The rest of the kingdom will be on hold this week, for episode 9, The Watchers on the Wall, is promising to be bigger than the Battle of Blackwater. Dan and Dave discussed the challenges of filming the battle with EW.
Dave: Having Neil Marshall directing it, you have confidence; like going to a really good doctor who’s going to make everything better. Neil is very soft spoken, but he’s the kind of guy when he’s on the set everyone is calm because he knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s a very intense episode, more intense than Blackwater. We’re seeing it now, even before visual effects have gone in, and it’s still magnificent.
Dan: With Blackwater when we got the episode in, so much of it was visual effects dependent we were kind of unsure — the performances were fantastic and the action was great, but we weren’t entirely sure what we had until the pieces were put together. But with this, even Neil’s first director’s cut that we saw without a single frame of visual effects finished, just something about it really grabbed us by the neck that’s very rare even with the great directors we’re fortunate to work with.
Dave: In terms of the sets, our new production designer Deborah Riley did this magnificent top-of-The Wall set, far bigger than what we had before, so you can do walk-and-talks, you can have massive action sequences. It’s completely surrounded by green screen, which is apparently the biggest green screen in Europe.
Dan: Neil and Deb both spent a lot of time watching the Kubrick film Paths of Glory to get a sense of how to apply trench warfare set-building to an icy top-of-The Wall environment. She did a really fantastic job. It has to be the biggest Styrofoam piece in existence.
Dave: I wouldn’t say it’s wall-to-wall action — because it doesn’t start right away — but once it gets going about 15 minutes into the episode it doesn’t stop. And we’re still on a TV budget. So the amount of action beats Neil had to shoot every day with a limited number of takes with the number of visual effects shots makes everything more complicated.
Dan: With so much action, the more layered it gets, and then the easier it is to stop making any sense and just show a lot of random guys hacking and beating away at each other. And Neil’s sense of what was happening in an extremely complicated environment is so strong.