BEWARE – Spoilers! This is an article about the two most recent episodes of Game of Thrones – S6: E3 & E4 – and reveals important plot points about the show. Do NOT read on if you’re not up to date with the series.
Game of Thrones season six has made for some seriously compelling TV so far, and we’ve got Daniel Sackheim to thank (in-part) for that. Sackheim directed episodes three (‘Oathbreaker’) and four (‘Book of the Stranger’) of the latest series, and has now turned to Reddit to answer fans’ biggest questions about the show.
We’ve rounded up 32 of the best questions and answers from the AMA, which you can find below. Topics discussed include Jon and Sansa’s reunion, the Tower of Joy fight scene, and Ramsay Bolton’s latest offing.
Read on – but beware spoilers.
1. Does Sansa know that Jon died?
I assume she does.
2. Who was the actor that most surprised you when directing your episodes?
Lena Headey was the most surprising. She would routinely come to set with very specific ideas, some of them different from my take on the scene. She would say ‘just let me try it this way, and if you don’t like it I’ll do it differently’. At every turn her ideas were inspired and that’s what ended up on screen.
3. Is the sword that Arthur Dayne sticks in the ground at the beginning of the Tower of Joy fight scene Dawn?
Yes it is.
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4. Are you positive that is Shaggydog’s head? Kinda small for a direwolf, if you ask me…
You’re right it does seem small. I had the same question, but I was assured by the creature maker that was responsible for crafting the head that it was the correct size. Good question.
5. Any idea why the decision was made to kill off Osha so swiftly and suddenly after her reintroduction?
I don’t really know. That was Dan and David’s decision. We never really discussed it. Sorry.
6. What can you tell us about the off-screen relationships between the actors?
They are all pretty close, but given the number of storylines, many of them have not worked together. It’s a very collegial group of people.
7. Did you also bend the knee when Daenerys walked out the burning tent?
Damn straight. Did you not see her walk out of a burning temple?!
8. How much of the Tormund/Brienne dynamic was written into he script?
That was definitely written into the script, however we did play around a bit with it on set, tonally. I will say I was amazed by the reception that flirtation received on the internet. It was surprising certainly because Brienne’s character has been driven largely by duty and honour, and
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9. What advice would you give to young film-makers hoping to break into TV directing?
Oh man, this really deserves more time than I can devote to this question here. TV is a producer’s medium so you work to help fulfil the vision of the show runners. Film is a director’s medium and is all about the director’s vision. This is not to say that you don’t have some creative freedom as a TV director, but it’s a different process. I don’t know what to offer as to how to break into TV. Everyone has their own path. Do good work. If you have talent and passion it will be recognised. Good luck.
10. Why did you choose to have Ser Arthur Dayne use two swords instead of Dawn?
We were looking for something that Arthur Dayne could do that would exhibit almost superhuman prowess. While we tried, we could not achieve that using one sword.
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11. What were some things you wanted to nail down to give the audience those heart-warming moments during Jon and Sansa’s reunion?
The characters had not seen each other for a number of years (six seasons) and so what we discussed was that it should seem almost dream-like to them, and that there would be some tentativeness to their actions. It was about stringing along the anticipation of the reunion as long as possible to create the feeling of longing, and so that the moment they hugged would feel earned and satisfying.
12. Which scenes were the most fun for you to shoot?
Ramsay killing Osha, the Arya training montage, the sword fight at the Tower of Joy, the small council scenes.
13. How long do you get between when you get the script and when you start filming an episode of Game of Thrones? Does pre-production take place in Belfast mainly or does it depend on where you are shooting?
In my case there was six weeks of prep. Some of the directors who did later episodes had less prep time. Yes, prep is based in Belfast, however there are scouts to other countries (in my case Spain, where I shot Tower of Joy and Vaes Dothrak), and that took up about a week of my prep.
14. What’s it like working with all of those talented actors? Also, as a director, do you fly out to each place individually or do you have some people to go to one location while you’re at another?
It’s a real pleasure. They are all consummate professionals and ego never enters into the process. There is a ton of travelling. There are two crews working all the time and you bounce between them, and between different countries.
15. Is there anyone on set who tends to say in character between scenes? Also, I hear Conleth Hill is hilarious on set and makes people break constantly.
I would say as a rule, most of the actors break character after the camera cuts. Sophie Turner, for example, is a real cut-up. Conleth and Peter Dinklage love to take the piss out of each other. The cast are very close, and while they work very hard, they like to try and keep the atmosphere on set light.
