David Benioff and D.B. Weiss on creating Game of Thrones

db-weiss-and-david-benioff-game-of-thrones-producers

Idaho’s public television station recently hosted Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss on their program Dialogue during the 2016 Sun Valley Writer’s Conference. Marcia Franklin sat down with the showrunners to dive into what inspired the series, their experiences on the show, and how they address criticism.

Having little production experience, David Benioff says the two had a “steep learning curve.” While reminiscing about a brutally cold day of filming in Malta, D.B. Weiss reveals what truly inspired the series:

I just remember sitting there thinking: this could be where it all ends. Luckily the clouds cleared and we got what we needed.

If we had known what we would have to know to do this well, I think the intimidation factor may have gotten the best of us. But we were just filled with excitement over the prospect. We knew that done right George’s books could really be something tremendous and we just were so excited we just kinda barreled into this situation without really knowing what we didn’t know is that there were unknown unknowns.

Six seasons later and the series really has evolved into something tremendous. Check out part one of the interview below!

Part two of the interview focuses on the economic effect of the series on Northern Ireland, the visual and technical details in creating dragons and direwolves, and the next project for the series creators.

The two even chat about Breaking Bad co-star and Idaho native Aaron Paul!

They end saying they both plan to continue writing but it’s hard to think about what’s next while still working on a series as “totalizing” as Game of Thrones. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!

81 responses

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    1. I say “hold the door,” suck it up and agree to do another Westeros series! Some criticize them but they’ve brought me my favorite TV series EVER in what I feel is a fantastic manner. I’m all for them giving another story a shot!

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    2. Despite my reservations with their hackjob of seasons 5 and 6, I still admire these guys for taking a shot and then grabbing the bull by the horns even as everything was going to shit and turning it into a show so big it has made anyone involved a household name across the globe.

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    3. As they’ve made changes to the books, I have always enjoyed their work on Thrones. The only complaint I have is the pace of the show accelerating while the books like havent come out yet so I’m sure there would be plenty of great dialogues to dissect to really have 2 more 10 episode seasons.

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    4. An interesting interview, at least until Aaron Paul’s name came up and stopped it in its tracks because, hey. he’s from Idaho. One the other hand, beats mentioning that other Spud State native, Sarah Palin.

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    5. Every time I see that photo of Benioff I cringe, he looks like such a massive tool in it.

      Interested in listening to this interview though. I wonder if they’d ever consider doing TV again? My guess is no, at least not before pursuing their original movie ideas. The time commitment to doing a successful TV show could take up a decade of your life.

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    6. Lord Parramandas here and I’m still alive if anyone wondered.

      At this point, I want to say that the producers have done a great job with the TV series. It’s among my top 3 shows and the only series where I never rated an episode below 7 (I rarely rate episodes below 6 when it comes to really great TV series).

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    7. Stannisisdead,

      Calm down, it’s just a joke, it’s a weird picture. He looks like a doof with the pose he’s striking and that shirt he’s wearing. He’s obviously a great looking guy and I’m a fan of his and Weiss’s.

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    8. It’s a great interview.

      I can’t never sympathize with Benioff’s view on us spoiler addicts, but I loved their answers about how they respond to criticism (i.e. Largely, they don’t.)

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    9. I never thought that I would become so invested in a fictional story…Loved Lord of the Rings and the Tales of Narnia and have enjoyed GOT so much. But all stories actually go on and on until they don’t and sometime it has to stop. These guys have devoted so much of their lives to this production. Thank you.

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    10. Love these guys.. their hardwork and dedication is amazing.
      They have literally done nothing but game of thrones for the last six years and that’s dedication!!!
      The show only keeps getting better since day 1, since season 6 is the best season yet, so I commend them on that, 1) because they didn’t have any more books to guide them on such a huge story, and 2) most TV shows die down after a few seasons…

      Love them!

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    11. Why did they butcher so many characters?????!!!!!!

