Game of Thrones DP hypes up Season 7

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Season seven draws near and the cast and crew are speaking up at an increasing rate. This time it was Westworld, Ray Donovan and Game of Thrones director of photography Robert McLachlan, who spoke to Deadline about the how the Game of Thrones job compares to Westworld, and hyped up this year’s “showstopping, epic” season.

As well as working on Westworld, which is the focus of the Deadline interview, McLachlan was the DP for some vital Game of Thrones episodes: The Rains of Castamere, Mhysa, Oathkeeper, First of His Name, The Dance of Dragons, and Mother’s Mercy. After taking season six off, McLachlan returned this year for the fourth and fifth episodes.

When asked about his inspirations for Westworld, McLachlan went on a Game of Thrones tangent regarding the benefits of working in a European-centric production:

“My primary visual references are fine art. One of the things I love about working on Game of Thrones is that you can hop on a plane and go to the Louvre, and go to the Prado, and go to the Rijksmuseum in Holland. That’s what I do, and I spend a lot of time in there, looking at the masters, really, and aiming for a more painterly look.”

Creatively, there are some disadvantages to working in Game of Thrones, however:

“With the huge vis effects component, everything is storyboarded for the bigger sequences ahead of time, and quite frankly, on the day, it takes a lot of the creativity out of lighting on the set. We had some storyboards for Westworld, for a couple sequences, but mostly we didn’t, and we almost never do for Ray Donovan, for instance.”

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Though McLachlan finds the meticulously pre-planned nature of this show constraining, he is manifestly excited about season seven, and isn’t hesitant to hype up what’s coming:

“I wrapped up just before Christmas, and then they did some CG component work and some green screen work in the new year… Season 7 is going to be fantastic. We did a showstopping, pretty epic scene in Europe just before I came back, and it’s really going to be great. I don’t know the facts and figures, but they only did seven episodes this year, but I think their budget’s probably the same, so I think you’re going to see — whereas before, we’d have one or two showstopping, major episodes per season, this season, probably at least half of them are whoppers. They’re not going to disappoint.”

And that’s the good side to the shortened season, isn’t it? Whether the budget increased or remained at season six levels, more time and money was allocated to each individual episode, allowing for grander action sequences and greater cinematography in general.

27 responses

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    1. I wonder if they would or can up the budget for the last 6 episodes for the last season.

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    2. I love how McLachlan gets inspired by classical paintings. Reminds me of a behind-the-scenes video for Season 6 where Daniel Sackheim (director of “Oathbreaker” and “Book of the Stranger”) said that Caravaggio’s work influenced his handling of Jon’s resurrection.

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    3. Ryan Neuner: Daniel Sackheim (director of “Oathbreaker” and “Book of the Stranger”) said that Caravaggio’s work influenced his handling of Jon’s resurrection.

      And it showed! That scene had beautiful photography. It DID look like a painting.

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    4. Ryan Neuner:
      I love how McLachlan gets inspired by classical paintings. Reminds me of a behind-the-scenes video for Season 6 where Daniel Sackheim (director of “Oathbreaker” and “Book of the Stranger”) said that Caravaggio’s work influenced his handling of Jon’s resurrection.

      Absolutely. I work in a museum of European art, and every once in a while I see bits of different paintings. This is especially true of still lifes, where table top arrangements often look like they are based on Dutch and Spanish masters. Some of the establishing shots of landscapes and cityscapes are reminiscent of Turner. Interiors, particularly in Kings Landing, are Caravaggiesque. (Speaking of which, the way they shot Ros pierced with crossbow arrows, looked absolutely like some Renaissance St. Sebastian.) On GoT, lighting is painting. Even the lighting for Jon and Ygritte on the wall’s top on The Climb, or for team Bran’s arrival at the 3ER’s tree–very very painterly. This is why I felt so cheated at last year’s Emmys. GoT dominated and set records, but one of the few Emmys they lost was Cinematography. The winner, Man in the High Castle, was good and innovative, but… IMO (and I’m prejudiced) it didn’t hold a candle to Game of Thrones. (Pun intended.)

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    5. Ive never been more excited for any other tv season or movie like i am for this….

      …. although trumps inevitable impeachment trial….. 😉

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    6. Ryan Neuner,

      Luka Nieto,

      This painterliness was apparent to me from the opening shot of s.1 ep.1. Even small, seemingly insignificant scenes, such as the exchange between Ros and Pycelle in his room were so carefully crafted and lit – one becomes quite lost in the images, and forgets to follow the story.

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    7. Luka! You are really putting in the hours lately. I hope that they pay you overtime!

      I must say, the fanboy in me does get a visceral pleasure out of seeing scenes showing (probable) destruction of Lannister forces. I now view Cersei as a Trump and Sarah Palin love-child, after all…..

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    8. Stark Raven' Rad,

      Speaking of which, the way they shot Ros pierced with crossbow arrows, looked absolutely like some Renaissance St. Sebastian.

      My very first thought when I watched that scene!!! (I’ve never been able to watch it again… I’m a wuss and I turn away.)

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    9. I am glad this talented man is filming 2 season 7 episodes…

      What is so good about season 3 4 and 5 is that all have a big huge epic scene that is not a boring war battle…

      Season 3 – The Red Wedding
      Season 4 – The Purple Wedding
      Season 5 – Final scene episode 9 …. it’s a war scene but has so much more!!!

      I hope season 7 has huge epic scenes that are just battle war combat scenes.

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    10. 3eyes,

      All the more painful for how beautifully it’s arranged…

      Yes! I was morbidly fascinated by images of St. Sebastian when I was a child, because it was obviously a horrible death but in both painting and sculpture there is the glamorization of his martyrdom. Of course, I didn’t understand that until years later… but it’s interesting to think of the profound impact it had on me.

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    11. Dutch Maester:
      firstone,

      Surely you haven’t forgotten the first fifteen minutes of the S6 finale?

      You’re correct… I haven’t forgotten about the first 15 minutes of Winds of Winter…

      I just don’t like the first 15 minutes of the winds of winter as much as the other epic scenes I mentioned.

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    12. Alvaricomg,

      Thank you for sharing. A very interesting interview indeed. I hope we’ll soon get its summary on the WOTW and then we will be able to discuss it in detail.

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    13. zod,

      Which means the first 3 episodes of S7 are 24 (!!!) minutes longer than the first 3 episodes of S6. In fact it’s the longest first three episodes in the entire series.

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    14. zod,

      This leaked a few days ago. Someone found it in the coding of the HBO schedule. And now it’s confirmed. Plus both episodes 1 and 2 are 59 minutes, and the finale is extended. It would appear that our trusty friend James Hibberd was ever so slightly full of it. I mean that with no malicious intent whatsoever, but yeah, dude appears to have not known what he was talking about when he said Season 7 episodes would be of regular length.

      Unless the average length is massively brought down by episodes 4-6 being extremely short, which seems exceedingly unlikely, then this batch of episodes does feature longer episodes than usual.

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    15. Tensor the Mage, Who Once Upon A Time, May or May Not Have Edited Videotape in the A.V. Club, says:

      I mean that with no malicious intent whatsoever, but yeah, dude appears to have not known what he was talking about when he said Season 7 episodes would be of regular length.

      He was the Director of Photography, not the Editor, and not the Director. He may not have been part of the final decisions on which material was used. All he knows for sure is how much material he delivered to the Editor and Director of each episode.

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    16. Markus Stark: regular length

      Have never found out what ‘regular length’ is on HBO since HBO is not a ‘regular’ broadcast channel. I mean Westworld’s final episode was 90 min.
      Only thing Benioff has ever said is that a 10 episode season is at least 540 min., or maybe that’ just ‘a season’. If so S7 could have 77 min. opcodes.

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