Michelle MacLaren looks back on directing Game of Thrones as a “giant feature”

Michelle MacLaren Peter Dinklage Game of Thrones 308 Second Sons

When the directorial lineup for the final Game of Thrones was officially announced, we all rejoiced in David Nutter’s and Miguel Sapochnik’s return. Still, the news also carried a bitter finality to them, as other old favorites would never be able to return to Westeros — and there is one who will probably be missed most of all: Michelle MacLaren, director of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”, “Second Sons”, “Oathkeeper” and “First of His Name”. In a new interview about her new project The Deuce, the acomplished director also reminisces on the experience of directing these episodes on seasons three and four.

“[In The Deuce], every sign is real, every poster is real, every costume and car – we try to make it as authentic as possible,” MacLaren tells Assignment X regarding the differences of filming this new show set in 1970’s New York City compared to the made-up world of Westeros. “When you’re doing Game of Thrones, there’s a fantastical element to it, so we can create weapons that never existed, we can create wardrobe that never existed.”

Game of Thrones is not a different kind of show just because of the setting but the scope as well, which requires the directors to move from location to location all over the world: “They cross-board all ten episodes,” MacLaren explains. “So there’s one one-liner, and there are two crews, and a director and their DP [director of photography] and their first AD [assistant director] and their second AD move from crew to crew and location to location, depending on where and what they’re shooting. The directors shoot all of their own episodes … And so it’s a giant feature that is cross-boarded. So it’s not block-shot, it’s cross-boarding … There’s always a crew in Northern Ireland, and then at some point in the season, one of the crews go to the different location, and the actors and the director and their team fly in and out as the schedule needs them for their particular episodes. So I would be shooting in Northern Ireland, then I would fly to Iceland, or Morocco, wherever the crew is at that time, to shoot the scenes for my episode.”

Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO

Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO

“Whatever it is you’re filming, you need to be present,” asserts MacLaren, minimizing the thrills of directing such a beloved story. “You’re always racing against time … I also think the most creative moments can come out of being present and also just out of necessity … You can’t be thinking about who’s going to watch this, and how many people are going to watch this. You’ve got to be thinking about, ‘How do I make this the best scene possible, the best shot possible, in this moment, to tell the story I want to tell?'”

It’s difficult to complain about Nutter and Sapochnik returning for a last hurrah, or the showrunners deciding to direct the series finale, yet at the same time I cannot help but lament that this means we’ll see no more direction from such an accomplished woman. Incidentally, MacLaren is the only woman who has ever directed Game of Thrones. And please, may I preempt the tired retorts of “they’re just hiring the best person for the job”: the final tally is 69 out of 73 episodes being directed by men (and written, too; Vanessa Taylor wrote three episodes, and Jane Espenson one.) If any of you truly believe those figures reflect the “best person for the job” being hired, maybe the issue isn’t the women’s abilities but a skewed perception of them; yes, even considering there are fewer women directors and writers … And why may that be, I wonder? Such a mystery.

66 responses

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree with you, in a show that portrays such a wide range of powerful and complex female characters (Daenerys, Cersei, Sansa, Brienne, Arya, Yara..) and that is always been described as a feminist show by it’s own creators…. it’s just weird that they don’t include more women in their team, I mean, yeah, we have Michelle Clapton as the costume designer but that’s the only recognisable female face behind the scenes…. the rest of them are only men, It’s just weird.

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    2. I wonder is she a fan favorite because she is good or because of her gender? I don’t find her any better than Podeswa or Mylod who were hated in this strange fandom.

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    3. mau: I wonder is she a fan favorite because she is good or because of her gender?

      Did you just seriously question the abilities of one of the most accomplished TV directors of our age because… why, exactly? The “evil feminist cabal” wants everything to be “politically correct” so they snatch jobs they don’t deserve from more deserving men? That’s exactly the wrongheaded thinking I was pre-emptively addressing. Way to miss the point completely.

      Michelle MacLaren is a fan favorite because she’s a great director with a keen eye on action and character. She has worked on Game of Thrones, Westworld, and Breaking Bad, for which she won Emmys two years in a row. And you ask “why if we like her just because she’s a woman?” In what world do women in this industry get an advantage for their gender, instead of just the opposite?