16. In Daenerys completely immune to the fire in the show?
She’s completely immune to fire. Check out Episode 10 from season one.
17. What was the most challenging scene to complete?
The fire inside the temple. Fire dictates that you move very slowly and carefully, so it was a painstaking process.
18. What was your favourite location to shoot a scene at?
Favourite location was probably the Zafra tower in Spain, where we shot the Tower of Joy scene.
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19. How does the whole experience compare to more traditional television?
It’s radically different from a traditional TV experience. The scope and scale of production is vastly greater and you have more resources at your disposal. The schedules are almost twice as long as a typical Cable TV show.
They…shoot all the episodes at one time, with two crews, so each director is up at bat at different times over the course of production. The result is that it takes approx six months to complete two episodes. I did get a chance to meet and collaborate with the other directors.
20. How many times did you have to film the fight scene with young Ned and Arthur Dayne?
There were numerous shots for this sequence, and it took the better part of three days to complete the scene.
21. What’s the next project you’re working on?
My next project is The Leftovers for HBO. I would, of course, be honoured to direct another GoT, however it requires a six-month commitment in the UK so it’s all about timing.
22. How long does it take to shoot one scene of dialogue? How long does it take to shoot large-scale battle scenes?
There is no one answer to this question. It’s dependent on the length and complexity of the scene, day versus night, interior versus exterior, and the number of characters involved. That said, an average GoT dialogue scene would take about eight hours to shoot. I didn’t have any battle scenes. I had a sword fight that was quite involved and took three days.
23. Is Jorah’s recent ineffectiveness in combat due to his old age, or the progression of his greyscale?
Neither. He’s very effective against a normal size opponent when he is armed. Last time he took on a Dothraki he had a sword. In this case, it simply wasn’t a fair fight.
24. How hard has it been to keep the sets secure from prying spoiler eyes?
Security was pretty thorough, though there was one occasion when we were in Spain, outside the Dothraki temple when some paparazzi managed to get a vantage point on top of a hill, and tose photos ended up in the press and generated a lot of speculation.
25. You must have been at the wheel for the Castle Black landslide. Did this cause any particular issues for you?
Yes, I was there during the landslide. It did delay the company’s ability to complete the work while the engineers determined if the set was safe to shoot on. So yes, some of my work was half completed and then finished moths later. I believe the Jon/Sansa reunion was one of those scenes.
26. Can you share your favourite story from your time working on GoT? And what are David Benioff and DB Weiss like as bosses?
There are so many experiences in a six-month period it’s hard to nail down to just one in a few moments. As for Dan and David, they are fantastic writers and producers. They oversee even the most minute detail of the series. While they have very strong opinions, they are extremely collaborative and the work always triumphs over ego.
27. Wanted to ask about the preparation of the TOJ sword fight. How long did it take to choreograph?
It took about three months. It went through numerous iterations as we searched for something dynamic and different from other sword fights the show had done. I don’t know if there was one [mastermind], we just kept throwing ideas around.
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28. How did you get chosen to direct the episodes?
I was recommended to Dan and David by Michelle MacLaren, who directed some truly impressive episodes of GoT. I met with them and we hit it off. They pretty much tell you which [episodes] they want you to direct, but I feel like I hit the jackpot with the episodes I landed.
29. Do you know what’s happening throughout the entire season or are you in the dark about the rest of the episodes?
All the directors were privy to what happens over the course of the season. We all got scripts so that we were conscious of the various characters arcs and how they would play out. However, I can’t talk about anything other than what’s aired, or I will end up on the wall of faces.
30. Did you consider having Ned and his men wear armour at the Tower of Joy?
It was discussed and I was informed by Dan and David that they would not have worn armour into battle. They were coming from having two years of war. The men who did wear armour were the Kingsguard.
31. What scene was your favourite scene to film in episode 3 and 4?
The swordfight in episode 3, which took months of preparation. In episode 4, I’d have to say the burning of the temple.
32. What is it like filming scenes with Ramsay?
As with most of these characters, the actors are really nothing like them. He’s a very thoughtful and intuitive actor. The scene in episode 4 was actually quite complicated by virtue of the choreography, with Osha (Natalia) on his lap, and her reaching for the knife, and the blood gag. He was infinitely accommodating and patient. He certainly knows his character, and can slip into that skin with relative ease.
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