Benioff and Weiss talk writing Season 7 and the awful Game of Thrones pilot


Want to hear a bit more about the early days and current behind-the-scenes production challenges of HBO’s Game of Thrones? The Scriptnotes Podcast team of John August and Craig Mazin recently sat down with showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss for a lighthearted and interesting podcast discussion focusing on the history and the creative/production machinery of the show. The topics range from logistical problems encountered writing the episodes so far in advance, the creative and hilarious ways David and D.B. handle arguments (apparently, one has threatened to beat the other to death on multiple occasions) and Mazin’s personal account on the awfulness of the original Game of Thrones pilot episode.

David and Dan talk about the complications involved in shooting an entire season’s worth of episodes simultaneously in a “hybrid film/television scheduling model.” They bring up the fact that, because episodes are written and filmed so far ahead of time, they really don’t have to power to adjust anything about the show if it hits a bump in the road. At best, they can pivot generally when they’re writing a new season—they’re writing Season 7 right now.

Speaking of Season 7, they describe a scene they were writing “today,” meaning in the very recent past when the podcast was recorded. Apparently, they changed a fairly small-scale scene (“a little interior four-hander”) set “in the throne room” into “a massive parade through the streets of King’s Landing.”  So you heard it here first: King’s Landing will be in Season 7. Spoiler alert.

The podcast also covers some of the creative duo’s early experiences trying to get the Game of Thrones franchise started. It took them almost 4 years (2006-2010) to get the original pilot episode made. When they finally screened the finished pilot for some of their friends, Benioff says “Watching them watch the original pilot was one of the most painful experiences of my life.” Craig Mazin, having attended the original premiere, told the duo: “You guys have a massive problem.” David and D.B. ended up re-shooting about 90% of the pilot, and when Mazin saw the new version he told them: “That is the biggest rescue in Hollywood history…You had saved a complete piece of s*** and turned it into something brilliant.” Then he makes a really dorky Dungeons & Dragons reference. It’s fun.

At one point, THE QUESTION (from Craig Mazin, seen above right with John August) you know is coming:

"Is Jon Snow alive or what?"

And, of course, Benioff and Weiss provide the response you know is coming:

"Jon Snow is dead."

The podcast interview caps off with a humorous matching of current presidential candidates with Game of Thrones characters. If you’re wondering, Chris Christie=Robert Baratheon, Hillary Clinton=Stannis Baratheon, and Ben Carson=Mord the gaoler. Head here to listen to the full podcast—Benioff and Weiss come on around 30 minutes in. It’s also available on iTunes.

Other fun facts:

  • The process of writing a season goes generally like this: the episodes are plotted out on index cards and spread across a big board. Then they write an outline (the outline for Season 5 was 160 pages). Then they write scripts, and then they shoot.
  • They’re editing Season 6 at the same time they’re writing Season 7. They’re busy guys. Generally, though, they get to do “one thing at a time.”
  • While Benioff and Weiss can’t change things about the show mid-season, they can and do make rewrites to the scripts during filming.

h/t Uproxx