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    4. Luka Nieto,

      No, I just said that I don’t understand why she is a fan favorite and for example Podeswa or Mylod were not. Her episodes were hardly GoT classics. I was speaking only about her work on GoT, not other projects.

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    5. Alvaricomg,

      You’re ignoring some great women who are working on this show behind the scenes,

      Carolyn Strauss (responsible for bringing the show to HBO)
      Deborah Riley (before her Gemma Jackson)
      Nina Gold
      and last but definitely not least Bernadette Caulfield, arguably the most important person of the entire production crew.

      Though I agree on the directing and writing front, but let’s not forget about the women that work on this show in the other departments.

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    6. mau,

      Yes, you said that, but you didn’t just say that. Right after, you ventured that she’s a fan favorite anyway because she’s a woman. Even though women, as a rule, get much more shit than men for doing the same job.

      mau,

      She won them as a producer, not a director. Producing, I’m sure you’ll agree, constitues as “work”, which is the verb I used.

      Alvaricomg,

      It’s not only Clapton. There’s also production designer Deborah Riley, casting director Nina Gold, and producer Bernie Caulfield. And many others, too. Doesn’t change the fact that 95% of GOT is written and directed by men.

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    7. Luka Nieto:
      mau,

      Yes, you said that, but you didn’t just say that. Right after you ventured that the reason for MacLaren being a fan favorite anyway is that she’s a woman. Even though women, as a rule, get much more shit than men for doing the same job, no matter if they do it twice as well.

      Yes, and I think that in some circles of this fandom she is a fan favorite because she is only female director, I wasn’t speaking about the industry in general. Maybe if she directed different episodes she would prove that she is better than Sapochnik, but her episodes were nothing special for GoT standards.

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    8. mau,

      I’m not getting into that straw-man of an argument with you. Who said anything about being better or worse than Sapochnik? I pointed out that 95% of the show is written and directed by men, and this doesn’t reflect the reality of the number of pro female writers and directors at all. If you don’t see a problem with that, maybe the issue is with you, not with women, or MacLaren.

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    9. Is “The Deuce” any good? I was thinking of binge-watching the episodes that have aired to date. I have refrained because I’m reluctant to invest the time if, like with “Vinyl”, HBO winds up pulling the plug after only one season. I had been looking forward to “Vinyl” because Karsi (Birgitte H…), Olivia Wilde, and Dice were going to be in it; then I heard it sucked and got cancelled.

      I liked director Michelle McLaren’s work on GoT. I LOVE Maggie Gyllenhaal, and I’m told she’s really good in “The Deuce.” (She was incredible in the movie “Secretary” with James Spader.)

      I’d appreciate any feedback. Is “The Deuce” worth watching?

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    10. mau,

      Your comment suggesting she’s only a fan favorite because she’s a woman told me you were quite open to share your opinion here, presumably allowing for other people in the community to interact with it. My mistake.

      But please, do talk about the ‘nice interview’ instead (though you never did.) As for why I brought the topic up in the first place, there is a damn good reason for it and you know it, even if you disagree with my position. I consider it important. You don’t, as many of your comments (e.g. “woman is a fan favorite just for being a woman”) make clear. But I’m writing the article, not you.

      Ten Bears,

      I haven’t watched it yet but all reviews I’ve read have been very positive.

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    11. The Wolves of Winter:
      Alvaricomg,

      You’re ignoring some great women who are working on this show behind the scenes,
      ……..Bernadette Caulfield, arguably the most important person of the entire production crew.

      I must be dense! I’ve been seeing the name “Bernie Caufield” all over the place for who knows how long, and would always think “that guy’s got an impressive resume.”

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    12. Ten Bears,

      I am watching The Deuce at the moment, I am on episode 2, I don’t know where you are Ten Bears but we see it here on Sky Atlantic the same as GOT. As with all American series I sometimes have problems understanding the references in relation to American culture, as Americans would have with ours, however it is well acted and written as with most American series I have come to expect. To be honest I enjoyed Vinyl and another favourite was Boardwalk Empire.

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    13. “There is one who will probably be missed most of all”.

