Game of Thrones is undoubtedly one of the television’s biggest shows. From epic power struggles to violent fight scenes, the show has a lot of great eye-catching conflict. But what Game Of Thrones has, above all else, is a great story filled with wonderful characters. The show has a lot of credit to give to its source material, but a transition from book to screen isn’t an easy one, especially with a show as epic-in-scope as Game of Thrones.
But what exactly is the yearly process of writing for a big budget show like Game of Thrones? In a recent interview with the Observer, one of the show’s writers and producers, Bryan Cogman, went into detail of just how the show is written each season (via Collider).
Considering all the stages involved in the filmmaking process, just where does the writing process begin and end for a show like Game of Thrones, where planning is so important?
“As we’re shooting one season we’re trading emails and/or chatting on set about the broad strokes of the next season: ‘Character X’ starts at ‘blank’ and we want him or her to end up at ‘blank.’ Then, as we start to approach the end of production, [show creators] David and Dan (A.K.A. D&D), in some years, will assign the various writers a few characters. For instance, when we were working on Season 4, I was assigned Arya and a few others. So I’d go home and work for a few weeks on my ‘Arya Season 4,’ keeping in mind a few scenes we’d already discussed and what chapters and scenarios and themes from the books we might use.”
Readers of the book will likely smile at this approach to the writing. For those unfamiliar, virtually every chapter in the series is written from the perspective of a different character. Slowly, the picture that is the overall plot of Game of Thrones is stitched together like a rich tapestry over the course of the book. Rather than simply assign a writer an episode, it’s refreshing that the writers are taking a more character-centric approach.
So when the writers are done with their character maps for the season, what happens next? Bryan Cogman continued his explanation.
“Then, in January, when we’re back in L.A., we’d meet for about two or three weeks, armed with the work we’d all done individually, and throw it all up on the board. You debate, you use some stuff, you throw some stuff out, you think up some new stuff. Sometimes what you end up with is really close to the individual outlines. Sometimes it’s very different.
“After we map out all the main characters’ individual arcs, using color-coded index cards, we arrange them by episode and get a rough idea of the scene order. From there, we all split up again and each tackle a chunk of the outline—a detailed outline, which sometimes ends up being over a hundred pages. David and Dan polish it, and that’s what we use to script our episodes. I’m generally assigned mid-season episodes—it just seems to work out that way. George [R.R. Martin] wrote a script per season for the first four seasons, but took a break for Season 5 as he’s hard at work on the next book. And while George isn’t in the writers room, he reads the outlines and gives his notes.”
From there, Bryan Cogman went on to explain the final details of the process. After he’s given his two-episode assignment, Cogman spends about a month and a half writing the scripts for both. From there, they do revisions on the Game of Thrones scripts. While they mess around with them a bit through production, they’re pretty much ready to go.
“They have to be, as we have to have all 10 scripts complete well before shooting starts. We shoot all 10 episodes simultaneously, out of order, like a big, 10-hour movie, with two shooting units going at all times, sometimes in different countries.”
So there you have it, an inside scoop on how Game of Thrones is written each season, from one of the writers, Bryan Cogman.
Surely many Game of Thrones fans have little to complain about regarding the quality of the content, but what do you think of the process the writers have come up with?
[Image Credits: HBO, Observer, Winter Is Coming]