Neil Marshall Talks “The Watchers on the Wall”

Neil MarshallNeil Marshall recently sat down with Buzzfeed to talk about his Emmy nomination for direction of season four’s penultimate episode, “The Watchers on the Wall.”

The interview is lengthy and well worth the read, but if you’re in a rush, or don’t have the time to scroll through a million gifs from the episode, we’ve got the greatest hits version laid out for you below:

  • The episode took nine weeks to complete with four of them going to preproduction,  three to filming, and (we’re guessing) the remaining two to postproduction.
  • Filming took place in Belfast where the 31 minute on-screen battle was filmed over two of the three weeks of filming.
  • Mammoths were completely VFX, though on set they were comprised “by four guys in green Lycra suits at each of its legs.”Jon Being Awesome
  • Marshall’s favorite scene from the episode is Jon leaving the top of the Wall to join the battle below. He calls it a “really satisfying moment dramatically.”
  • The incredible 360 degree shot of the battle took two hours to block and rehearse and took seven takes to get perfect.
  • Ygritte’s on-screen death was accompanied by more than a few real life tears. Marshall commenting that “as emotional as it was for me, it was 10 times worse for the cast and crew who’d worked with Rose for two or three years.”
  • He’s exceptionally happy with the resulting episode: ” I’d never say 100% happy, but certainly not far off!”

Shylah: Although I was a little disappointed that Neil Marshall wasn’t talking about our little corner of the internet here on WotW, it’s still a great interview with a great director about a great episode of television, nonetheless!

Also, as this is my first official post here on the Wall, I want to publicly say thank you to the Watchers for allowing me to take the black! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go try to teach dirty words to the ravens.

script async src="//">


  1. I would be thrilled if Neil Marshall managed to win the Emmy for directing “The Watchers on the Wall”. Cary Fukunaga from True Detective and Vince Gilligan from Breaking Bad probably have to be considered the favorites in that category for various reasons, and both of them would be worthy winners (Fukunaga, especially. That six-minute tracking shot was an amazing feat). But I wouldn’t be too surprised if Marshall managed to pull the upset. The cinematic scale and action sequences featured in that episode were better than several far more expensive sequences from movies that I’ve seen this summer, and Marshall achieved it all on a small fraction of feature film’s budget. That’s what an excellent director (and a kick-ass VFX team) will do for you.

  2. Jared,

    It really is such a toss up this year.

    Also, what a huge coincidence. The one year a great, well-choreographed continuous tracking shot worms its way into GoT just happens to be the same year a much longer and arguably superior tracking shot pops up in True Detective. Amazing.

  3. Is this the episode where Ygritte “deedent fook ah bah”? Because I really liked that one though I was somewhat disappointed that she deedent.

  4. Yay for Shylah’s first post!

    Awesome interview. I would like to see those four guys in Lycra playing the mammoth’s legs.

  5. Sue the Fury,

    One of them posted on facebook last year, I believe saying he was the “best mammoth’s leg ever” or something to that effect. That post was bandied around on wicnet (when y’all were still in charge) and on AFOIAF as evidence as some that we’d get mammoths.

  6. Ms. D. Ranged in AZ,

    That TD six minute tracking shot was by far the longest time I have ever gone without thinking of penis. Six. Whole. Minutes. I know I know. Mind=blown. That just goes to show how amazing that sequence was.

  7. Will requote myself from the other thread as it seems more appropriate here!

    “If anyone is needing something to watch whilst waiting for new Thrones, you could do a lot worse than watching some of his films. He’s made a number of great modern British horrors from the tongue-in-cheek ‘Dog Soldiers’ to the most claustrophobic and scary horror I’ve seen in ages with ‘The Descent’ (watch the British cut, it’s got a much better ending than the American one). ‘Doomsday’ and ‘Centurion’ are both fun watches too, the latter maybe having a great deal of appeal to GoT fans as I think it’s what helped developed his style (although parts of Doomsday prob did too!) for the fantastic action sequences he’s directed in the show so far.”

    Apologies for the repetition!

  8. this episode has grown on me
    while the finale gets worse….
    when a highlight of a final episode is minor characters fighting you know something is wrong!
    oh…and I felt nothing for tyrions scenes!

  9. The only thing that slightly annoyed me during an otherwise magnificent episode was, as usual, more character development for Sam than Jon. Although, Neil Marshall seems to be happy with Jon’s development in the episode, so I am too.

  10. First congrats Shylah for your first blog article! *applause* Happy to see contributors joining and participating here.

    Second: Ygitte’s death scene that was so emotional for the cast and crew was well done. While the kid shooting the arrow is a change from the book it made good sense in my opinion, rather than a random arrow. Made it all more personal on screen. (Talk about book changes that made a better impact)

    Ms. D. Ranged in AZ,

    It does. I was going to say that for Jon most of the development is achieved.

    He is literally poised to take over the LC position. He just needs the vote. At this point I believe that he has proven that he can be a leader. Delegating (“the wall is yours”), making decisions has become a part of him.

    Sam needs more because he’s just starting to become more. In fact his journey is just beginning as far as I’m concerned. Up until now he’s just been an instrument of faith and impulses.

    I’m looking forward to his storyline as he plots to make Jon LC of the NW and then travels onward absent the Brotherhood who’s been a support and family to him.

Comments are closed.