      I can only speak for myself of course, but… until reading this article, I probably couldn’t have named a single episode MacLaren directed, unlike Sapochnik, Nutter, Podeswa, or Taylor. That’s not to devalue her work, of course, as the directing on those episodes she did was very good. I just didn’t find it any exceptionally better than most other episodes, so personally, I’m not heartbroken about her not coming back. Again – Just me, though.

      Still, this was a nice interview. She is clearly a hard-worker who is very passionate about her job. I hope she gets some great directing jobs in the future.

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    14. BigMac,

      I’m happy with what we’ve got, especially Sapochnik, but I was hoping for MacLaren or Shakarov. I’d rather see either of them return before Nutter. Nutter has directed more ‘classic’ episodes in terms of plot, and Sapochnik even more so; but that’s a matter of writing, not direction. MacLaren directs action very well, never losing sight of character; and I miss the painterly shots of Shakarov, who was a cinematographer first. Nutter is great, and he’s directed a few classics, but his direction doesn’t stand out to me as much.

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    15. Ten Bears,

      It’s solid. It starts out a bit formless, in my opinion (David Simon tends not to start off with a bang), but gradually it comes together.

      My main problem with it is having James Franco play two roles just comes across as gimmicky to me and hard to keep track of which brother he’s supposed to be playing in any given scene.

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    16. mau:
      Luka Nieto,

      No, I just said that I don’t understand why she is a fan favorite and for example Podeswa or Mylod were not. Her episodes were hardly GoT classics. I was speaking only about her work on GoT, not other projects.

      Mylod and Podeswa are not fan favorites because of No One and Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken which are the two lowest rated episodes of the show by far on IMDB.

      Although Podeswa has recovered somewhat in my view due to his work on Home, Dragonstone and The Dragon and the Wolf. But the directing of that Sand Snakes fight scene will live on forever.

      Mylod did Mothers’ Mercy which is great but not not sure that makes up for having Arya’s stabbing look too severe.

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    17. Its interesting that for 5 seasons I didn’t care who had written the episode or who was the director, I think I enjoyed it more before because I was just following the story and if I had a complaint it was something like That character is dumb, not about the writing or directing even though I had read the first couple of books, I guess being a super fan has its pros and cons.

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    18. The Wolves of Winter:
      Ten Bears,

      Haha, yes, you are dense! 🙂
      You never watched ‘A Day In The Life’ doc from season 5?

      🤔 I probably have. I just didn’t immediately make the Bernie = Bernadette connection.
      In my obliviousness, I’d see “Bernie Caufield” in credits, and picture a jovial 60-year old guy from New York eating a pastrami on rye.

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    19. I enjoyed reading the article. Your editorializing however, lacks confirmed facts and generalizes.

      Your final paragraph accuses the powers within this show of sexism in a flimsy and passive way. You state the ‘best person for the job’ argument is invalid. In that instance what alternative remains for them not to ask her back in your view, if not sexism? I notice you solicited no opinions from people involved in the production. I do wonder if the female cast would share your opinion regarding the people involved in making the show. In addition, since you made no mention of possible scheduling conflicts in previous years, I assume you checked her schedule to ensure she wasn’t filming something else in any of the previous seasons.

      I don’t know why they never asked her back. I hope someone asks her. Perhaps it could be you.

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    20. I think there has been too much focus on gender, filling quotas, or an agenda. Do I think qualified women should be given more of a chance to write, direct, etc. ? Yes. But the constant finding fault about who is hiring who and what gender is getting out of hand. This men vs women, which is what it is turning into, isn’t necessarily healthy debate.

      I see no one mention hiring in any field people of mature age. This is where Game of Thrones HAS been ahead of the game. Look at the wonderful cast of all ages. Why not celebrate things that have been good?

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    21. Stoneheart: Its interesting that for 5 seasons I didn’t care who had written the episode or who was the director, I think I enjoyed it more before because I was just following the story and if I had a complaint it was something like That character is dumb, not about the writing or directing even though I had read the first couple of books, I guess being a super fan has its pros and cons.

      Same here. I believe that is the it is suppose to be and don’t see the cons of simply enjoying based on that criteria of good storytelling (or not).

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    22. Carole H,

      I’m on the east coast of the US. “The Deuce” is on HBO. I grew up in New York, so I hope I’ll catch the cultural references (though I don’t recall 42nd Street ever being referred to as “The Deuce.”)

