Game of Thrones sound designer Paula Fairfield has no doubt season 8 “will redefine the word epic”


As last weekend’s Con of Thrones, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paula Fairfield, Game of Thrones’  longtime sound designer. Fairfield has worked on the series since season 3, crafting everything from the roar of Daenerys’ dragons to the “language” of the White Walkers. Watch our exchange below, and then we’ll go over the highlights!

We start off talking about Fairfield’s process. Unlike a lot of other shows, Fairfield tells us, HBO treats Game of Thrones “as a long, long feature,” rather than on an episode-by-episode basis. Fairfield gets to see a rough cut, one augmented with animatics or storyboards, early on, but she doesn’t really dive in until “a little later,” on account of how closely her job is tied to the visual effects.

"I need to understand what’s going on in the scene. If we’re talking about the dragons, then what is happening with them? What’s their development? So that the roar conveys the emotional of the scene. It’s not just sticking a roar in there that’s been done before or whatever. Everything is custom fit for every scene."

But on a show as complicated as this, planning ahead can help. Fairfield tells us she started to plan for season 8 while working on season 7, the better to avoid jarring changes in tone.

"I have started to realize how big a problem it can be because fans are so dedicated and watch so closely that I have a responsibility to provide as seamless an experience in viewing as everyone else does on the show…And part of that is the articulation of their voices, so if I shift gears suddenly, people are gonna notice that, so I really try to take into consideration the whole arc of the season and really pace it out. The more images and the more defined the scenes are when I see them…the more satisfying the outcome will be in the end."

Fairfield has given the dragons a consistent voice as they’ve grown from children to moody teenagers to adults, so we’d say she’s done her job well.

Speaking of season 8, can Fairfield tell us anything about it? She isn’t concerned with whether the final six episodes are supersized, or at least, she doesn’t think that will affect the way she works. “The schedule is still pretty tight for our post, and I don’t think the amount of time that I’m going to have is extraordinarily longer than it was last season, so it worries me, but I’m also so excited.”

"I’m frankly shaking in my boots right now with anticipation of what’s coming because I know that because they’ve been shooting so long, and because the visual effective element is — I am sure — so intricate and intense, and because of what just happened at the end of season 7, I can only start to imagine the things that might happen, and I have tried to…imagine…the possibilities of where they could take this, and make sure there are enough elements in season 7 that I could expand upon them in season 8."

For reference, Fairfield expects to get to work on season 8 around “November-ish.”

Apart from how much time she has to work on season 8, Fairfield is feeling the pressure of this being the show’s last hurrah:

"Last year I pushed myself, and the show pushed me…I intend to step my game up even higher for next season, and we will all go out with a bang. I have no doubt that we will redefine the work epic next season. I think we all feel that coming. And I know that it will be extremely challenging but it’s gonna be amazingly satisfying. If not devastating on the last episode."

“We know that there will be the breaking of hearts next season, that is without a doubt,” Fairfield continued. “But just the fact that it is the final season, it’s devastating. And yet I really respect them for bringing it to its conclusion when they are, going out on a high note, not overstaying their welcome, and really giving something…that we will be able to chew on for years to come.”

We appreciated how thoughtful and articulate Fairfield was. Here’re some other noteworthy bits:

  • Fairfield designs all kinds of sounds for the show, but we get the idea that the dragons are her favorite. “I can’t think of something where a central creature has grown over time, over years, over seasons, so just that challenge alone has been incredible. To really dig deep inside of me to find my voice to find the voice of the dragons has been an amazing journey.”
  • Post-Game of Thrones, Fairfield hopes to continue working in the “fantastical allegory” genre, and would love one day to work on an adaptation of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. “I’ve done some work on other shows that are more straight ahead now, and it just lays flat for me now. Because you’re really contained. In this, it’s like, sky’s the limit. You can go anywhere, and that’s the kind of work I wanna continue doing.”

Whatever she does next, she’s earned our attention.

Next: Hannah Murray teases new scene partners for Gilly in Game of Thrones season 8

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