Game of Thrones’ Sound Designer on Making Dragons (UPDATE: “Hardhome” up for sound award)


In building the world of Game of Thrones, there are several factors that go into making what we see on screen believable. Many times, we talk about the CGI the VFX, or the on-location shoots. But one aspect we don’t appreciate is the one we can’t see: the sound design. We’ve talked before about the importance of the soundtrack, or what is known as the Foley, the recreation of the sounds we take for granted, like a troop of horses galloping past, the sound of cart’s wheels on the King’s Road, or steel meeting steel on the battlefield.

Paula Fairfield, who owns the company Eargasm, is responsible for those sorts of sound effect—things like the cries of a baby dragon. She has been working on Game of Thrones for several seasons, focusing on the creation of the dragon’s sounds “ever since they were hatchlings. She and her team have been nominated for an Emmy for the last three years straight. This year, they finally took home the grand prize.

The irony is that, although her work has focused on the dragons over the course of the show, when she finally won, it wasn’t for the dragons, but for the key White Walker battle in episode 8’s “Hardhome.” The Desert Sun (part of USA Today) sat down to talk to her while she’s hard at work in post-production for the upcoming season.

When it comes to making sounds for dragons and White Walkers,Fairfield says her inspiration comes from everything and anything. “When you’re geared for sound, everything you hear is potentially a tool. It can be the sound of a can clanging, certain car and bike mufflers, the way the wind whistles through objects. Every sound you hear has potential.”

She also reflects on how this business she’s in is one that’s very male-dominated. “All of a sudden I looked around and realized I’m the only woman on stage. It was a pretty cool feeling.”

A pretty cool one especially because she doesn’t do her work in the bustling centers of LA or NYC. But then again, a lot of post-production doesn’t require those with computers to live nearby. Still, moving from LA to the Coachella Valley in Southern California years ago was a risk. “I had no idea if the TV and film industry would be willing to work with me from a distance. It was a huge risk. I may have been done.”

Luckily, instead she landed work with the biggest show on the planet. But don’t ask her about Season 6. As far as this interview goes, she says nothing.

In other sound effects-related news, Game of Thrones has received an award nomination from the Cinema Audio Society, which celebrates excellence in sound mixing. Naturally, the show is up for “Hardhome,” which featured the most evocative soundscape of any Season 5 episode, what with the cries of the wights, and clash of Jon’s Valyrian steel blade, and Wun Wun bursting out of a hut. It’s competitors in the 1-hour television series category are Better Call SaulHomelandHouse of Cards, and The Walking Dead.

Two years ago, the show won this award for The Rains of Castamere, and also won it for The Children a year later. It lost out to Homeland at the 2013 award ceremony, though. We’ll find out if Game of Thrones takes home this year’s prize at the 52nd annual Cinema Audio Society Awards on Saturday, Feb. 20.

Next: Awesome 3D map of Westeros, and other Game of Thrones curiosities

h/t Variety