      I’m wary about watching the show until I’m sure it won’t be prematurely yanked off the air. Plus, the promos for “The Deuce” remind me of a network series about 10-15 years ago starring (a then-unknown) Olivia Wilde as the daughter of a Jewish porn magnate. In a tweak of Romeo & Juliet, she falls in love with the son of a Catholic, anti-porn district attorney. The show looked promising. The feuding parents were morally grey: The girl’s father was a principled family man, while the boy’s D.A. father was sleazy and corrupt. Their kids’ secret romance was set up nicely. But when I tuned in to watch Episode 4…nothing. With no warning, the network cancelled the show after only 3 episodes.

      I should probably check out “The Deuce” and not worry about it getting Vinylized. I for one really enjoyed Michelle MacLaren’s GoT episodes. “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” contains one of my top ten GoT scenes: Ygritte with Jon, “Oh! A spider! Save me Jon Snow!”

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    23. Ten Bears:

      I for one really enjoyed Michelle MacLaren’s GoT episodes. “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” contains one of my top ten GoT scenes: Ygritte with Jon, “Oh! A spider! Save me Jon Snow!”

      I loved that scene too! For me, it just summed up who Ygritte was and why Jon was completely in love with her. Their scenes together were always fantastic and real and Michelle MacLaren really captured it well in The Bear and the Maiden Fair. That episode also has the bearpit Jaime/Brienne scene – one of my favorites of theirs!

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    24. Such a mistery, indeed! Have you considered publishing a book about this topic Luka? No pressure, but I love your style, I feel like you re onto something!

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    25. Ten Bears,

      Yes, it’s good, and nothing like “Vinyl”. But it’s challenging “good” not escapist good. It’s not actually a binge show, I don’t think. There’s only so much of the grime I can take in one sitting. It’s very much in keeping w/ David Simon’s other shows like “The Wire”: tough and in your face. And HBO has already renewed it for S2.

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    26. orange: I don’t know why they never asked her back.

      I assumed its because she’s committed to The Deuce for next season, and the schedules might conflict, though I guess its also possible they had their sights set on Sapochnik and Nutter the whole time and were able to book them.

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    27. Luka.ive always appreciated your love for this story and its fandom…however i believe your putting your own emotion and views into this.not saying your wrong.we for the most part understand more dudes are directing than lady’s but i’d ask what is tge % of men to women directors in general.i suspect its simular

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    28. Rc law: not saying your wrong.we for the most part understand more dudes are directing than lady’s but i’d ask what is tge % of men to women directors in general.i suspect its simular

      It’s not.

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    29. I enjoyed the article, until the end. Let’s keep it a little more series based and a little less real world short comings. I’ll watch the news if I want this stuff.

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    30. You can still be embarrassed by the number of women who have written/directed for this show even if you have never been “wowed” by McClaren’s work on GoT.

      I get why they got the directors they did for this season. Sapochnik is awesome obviously and Nutter has expertly handled some very difficult scenes. I can see why these two were oicked for the very last season. But that doesn’t explain away the YEARS of hiring so few women. I feel that is important to do anyway but especially for a show in which violent misogyny plays such a big part of the world and the story. Love this show but there’s really no excuse for it.

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    31. mau,

      It obviously has everything to do with it. You are the one that said she is only a fan fav because of her gender and male directors are hated because of their gender. You said those things right out of the gate and continue to insist that they are true. It’s all you. When you say sexist things you should expect to be called out on them especially when the author addresses your complaints in the piece. That too should tell you something. Luke pre responded to your criticism as he knew it would be some sexist nonsense like “she is only a fan fav because she is a woman”.

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    32. Khal snow,

      You can also go read your GoT need somewhere else.
      cuddly crow,

      Both of these people are men guaranteed. That’s why it’s easy for them to say hey let’s just ignore what’s wrong with the world and celebrate what we do right. The issue at hand doesn’t effect them and depending on their beliefs they could see it as people advocating they lose their job for a women hence the quota comment. It’s the exact same situation when white people say racism isn’t a problem or straight people saying the LGBTQ community doesn’t face discrimination.