      Stannis
      Jon Snow (death scene + whole of season 6)
      All the greyjoys
      All the Martells
      Selmy
      Jorah.. why greyscale????
      ETC
      ETC

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    12. Luka Nieto: but I loved their answers about how they respond to criticism (i.e. Largely, they don’t.)

      Heh, so often it is the case that criticisms cancel each other out that one might say that most people are simply using the consensus of the criticisms!

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    13. mau: . And you. They hate you as well!

      And his mother! And they spat on his grandmother’s grave!! And remember Fluffy? Fluffy didn’t really go to a farm: D&D used him for Sansa’s outfit!!!!

      😀

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    14. Kevin Snow: The only complaint I have is the pace of the show accelerating while the books like havent come out yet so I’m sure there would be plenty of great dialogues to dissect to really have 2 more 10 episode seasons.

      Are you suggesting that they should have stretched out the series so that they would have gotten to the Battle of the Bastards and the departure from Mereen in another two years? If so, then that would not have worked. Moreover, dialogue is not what they need: it is story. Dialogue is great for developing characters, and they used it very effectively the first 2-3 seasons. However, at this point, we need action to see the evolution of the characters.

      We only need to look at the number of series that have risen and fallen during Thrones’ run to see how difficult it is to pull of this feat. Most shows like Thrones would have hit a critical and/or popular peak 2-3 years ago already, and they would essentially be “living fossils” by now: or completely extinct! Thrones is going to stand out: it might well go out on a peak, and if it does not, then it will go out not long afterwards.

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    15. mau: I think that the Harry Potter series has the worst book purists. They just reject any change from the books.

      The Tolkien purists were just as bad. The big difference was that some of the other Tolkien fans could quote Tolkien himself about what was and what was not important to the story, what the story actually was, and even what should be cut and kept in a film adaptation. Potter fans could do that with Rowling, but the “purists” were convinced that she was lying and that she secretly hated the movies. Rowling herself actually gave her highest praise to the films that departed the most from the books; moreover, she did reveal that she had really wanted to have Terry Gilliam direct the films, which would have meant heavily adapted films to say the least! Of course, we’d also be waiting for the 4th film to come out still….. 😉

      Along these lines, some of the Marvel comic fans have been really bad about their purism. Of course, it gets crazier there because the comics have “retconned” (= “retroactive continuity,” i.e., what the comic in 1965 showed didn’t really happen) severely, and the comic fans themselves argue about what is “canon.” Stan Lee gives a similar answer to GRRM: all of it and none of it.

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    16. I realize this interview is a few months old. Within the current leak environment, however, when they were discussing script security, I desperately wanted her to ask if they ever plant false scenes or insert canary traps.

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    17. Wimsey,

      No I’m not complaining about season 6, the pace has accelerated and I appreciate the fact they are moving to the end point, I’m sure due to the Winds of Winter book not being out (with the great mind of the author with exceptional dialogue) I’m sure they would be able to add more scenes between other characters to share more time together and build a bit more on it.

      I know they’ve spent lots of time in the first few seasons in character development, it is nice to see what chemistry with other characters would have on screen, I just dont want things to feel rushed, I’m satisfied with their work, just my opinion of the pace I hope doesn’t get lost in the track.

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    18. They said they looked at a scale size of the dragons for season 7, in order to direct it correctly, and they compared the size of the dragons (probably Drogon) to the size of a DC 9 airplane.

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    19. GS: November 17, 2016 at 9:30 am

      They said they looked at a scale size of the dragons for season 7, in order to direct it correctly, and they compared the size of the dragons (probably Drogon) to the size of a DC 9 airplane

      Hmm Drogon was already as big as a DC9 season 6. He should be a 747 S7.
      Can’t tell but seems the dragons should be a bigger battle-factor than has been leaked so far … so don’t know what’s going on there.

