic’ so it was poignant that he built something in the very building that the Titanic was constructed.

    I’m looking forward to working on this production and I can assure you it is in safe hands!

  • @Anon 12:07…..you seem to be our inside man. I hope you plan on supplying us with some juicy info……what are the chances you can sneak some photos of the sets to us here.

  • Anon: Thanks for the info! I am confident that you guys will do a good job on the production. Do you have any idea when production (set construction and the like) and/or filming is scheduled to begin?

    Also you really should check out the books, they are great reads even if you aren’t a big fan of fantasy. And if you get hooked on the series imagine how much more fun it will be to be involved in the HBO production?

  • Hi, its me again. (I’ve figured out how to get my name on here so I’m not ‘anon’ any more – hello I’m Rimshot BTW!)

    Can I just say that there is no guarantee that I will be working on this but I’d say the chances are good as a production this size tends to use a large number of extras (City Of Ember used 400 extras on one day!). If I am working on this I’ll try to keep you posted. There is another film (Universal’s ‘Your Highness’) being made in the Paint Hall first and then its GOT.

    coltaine777 – I’m afraid I won’t be able to take any photos. I’ve been an extra a long time and during that time I’ve built up a good relationship with the crew here who work on most of the shows. I also have a good relationship with my agency. If I was caught taking one photo on set that would all be ruined and I’d be unlikely to get any more film work. Its not worth the risk! However I can certainly describe what is going on without breaking confidentiality agreements.

    winteriscoming – I don’t have any info on exact dates as this hasn’t been announced to us yet (as I said, there’s no guarantee that we will be working on it). However, construction is now underway on the sets for ‘Your Highness’ which is filming here in the summer. I drive past the Paint Hall every day on my way to work and in the last few days the huge hanger doors have been open (these doors are about 10 storeys high and an alarm goes off when they open!). This means that there is major activity at the Hall. Set construction tends to start about 2 months before principal photography so, depending on when ‘Your Highness’ wraps, I would expect construction on GOT to begin late August/early September. I must stress that this is merely speculation on my part, having been involved in major productions there in the past. I have no inside info about this.

    I do intend to read the books as this has really got me interested and, being a major fan of the Dark Tower series, I love an epic story!

    If I hear any more I’ll let you know.

  • Hi Rimshot, thanks for all the info. It would be great to hear the odd inside bit of info about how things are progressing now and then, if you do end up working on it and can do so.

    Hope you enjoy the books! If you enjoy gritty epic fantasy, it should be right up your street. GRRM is one of the best.

  • Thanks Rimshot….I figured as much but it doesn’t hurt to ask eh…..I agree with Silverstar, you will love the books. Hope you get the gig and if so look forward to your inside reports. Take care.

  • Hi guys

    Thought this might interest you (you'll need to copy/paste this into a web browser)…


    This link takes you to the Paint Hall as seen on Google street view. The silver huts in front and behind were built for 'City Of Ember' and were used by the SFX crew. As you can see it is a huge building and the picture doesn't do it justice. If you turn round and head the other way, the red building on your right is the Titanic Drawing room, where the Titanic and many other ships were designed. The Drawing Room is also used by film crews (I played a Detective in a film called 'Waz' that was partly filmed in there). If you turn off street view and revert google maps and zoom out it will give you an idea where this is in relation to Belfast. I live about 10 minutes from the Paint Hall. Happy exploring!

  • Hi Rimshot,

    Thanks for that. Really interesting :)

    The big ASOIAF forum – http://asoiaf.westeros.org/ – also has a couple of forums dedicated to the series, if you wanted to have a look around there, and chat to more fans of the books. I’d suggest not venturing too far into the General or Feast for Crows sections if you haven’t read them yet, though – the last thing you want is to get anything spoiled.