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    33. It’s a great article. Michelle McClaren did a great job explaining the challenge of the scale of dealing with such a show (always wondered about that – the directors logistics).

      And speaking as a female fan – I never watched any episode of GOT and said “that was a great episode, who is this Michelle McClaren?” – I said “Holy Shit! This is directed by Michelle McClaren? This will be great” – because she was *that* good on Breaking Bad. And she definitely brought it to GOT.

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    34. orange,

      Everything you said is on point. To me it’s irresponsible; lazy and a boring thought process to just default and lightly accuse the creators of the show of sexism or any other ism virtually because of the lack of female directors. I’m sure as you’ve pointed out, scheduling conflicts or other reasons we’re not privy to could have to do with this conflict. As you aptly said why not ask? Inclusion for inclusion sake is not the answer either. Of course more diversity and opportunities for minorities to tell their stories as honest as they can is ideal, necessary even! But these days it seems like there has to be a checking of the boxes for a piece of art to succeed, and that’s so unauthentic. That’s not the point of art, honesty and intrigue is. How many of us came to this world because of its ability to not give us what we want or what we expect it to? The directors for the final season are set and I’m more than satisfied. Miguel and Shakman are the only directors IMO that wow’d me with their direction, both him and Shakman were incredible. Of course most of the other directors for the series are really really good too. I’m stoked for the crew we got. And so happy that the creators of their show D&D get to close it out. God knows they have the right to.

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    35. GOT chose most of it’s directors based on their experience with large productions, which are relatively rare in television, as well as availability and willingness to travel across Europe for a period of six months.

      The pool of experienced female television directors is already fairly small. Of them, the ones willing to separate from their families for half a year is going to be even smaller. Most TV-shows film in and around the same city for 8 days per episode, whereas GOT is such a behemoth it takes one director over a 100+ days to film 2 or 3, probably not even including travel and prep work.

      Furthermore, you don’t know how many female directors were asked but refused, you only know the end result, namely the final line up.

      So would it have been nice to have more lady directors? Yes, but you don’t know whether or not they tried. You just assume they didn’t.

      As for the writers, the show runners wrote what I assume to be close to 50% of the episodes, with another 20%- 25% written by Cogman and Martin. That only leaves around 30% for guest writers, of which two were women. That seems fair, considering the genre and smaller pool of female prime time TV writers.

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    36. ramses:
      cuddly crow,

      …………
      I applaud your sarcasm.

      I wasn’t being sarcastic at all!! I really did mean it. It is great you feel that way about the “conversation”. Unfortunate, you took it as being snarky.

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    37. Oh and by the way, a quick google search showed that she’s executive producing and directing a new HBO series that’s currently airing

      (it’s called The Deuce, if anyone’s interested)

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    38. Hursta1: It’s the exact same situation when white people say racism isn’t a problem or straight people saying the LGBTQ community doesn’t face discrimination.

      I didn’t say it wasn’t a problem. If you read that I wrote more qualified women should be directing, writing, etc. It is NOT the same that racism isn’t a problem or LGBTQ doesn’t face discrimination. I said what I said in the context of GoT. If you think Nutter or Sapochnick should not direct in order for a woman to direct…I find discrimination resides somewhere there too.

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    39. Luka Nieto,

      My Two Cents, Part I:

      If we want to talk percentages, by my reckoning 4 out of 67 episodes thus far have been directed by women. That’s 5.97%. By the end of S8, that will be 4 out of 73 total episodes, or 5.48%. No matter how you spin those mumbers, that’s ridiculous.

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    40. My Two Cents, Part 2

      Forget political or social agendas. I am selfish. I want to see the best final product on my TV screen. The larger the pool of talent, the greater the chance that I will see the best TV show or movie that can be filmed.

      If half the population is excluded from consideration or suppressed, that decreases the chance I’ll see a consistently high quality TV series or the best movie made from a particular screenplay.

      But don’t take my word for it. Take it from the King in the North (from S7e1)

      Jon Snow: I want every northern maester to scour their records for any mention of dragonglass. Dragonglass kills white walkers. It’s more valuable to us now than gold. We need to find it, we need to mine it, we need to make weapons from it. Everyone aged 10 to 60 will drill daily with spears, pikes, bow and arrow.