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    20. Wimsey: Dialogue is great for developing characters, and they used it very effectively the first 2-3 seasons. However, at this point, we need action to see the evolution of the characters

      Marry me

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    21. I don’t care what the purists say, I’ve read the books and love them more, but D&D have done, imo a marvelous job all around recreating this story for television(a different medium which requires different takes on certain aspects). Sure they’ve made mistakes, they’ve admitted it here, but they have successfully brought George’s incredible work to life all around the world and I can’t wait to see the ending of the series, then the books. I wish them the best on any future work.

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    22. GS:
      They said they looked at a scale size of the dragons for season 7, in order to direct it correctly, and they compared the size of the dragons (probably Drogon) to the size of a DC 9 airplane.

      I took it to mean that the dragons, especially my boy Drogon, will be gigantic!

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    23. Wimsey,

      I was never one of the “purists” but going by the last two seasons.. the writing was piss poor. season 6 was really bad sidelining Jon Snow by merging Sansa and his storyline just because they made a mistake with Sansa in the previous season. That is the biggest thing, and people now think Jon Snow isn’t fit to be a ruler when all book readers know that despite being naive because of his age is shaping up to be a real leader.. and then he is taken away from us (or is he?..). The revealing of his parentage and being made King in the North was such an anti-climax because of how bad of a season Jon Snow has. Especially Ramsay being the tactician and Jon Snow being the one to just rush in so he was helpless and had to have Sansa save him. Poor writing, load of bollocks.
      That is just an example of one character. All round watered down and some terrible dialogue. Best scene was either ToJ or Euron killing Balon. IMO

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    24. I’ll even go as far to say that I loved Sansa’a Season 5 arc…it was heart breaking and I much prefer it to her time in the Vale in the books.

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    25. TheMannis,
      Yep, same. Love the show and wouldn’t consider any of it bad because some things don’t follow the books. I love the books as well but there is also a LOT in them that I just don’t care for and/or is a really slow read. I’d never say D&D butchered the Martells because I dislike just about all of their parts in the books other than Oberyn. For me the only thing they could have done is “save” them by making up some amazing stuff, or simply eliminate them altogether.

      I just get slightly disappointed when they’ve killed off good characters that are alive in the books so far like Barristan… Irri. We can see the reasons they did later, but still.

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    26. TheMannis:
      I’ll even go as far to say that I loved Sansa’a Season 5 arc…it was heart breaking and I much prefer it to her time in the Vale in the books.

      AGREED! I’m glad I’m not the only book reader that shares this unpopular opinion. 🙂

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    27. Danielle Stark,
      Oh definitely, it was far more entertaining to me for her to “be” Jeyne Poole than her continued book charade as Alayne. I think it was important for them to do that arc for us to see even more evil of Ramsay to fuel the next steps. Having a little known handmaiden in that role wouldn’t have been as effective. I actually started to enjoy Sansa’s storyline, which is odd for me. That lasted right up through the fireside chat with Jon… now I can’t stand her again. 😛

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    28. Dee Stark,

      In all honesty, I expected Jon to be a bit different, more ruthless but I guess we have Dany for it. Some has to be more of a strictly good guy.

      I don’t agree with some decision they made in his arc but we all have opinions on it. But the way they approached his arc was interesting. From really losing his mojo, believes, confidence. Not a zombie which would be a terrible twist or really darker character which wouldn’t be bad, but I understood their decision. He was really shaken to the core because he saw there is nothing on the end. Just death and nothing more. More of subtle approach and loswly regainin it until his “Mhysa” moment. Which wasn’t part of the scripts, interesting journey.

      He made mistakes but that’s why he is to me a reletable character, Dany and others for that matter.

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    29. Oh this subject again………….. We like it or not George RR Martin knows and supports everything that Benioff and Weiss do with his books …… Season 5 and 6 was extremely good and we must hope the same for the season 7 ……..

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    30. Dee Stark,

      It still surprises me how in a show known for breaking many of the common fantasy tropes, people still demand them for their favorite character… That reddit post summarizes pretty well Jon’s arc in S6 (I might slightly disagree here and there, but that’s just me being nitpicky). I’m afraid, however, it won’t be enough for those Jon fans who want him to be a classical Mary Sue-esque character.

