Director and, as of Season 2, co-executive producer Alan Taylor, may be no stranger to HBO’s exacting standards – having helmed episodes of everything from Sex And The City and The Sopranos, to Mad Men and Broadwalk Empire – but in Game Of Thrones, he’s come up against a set of challenges unique to the groundbreaking fantasy series.
“There’s the war, and there was some expanding the worlds that was set up in the first season – there was an appetite to see it get bigger,” explained Taylor at the launch party for Game Of Thrones The Complete First Season, “so there’s more and more countries and farther afield.
“I guess the biggest challenge narratively, which is a part of that, is the stories we set up in the first season are diverging for now, they’re getting further apart and each one is taking on more stature, so it’s getting harder and harder to keep track of them all – one unit’s in Iceland, one unit’s in Croatia, and we didn’t have a whole lot of money.
“The challenge with any of this fantasy work is achieving the epic and also making it connect emotionally,” Taylor continues, “and doing it for less money than your average blockbuster – it doubles the challenge. I’m amazed by what we were able to pull off.”
“Achieving the epic and making it connect emotionally” could well apply to Alan Taylor’s next big directorial gig as the HBO stalwart is only working on one episode of Season 3 in order to concentrate on Thor 2, following up not only Kenneth Branagh’s first film, but Joss Whedon’s Avengers Assemble in which Chris Hemsworth’s thunder god co-stars.
It’s not just the vast world he’s helped bring to the screen that’ll prep him for Thor 2, but the built-in fanbase the production team have had to wrestle with.
“We’re all right to be terrified of the fanbase,” Taylor admits, “because they can be your biggest supporter and they can be your worst enemy depending on whether they give you the stamp of approval.”
A major factor in that is the changes made from book to film, which have been relatively few so far – at least compared to The Walking Dead and True Blood – but Taylor reveals that the demands of episodic television are forcing executive producers David Benioff and DB Weiss to be less than faithful with the source material, George RR Martin’s five-book (to date!) A Song Of Ice And Fire, in making Game Of Thrones Season 2.
“David and Dan have been cutting out quite a lot of material in the book to narrow it down to its essence, and creating material too and actually making more of some characters, but yes,” he says, agreeing that it’s a necessity for television to be flexible with the material that inspired it.
“Cutting between the worlds is one of the trickiest things for us and we’re still learning how to do it,” