A new book from Insight Editions wants to take you behind-the-scenes of the making of HBO's Game of Thrones. Like, wayyyyyy behind the scenes. In Game of Thrones: The Storyboards, fans can explore how iconic scenes went from script to pencil to paper to screen. Written by Michel Kogge, the drawings are all from the series' head storyboard artist, Wiliam Simpson, who started his career as a comic book illustrator.
As major GoT fans, we at SYFY WIRE were able to cajole publisher Insight Editions into providing us with two exclusive spreads from the book, which goes on sale later this month.
The first shows the famous scene from the Season 1 finale when Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) walks out of a blazing fire, completely unscathed, with newly-born dragons at her side. The second is drawn from Season 5 when Dany's dragons, now fully-grown, have to be locked away in the cellars of Meereen after they start attacking the locals.
"It’s just the same breaking down comic strips, the Splash pages being the big moments on screen, but the big moments in film need to be lots of pictures in a storyboard," Simpson exclusively tells SYFY WIRE. "That’s just the beginning ... when the director gets any of the versions of any scene, they then make changes on the day. The storyboard is the guide, the plan, the day is when it all comes together with lighting, with costume, with dry ice, with blood!"
The first set of storyboards above comes just after Dany's efforts to revive her husband, Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa), with blood magic done by Duur (Mia Soteriou) having failed. As a husk of his former self, he is of no use to anyone, so Dany mercifully sends him off in a merciful funeral pyre; the witch's death, on the other hand, isn't so merciful.
Lucky for Simpson, there were plenty of pointers from creators/showrunners, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, who would either give their own sagely advice or relay the word of the man upstairs, A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin.
"Their constant encouragement any time I met them, was really all I needed. They have a way of making you ready to try harder," Simpson continues. "George R.R. resides in a different planet, so he wasn’t in the picture. His was the word, and David and Dan were the prophets, interpreting, so we of the minion creative classes could understand where we were going!"
In the spread above, you can see Dany retreating a distance away from her "children," who have come to resent her for chaining them up in a dark and dreary dungeon. Even in light of the heavy drama and pathos, Simpson's contact sheets describe the scene as "Dany Day Care."
"Now I know mine are different from what we see on screen, but they were my freakiest fun fest," he says. "It’s great to design the starting point for something that is so important to the series. These were our Big Bad, constantly affecting the background of the show. They haunted in the dark spaces, just waiting to emerge and engulf the very fallible humanity, a whole bunch of Michael Myers!"
Not everything is a cake walk, though. For instance, Simpson adds that the Battle of Blackwater sequence in Season 2 took up an entire month of his life, with no days off. Even so, there was an upside to all that work: he knew about all of the major plot beats and deaths before anyone else did. That includes Season 8, whose details he's known about for nearly two years! All that "forbidden" knowledge led to some pretty fun stories like this one:
"I remember being at a convention about two years ago, where a certain actor, having had a few drinks, leaned over his seat on our return flight and proceeded to tell me who was going to live and who was going to die and exactly where he’d be in the last season... and everything he told me was wrong, especially his own fate as I knew he was dying the next week on set. I off course was totally dumb and just stroked my beard in a good ol’ musing session as I proceeded to contemplate his thoughts, but, y’know, it was kinder to let him live a little longer, at least in his mind! "
Game of Thrones: The Storyboards goes on sale Tuesday, May 28. You can pre-order a copy by clicking right here. Episode 4 of Season 8 airs this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.
"[Giving fans] a more complete version of the boards I did on the show was always my desire," says Simpson. "As it is, I assume there was a choice making procedure as... there were more boards produced, than have made it into the book."