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    31. Geralt of Rivia,

      Someone said something very similar to me when we were arguing about how they handled Jon’s arc in the latest season. I really hope that the moment he climbs out of the dead bodies trapping him is him wanting to be alive and we will see him really come into his own next season 🙂

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    32. Excellent interview. It’s nice to see the showrunners be able and willing to sit down for a longform conversation like this, one in which both the questions they were asked and the answers they gave were both thoughtful and well-considered (while also demonstrating humility and the kind of self-deprecating humor that we’ve come to expect). It’s even better considering that it’s a small public outlet that was able to score such an interview. I’m favor of anything that supports public television, especially in light of recent events.

      I hope that everyone watched at least part of the interview before jumping straight to the comments section. These types of posts have an unfortunate tendency to become magnets for those who wish to re-litigate the creative decisions that the showrunners have made in past seasons – either sincerely or in snarky drive-by fashion – and doomsay about the future. That’s fine – to each their own. I’ll just chime in on the other side and say that I continue to be in awe of what Benioff and Weiss have accomplished. My respect for their abilities as writers and producers, which was already quite high, continues to grow as both the narrative within the show and the frenzied hype around it grows larger and more intricate with each passing year.

      The level of competition in the entertainment business has never been higher, and this fandom can be … let’s be generous and say intense, even at the best of times. Benioff and Weiss have navigated those stormy waters admirably, even if protecting the integrity of their process eventually required them to tune the loudest howlers out. That they’ve managed to stay on top of the mountain and deliver such a fantastic product each and every year – I’m one of those who believe that Season 6 was the best season to date – is nothing short of remarkable. I have every confidence in them to finish this story even stronger than it began.

      I’m especially impressed with their producing skills, for which they remain criminally underrated. They’ve mastered the art and science of supervising a massive cast and crew across three different countries, and keeping all of the trains running more-or-less on time all year round – in addition to writing most of the episodes! That’s no mean feat, especially for two guy who admittedly had no television experience when they took on this project. It’s a key reason why this unlikely property has become the global phenomenon it has, and those hard-won abilities will serve them well going forward.

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    33. Dee Stark,

      Hey, Dee. Nice to see you here again (I was also away – most of the posts were spoiler ones). I hope there will be more of non-spoiler posts like this one.

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    34. Tom Paganhandle,
      Disagree and I love Jon. The show’s portrayal of Jon is just Jon being Jon and that is a good and decent person first and foremost. That is who Jon is at his core, that is the Jon that was first described by Bran in the first chapter of these entire series. A Jon that would sacrifice himself to make others happy, he did it with the direwolves and he has followed that pattern ever since. Had he not gone after Rickon, Ramsey’s trap or no trap, he wouldn’t have been Jon. He’s not the type of person to just stand there and accept a brother’s death without trying to do something to stop it. Additionally, BookJon tends to have a couple of moments where he loses his cool and goes ballistic, he almost chokes Thorne to death for insulting his father and later beats Iron Emmet mercilessly just because he remembers something that pisses him off. So are you telling me that that Jon would not have the furious reaction of charging against the Boltons all by himself after watching Ramsey killed his baby brother? I love Jon and his flaws, I think he’s wonderful but not perfect. Some people think he took a backseat to Sansa and that may be, but in my mind, that didn’t diminish his character at all.

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    35. Danny,

      Up until the ep Battle of the Basards he was a muttering non-entity (lol I will forgive him for the first 3 eps). Like when he is trying to gain support. Jon in the books would have won more to his side. He also knows how to plot, such as when he undermines Stannis and Melisandre. Trained fighter and he has been groomed for leadership… ramsay is very much the opposite
      Ramsay is a mad dog. who just lashes out when he is fighting. Why they could not have kept it like this. Ramsay had the numbers but Jon could have showed his cunning. I don’t blame him for running out to get Rickon. I just don’t like how Ramsay came out of that looking like the strategic genius and Jon as the clueless but brave fool.

