Season 7 action scenes make past battles look “like child’s play”



Paula Fairfield likes sound. A lot. As the sound designer on Game of Thrones, she spends a lot of time alone in a dark room putting together the sounds we hear and too often take for granted when watching this show — dragon roars, sword clashes, and the like. And to hear her tell it, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My best work is going crazy and finding the edges,” she says while speaking to me a handful of other reporters and bloggers at Con of Thrones. In particular, Fairfield likes “playing with sounds that are emotionally charged.” For example, she told a story about how she recorded some of the nosies made by her dog Angel, who has since passed on. But she finds a way to honor Angel through her work. “There’s a beautiful wolf scene this seasons,” she said during the Bringing Westeros to Life panel, “and all of the wolf noises are [Angel].”

Wait. Wolf scene? On top of being very passionate about sound design, Fairfield is also an intense speaker, and can’t seem to help mentioning little tidbits about what’s to come in Game of Thrones season 7…and possible 8. (For the record, those who have paid attention to SPOILERS may know what Fairfield is talking about when she mentions a “wolf scene.”)

For example, during that same panel, she mentioned how some of the action sequences coming up in season 7 will make the older ones, like the Massacre at Hardhome, look “like child’s play.” That is a tall order, and one I hope the producers fill.

Part of the reason the producers are now to able to give us these kinds of sequences is because HBO is no longer putting many limits on the size of the production. “Each year, they get a budget for a few more dragon shots and they have to be very careful how they use them,” she said during the press conference. “Not so much this year. Not so much anymore.”

"There’s not so much having to hold back and plan, because there’s a lot of dragon action this year, and it’s fabulous."

She also says that she may have spent a few more weeks on season 7 than on past seasons, since “it’s so complex this year.” And at another point: “This season is beyond…You can’t even imagine.” The tease is strong with this one.

Fairfield even talked a little more generally about how much Game of Thrones we’re getting this year. As we know, season 7 will only seven episodes, as opposed to the usual 10, but Fairfield cautions that because many of those episodes are quite long, “you’re getting like nine shows worth of material.” And if can believe what Fairfield has heard, season 8 could deliver something similar.

"“The finale, I’ve heard, it will be six shows, but I’ve heard they’ll be feature-length.”"

That’s far from confirmation — Fairfield freely admits that she doesn’t know what they have planned for the finale — but it’s a tantalizing prospect.

But even if she doesn’t know the endgame, she suspects she’ll be reusing some of the same sounds she created for season 7 for season 8. She doesn’t say what new sounds she created for season 7, of course, but she did say that there are “some goodies coming up [that] I had to work on,” and that she had to “redesign old sounds to “pitch them, stretch them, make them bigger.”

I’ll be honest: of all of Fairfield’s comments, the ones about what’s coming in season 7 and 8 have me the most excited, but she was there to talk about her sound design work, and she had plenty of interesting things to say on that front, as well. For starters, she discussed her philosophy of sound design, which doesn’t include using any synthesized sound. “If you start with an organic source, you’ll end with an organic source,” she said. This devotion to using sounds from the real world can lead to some fascinating applications, as when she incorporated the sound that a male turtle made during sex into Drogon’s roar. It’s still in there, so just keep that in mind the next time Drogon opens his mouth — part of that is a turtle enjoying himself.

Fairfield talks a lot about the dragons, which have changed drastically since she joined the show in season 3. “I have to grow my sound design for the dragons,” she said. “They went for toddlers [and] now they’re the size of 767s.”

She also has an interesting perspective on their relationship with Daenerys, and with Drogon in particular. To hear Fairfield tell it, Dany has an almost “sensual” relationship with Drogon, in part because Fairfield considers him “a reincarnation of her very hot husband from season 1,” at least in the metaphorical sense.

Khal Drogo, Dany’s very hot husband from season 1

As for the other dragons, they’re important, but clearly Drogon is mommy’s favorite. Fairfield calls them Beavis and Butthead.

All in all, Fairfield makes for a terrific interviewee! Thanks to her for indulging my questions, and to Con of Thrones for bringing her to meet the fans.

Next: Con of Thrones, Day 1: Beginnings, Endings, and the Apocalypse

Other interesting bits:

  • Although we never hear it, the producers did invent a language for the White Walkers to speak. It was called Skroth, but it wasn’t a good fit for the creatures. “They just are bigger than language,” Fairfield said. “Language was demeaning to them to speak…It was just beneath them. They were beyond that…There’s something primal, mystical and deep about that.”
  • On that topic, will we ever hear a White Walker speak? Fairfield doubts it, although she thinks it’d be funny if the last thing we see on the show is the Night King uttering a single word.
  • Fairfield had some intriguing things to say about Ramin Djawadi, who writes the music for the show. She loves his work and thinks it’s a crime he hasn’t gotten an Emmy yet (preach), but can get a little frustrated when the producers pump up the score to the point where all the hard work she puts into the sound effects can be drowned out. “The battle of sound design and music is always there, and it’s tough.”