      Lord Glover: It’s about time we taught these boys of summer how to fight.

      Jon: Not just the boys. We can’t defend the North if only half the population is fighting.

      Same principle applies to directors, cinematographers, production designers, writers, and everything else.

      Nobody can tell me that anyone could have done a better job than Kathryn Bigelow directing Zero Dark Thirty, or Patty Jenkins directing Wonder Woman. For that matter, nobody can tell me a younger person could have done a better job than the septugenarian who directed Gran Torino.

      Once you find excuses to discount large swaths of the population, the probability of success decreases in direct proportion.

      (to be cont.)

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    41. Luka, well analysed as usual. It’s a topic that probably needed to be broached. Not because of possible sexism per se, but because these decisions may have affected the quality of the adaptation and the show. Personally, I doubt it’s due to sexism. D&D and GRRM seem genuinely keen on empowering female characters, so they’re unlikely to have been misogynistic in their crew choices. Show biz is a fairly closed system everywhere, alas, and there are disproportionately few women who have the experience and credentials to direct episodes of such a massive show, and only a few more women who were qualified for writing. So the selection base is fairly narrow.

      Perhaps it’s no coincidence that women no longer got either post about the time GRRM’s story ran out. Perhaps D&D felt more comfortable collaborating with men during the truly creative story generation needed to manifest GRRM’s vision while making changes. But therein lies much of the problem: changes have consequences, often negative. GRRM had created several powerful, fascinating, and multifaceted female characters, but he was not under the imperatives of popular entertainment. Entertainment-sated audiences expect and demand complex male characters, but are more complacent about 1- or 1.5-dimensional females who fit a usually one-word type: “lover”, “victim,” “bitch”, “ninja”, “whinger”, “queen” “whore”. At least now “warrior”, “leader”, and “badass” are often in the mix. D&D understand Cersei–she thinks and acts like a man but uses what’s between her legs. But they have unintentionally simplified other females and especially two of the main-characters: Arya and Sansa, and they have underwritten their stories IMO. Commentaries show how simplistically they view the Stark sisters. I am convinced that having talented women like McLaren participating in a few more episodes in the three last seasons might have been a corrective to the inadvertent revisionist tendency of reducing complex major female characters to one or two attributes. I suspect D&D feel that if a female has a crown in the end, it will all be politically correct and acceptable. They’re skiving the issue. If the strength of GoT is its characters and (once) coherent and dynamic storytelling, the simplification of several major characters seriously weakens it…regardless who ‘wins’ the game.

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    42. Ten Bears,

      Funny you mention Wonder Woman when talking about “discount large swaths of the population”.

      While Patty Jenkins has done wonderful with Wonder Woman and if Michelle Maclaren would’ve stayed on she would’ve done a great job to.
      But let’s be honest, they’ve only gotten the job because they are women. Why? Because the movie is about a female superhero. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily suggesting a male director should’ve done it. But the fact that Warner Bros went from one female director to another is very telling. Because it means that these two great directors and other great female directors like them aren’t being considered to direct say the Justice League movie or a Superman movie. No, we get Michael Bay 2.0 aka Zack Snyder (ugh) to do those. Because of course only a man can direct a male superhero and a woman a female superhero. Pretty sure Jenkins or Maclaren would’ve done much better job with BvS, but they haven’t even been considered for it. Of course it’s great that finally a woman got to direct a major blockbuster, but the reasoning behind the choice for a woman was still very much steeped in sexism.
      What’s worse is that the white male executives of Warner are probably patting themselves on the back for this way of ignorant thinking. Women should be able to direct/write a Batman, Iron Man, Star Wars movie, etc, etc and not only when it involves a female superhero. Women can write/direct great male characters just as men can write/direct great female characters. It’s just a matter of good directing/writing vs bad directing/writing. Gender(or color of skin) should have nothing to do with it.

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    43. Ten Bears,

      Jon: Not just the boys. We can’t defend the North if only half the population is fighting.

      Same principle applies to directors, cinematographers, production designers, writers, and everything else.

      Hats off to you, mate. You said as much in 2 cents as I said in 50 cents.

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    44. Ten Bears,

      I’m current on The Deuce. It’s gritty, as befits a show based on the sleazy NYC underworld of the 70s. The stunt casting of James Franco as twins was slightly off-putting to me and the first two episodes were pretty slow, but as the story is expanding it’s keeping my interest. Particularly the give and take between David Krumholz’s porn director and Maggie Gyllenhall’s aspiring adult film impresario.

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    45. mau:
      I wonder is she a fan favorite because she is good or because of her gender? I don’t find her any better than Podeswa or Mylod who were hated in this strange fandom.

      Her episodes of Game of Thrones may not be that standout, but she’s best known for directing episodes of Breaking Bad (their most frequent director, in fact). Alan Sepinwall recently dubbed it the best-looking show ever made, and her work was a big part of that.

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    46. LadyGoodman,

      Thanks! I’ve been a big admirer of Maggie G. ever since her breakout role in “Secretary” (2002) with James Spader, and then later in “Hysteria” (2011) with Hugh Dancy, Felicity Jones, Rupert Everett, the High Sparrow, and Edmure Tully.

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    47. King in the Southwest:
      Furthermore, you don’t know how many female directors were asked but refused, you only know the end result, namely the final line up.

      So would it have been nice to have more lady directors? Yes, but you don’t know whether or not they tried. You just assume they didn’t.

      We know they didn’t try because we know the result. If they had tried, they would not have ended up with less than 6% of the episodes directed by a woman (singular, in that it was just MacLaren). We know this because anytime somebody actually sets a target in this area, they can meet it.

      When Ryan Murphy announced in 2016 that from that point onward he would ensure that women made up at least 50% of the directors on any Murphy-produced TV series, he went out and did it. Indeed, the current season of American Horror Story has women directing 8 of its 11 episodes.

      When Ava DuVernay decided that she wanted the entirety of her series Queen Sugar to be directed by women (and mostly by non-white women, at that, an even more underrepresented category), she did it.

      I don’t actually know if the recent CBC/Netflix co-product Anne (Anne With An E to people outside Canada) made an explicit commitment on this front, but I expect they must have, because 5 of the 7 episodes (representing 6 of the 8 hours of the series, since the first was a two-hour pilot) were directed by women, including New Zealand film director Niki Caro (the woman who launched the career of Keisha Castle-Hughes), Canadian indie cinema director Patricia Rozema, and actors-turned-TV-directors Helen Shaver and Amanda Tapping.

      The most recent new director on GOT’s roster was Matt Shakman, who I think we all agree did an excellent job. There is nothing on his CV remotely similar to GOT in size, and his most frequent work in the last decade was on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, hardly an epic. The idea that there was no woman out there with experience and suitability equivalent to Shakman doesn’t merit serious consideration.

      As for the writers, the show runners wrote what I assume to be close to 50% of the episodes, with another 20%- 25% written by Cogman and Martin. That only leaves around 30% for guest writers, of which two were women. That seems fair, considering the genre and smaller pool of female prime time TV writers.

      As far as writers go, GOT’s writing staff is atypically small for a TV drama series (and has only, since the first season, promoted internally), so it’s harder to talk about percentages. The most one could fairly say, in my view, is that the writers obviously did not consider having a female writer on staff to be something intrinsically valuable, since they never made any effort to replace Vanessa Taylor when she left.

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    48. Stark Raven' Rad:

      […] inadvertent revisionist tendency of reducing complex major female […]

      You know it’s a fictional story set up in a fictional world and not an history book right? I’m not sure you know what revisionism means..

      Or maybe you consider Westeros to be largely based on our european medieval society in the 15th century? Well even then, if you think that the writers are aggravating the depiction of how women were treated back then because they are sexists males pursuing a mysterious agenda… well, think again and open a real history book…

      Have you considered that those people who create Game of Thrones are maybe not concerned with your very personal and delicate sensibilities? That maybe, that’s not what GoT is about at all? And that maybe, they’re just trying to tell a good and universal story about war, family, power, survival and such?

      PS : Directors direct. They don’t write.

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    49. Khaleesisilafamille:

      Your reply is unrelentingly condescending. There is no call for that. And you should be careful about casting aspersions: “PS : Directors direct. They don’t write”. I registered some scripts with WGA-W back in the day. They weren’t terribly good, but I did place in some contests.