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    36. In my opinion, Seasons 5 and 6 were a GREAT adaptation of the still-unfinished second act of the ASOIAF book series: brilliantly condensing and merging storylines and creating an epic story that has improved the source material.
      Regarding Sansa’s storyline (and after having watched season 6) I would say merging her storyline with Ramsay/Theon’s was absolutely the right thing to do. Overall, the northern storyline in both seasons 5 and 6 (including Jon, Stannis, Sansa, Ramsay…) has been my favourite one.

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    37. Tom Paganhandle,

      The books are not even finished yet and there is a significant possibility that they won’t ever be. And with Ramsay being a mad dog and Jon being the cunning one, there would be no tensiom at all and the battle itself would be pretty boring. TV Ramsay was a master manipulator since his first apperiance.

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    38. Some of the criticism is really over the top. People, the TV show is in a different medium from the book. Martin has written the whole series from a point of view vantage. That doesn’t work well for TV or movies. Inner dialogue essentially remains silent.

      Also, in the last two books GRRM wrote, he let things wander all over the place. The first four seasons were very tight because the book were. Then things had to change. If we were still following the books, Tyrion would not yet have met Dany. John would be dead. And so forth. I vaguely recall one chapter of the book dealing with a sewer system in one of the cities. Hey, we could run C-SPAN and get more lively.

      Also, the TV version makes Sansa a tough character. GRRM still has her (and I’ve seen the chapter in Book 6 online) a pawn and wimp.

      More to the point, the series is coming to an end. It’s really one long season from the end. Yes, they’re doing it over two seasons, partly for the winter sun but probably more for extra time for CGI and large battles.
      And who cares about looks? GRRM looks like her could be the model for Bad Santa. I’d rather have writers who looked like rats and wrote like Shakespeare than our usual prettyboys who are barely literate.

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    39. That new article about Tom Hopper…. I wont click on it due to spoilers but I hope this doesn’t mean we see the last of

      Billy Bones in season 3.

      of Black Sails…

      I hope doesn’t die in season 3

      I’m still not done season 3, still in the beginning
      Ahh

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    40. Rabblais: I’d rather have writers who looked like rats and wrote like Shakespeare than our usual prettyboys who are barely literate.

      Let me chime in with something really important: Dan and Dave ARE prettyboys, and anyone who says they are not good-looking is just… blind? Even if they were ugly as hell it wouldn’t matter, but common… Dan especially has Holywood level good-looks.

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    41. I am in no way a book purist, I found the last two books really boring. However, I do think the writing has suffered in the last two seasons. I believe D&D did their best work in the first 3-4 seaons were there was ton of material ahead and stories to choose from and condense. They even improved on some of it. But as the horizon of the story got smaller the series suffered for it, in my opinion. Their completely original stuff just doesn’t have for me the same emotional impact as scenes adapted from George’s book. Like the Sansa and Jon reunion was supposed to be something really emotional (and for many viewers it was) but I was just.. meh. Or when Jon became King in the North.. it felt fake and forced, like they were trying to make us feel. I know some of this stuff is probably laid out by George, however it is different to have just a general concept and to create an original scene from that, than to have to adapt an already existing scene.

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    42. Queensmoot,

      Are you saying that if Jon Sansa reunion and Jon King in the North scene were in a book, theyd have a more emotional impact on you?

      As someone who hasn’t read the books, both scenes made cry, especially the reunion.

      Also, I think DAVID BENIOFF IS HAWT hahaha

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    43. Luka Nieto:
      It’s a great interview.

      I can’t never sympathize with Benioff’s view on us spoiler addicts, but I loved their answers about how they respond to criticism (i.e. Largely, they don’t.)

      Benioff and Weiss have absolutely the worst attitude towards criticism: ignore it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. When, in the course of our lives, have we ever appreciated a boss or teacher who never acknowledges criticisms, no matter how ridiculous?

      In contrast, GRRM makes articulated defenses of why he made certain decisions. He doesn’t “apologize” for them, but he offers explanations for why he did them.

      D&D on the other hand…frequently, it appears many of the things they did were simple mistakes they didn’t even realize at the time (like “this doesn’t make sense for that story arc” or “that plot mechanic doesn’t make sense”). And let’s not forget the elephant in the room; accidentally presenting a not-rape scene between Jaime and Cersei (not bothering to review how the camerawork was edited, so the scene was filmed so badly it unintentionally gave the impression it was a rape scene).

      Their response? Stop giving actual interviews or media appearances after Season 4. Oh they do 5 minute clips on late night shows and so forth, occassionally even panels like this one….in which they just repeat stories about how they filmed Season 1, over and over again.

      One of the most unsettling experiences I ever had was listening to the single audio commentary track they made for the Season 5 Blu-ray…in which they spend the whole thing just recalling how they cast each of the cast members in Season 1.

      They’re not really talking about Seasons 5 and 6, when things dropped off a bit, or like “Dorne”? – because they’re simply embarrassed.

      Not responding to criticism is never a praiseworthy trait. Transparency is.

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    44. The Dragon Demands,

      Oh, please, take a hike. Do you have to reply to me with an insufferable essay every single time I utter something you disagree with? I and many others in this community had enough of that in your wiki. Don’t bring it here too.

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    45. Dee Stark,

      First part of Tom Hopper’s article is actually not a spoiler. It only says in which role he was cast (unless you consider that spoiler as well).

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    46. The Dragon Demands: Benioff and Weiss have absolutely the worst attitude towards criticism:ignore it, or pretend it doesn’t exist.When, in the course of our lives, have we ever appreciated a boss or teacher who never acknowledges criticisms, no matter how ridiculous?

      In contrast, GRRM makes articulated defenses of why he made certain decisions.He doesn’t “apologize” for them, but he offers explanations for why he did them.

      D&D on the other hand…frequently, it appears many of the things they did were simple mistakes they didn’t even realize at the time (like “this doesn’t make sense for that story arc” or “that plot mechanic doesn’t make sense”).And let’s not forget the elephant in the room; accidentally presenting a not-rape scene between Jaime and Cersei (not bothering to review how the camerawork was edited, so the scene was filmed so badly it unintentionally gave the impression it was a rape scene).

      Their response?Stop giving actual interviews or media appearances after Season 4.Oh they do 5 minute clips on late night shows and so forth, occassionally even panels like this one….in which they just repeat stories about how they filmed Season 1, over and over again.

      One of the most unsettling experiences I ever had was listening to the single audio commentary track they made for the Season 5 Blu-ray…in which they spend the whole thing just recalling how they cast each of the cast members in Season 1.

      They’re not really talking about Seasons 5 and 6, when things dropped off a bit, or like “Dorne”? – because they’re simply embarrassed.

      Not responding to criticism is never a praiseworthy trait.Transparency is.

      Please, Dragon. GRRM and “transparency” don’t mesh well, else he would give us updates on the progress (if any) of his future books, instead of very long “mea culpas” at the end of the year (wonder what’s his excuse for not releasing WoW in 2016?).

      I actually agree with Luka. D&D ignoring the press and the whiney fans is actually refreshing. I’m perfectly content with them not making headlines and not giving clickbait material to anyone (like “See how Benioff and Weiss respond to the Sansa controversy!”).
      That doesn’t mean they don’t take criticism to heart. You’d have to be blind to not notice it. But then again, you’re The Dragon Demands, so…I shouldn’t be surprised.

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    47. Queensmoot,

      I actually feel the opposite. I find the “original” scenes (the ones that haven’t happened in the books yet) way more powerful to watch than adaptations of book scenes. As the time passed, I became more and more bound to the TV series. I really do not enjoy reading the books as much as I used to.

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