Battles are infamously difficult to film. Actors have to learn and repeatedly execute insanely complex choreography; hundreds of extras have to be managed; and horses don’t care about your schedule. So, battles take a long time: the greatest ones yet, the Battle of the Bastards and the Loot Train ambush, each swallowed about a month of precious production time. If you understand that’s a lot, you’ll be properly impressed when you learn that the battle shoot we have been following since late January has now wrapped after 55 consecutive nights! Beware: known spoilers are discussed below!
The largest battle sequence ever in Game of Thrones has finally come to a close, after months of night shoots at the Moneyglass set in Toome and the Magheramorne green screen set. The multi-purpose Magheramorne set may yet be used for other scenes, but this latest battle of Winterfell is over—though we won’t get to see for another year.
As we’ve seen in previous years, when such an ardous shoot is over the producers celebrate the occasion in some way, and we know this time was no different, as much of the crew went on social media to share a thank you note by “the producer types.” Jonathan Quinlan, assistant director in 20 episodes, was one of these crew members:
The funny, heartfelt note cites “the cold, the snow, the rain, the mud, the sheep shit of Toome”, in reference to the Winterfell set in Moneyglass, Toome; as well as “the winds of Magheramorne.” In the caption below the photo, Quinlan helpfully added: “Says it all. 55 consecutive nights. 11 weeks. 3 locations. You’ll never again see anything like it.”
These two and a half months of shooting more than double the previous record for a Game of Thrones battle shoot—which likely already was a TV record, as well. Unless the upcoming King’s Landing shoot dethrones it, which seems unlikely, this battle of Winterfell will be the biggest, most expensive action scene we’ve ever seen on TV. Of course, shooting time doesn’t necessarily translate to screen time, so this may or may not be the longest battle in the show, but it will certainly be the most elaborate.
As for the “3 locations” Quinlan makes reference to, aside from the obvious Moneyglass and Magheramorne (specified by the producers’ note and reported on by us for months), the mystery location could be Saintfield, in which we know they filmed but little else.