      I wasn’t addressing historical revisionism, but revisionism of the complex characters who unintentionally (a synonym of ‘inadvertently’) were simplified in the major changes from adaptation. The phrase used most is “dumbed down”, and while it applies more to the female characters, it includes men as well (like Tyrion this year, and Littlefinger). As a former mediaevalist, I accept historical fantasy on its own terms , not as history. Yes, Catelyn, early Sansa, and Lady Olenna reflect typical 15th century noblewomen, and Margaery has hints of Elinor of Aquitaine (12th century). Others are almost pure fantasy. But what I truly care about is that GRRM and D&D gave us well-developed and generally consistent primary and secondary characters who have–in recent seasons–been significantly changed. This is alarming (to GRRM as well) because D&D are committed to following GRRM’s plot and major character conclusions, yet some affected characters may not logically achieve the fate intended for them. I concluded “If the strength of GoT is its characters and (once) coherent and dynamic storytelling, the simplification of several major characters seriously weakens it.” If you think that represents “very personal and delicate sensibilities”, you haven’t been paying attention. Many critics, YouTubers, and fans have made the same complaint over the last season or two.

      I defended the producers from ‘sexism’ charges by pointing out that the pool of women writers and especially directors isn’t very large, and even with the showrunners’ best intentions, that pool eventually got overlooked. And since being overlooked is common for females in front of as well as behind the camera, it’s a shame. Several already-meaty female characters may have inadvertently suffered in the transition from GRRM’s story to Dave and Dan’s. And a few more episodes with input from women writers or directors might have helped. Almost any director with sensitivity and common sense would not have made such a bollocks out of the chase scene in Ep 6.08. Yet good old Mark Mylod was assigned two episodes in Season 7!

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    50. Luka, thank you for this…

      Women directors are not superior of fan favorites because they are women…but the fact that there are so few and even fewer in a show like GoT is what makes their presence alone stands out and might cause this myopia in analysing their merits..

      Now, let´s take the Wonder Woman movie as an example. It is a simple, well thought blockbuster where the final 20 minutes are terrible. It is popcorn movie, like many others. The reason it received so much praise is not because it was revolutionary filmmaking. Not because it was the best movie of the year. But because it was a simple, good movie where the director was a woman who understood a hero like Diana is equal parts bad ass, strong, sweet and funny. The reaction towards the movie is very positive, as it should be, but the criticism is mostly misguided: why the hell a movie directed by a woman HAS to be PERFECT to justify this woman being hired for the job in the first place?

      The comments of Mau are just like that- why he thinks Michelle Maclaren had to, somehow, be the most super, bestest director of GoT who ever lived just to see the merit of you questioning the supposed “best man for the job” thesis?

      IMO she was better than both Mylod and Podeswa, but there is so much that goes into an episode, not only the director. Sapochinik shines partly because he as far as aI heard, pushes for script changes and adapts the visuals efficiantly, more than for a superior hability per itself.

      I have the feeling men-white men- are behaving as the only child who, one day, gets a sibling- angry that not ALL attention is directed at him, despite his parents efforts of making time for him, etc…

      PS- I have the feeling DnD have a teeanger mentality and prefer to surround themselves with geeks and super masculine guys, thus they hire so few women to write-direct.

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    51. The Wolves of Winter: Women can write/direct great male characters just as men can write/direct great female characters. It’s just a matter of good directing/writing vs bad directing/writing. Gender(or color of skin) should have nothing to do with it.

      While I fully get this sentiment and it is certainly true on one level (females can direct males well and males can direct females well), I think we need to think of art as a process and the richness of different perspectives informs and deepens the product. While every person brings their own unique perspective, the experience of being female brings with it a different lens than being male, and the perspective can lead to different sensibilities that in turn can offer a wider aperture in the story telling experience. Of course, there are females involved in GoT’s production but the creator/writer/director triad is critical to the direction of the production, and in my opinion more female voices in these roles is likely to have added yet even more depth and nuance to the already rich storytelling embodied in GoT. This is not to detract from the amazing work that has been done and will be done by males in these roles (I myself like everyone else is looking forward to the Sapochnik episodes in particular).

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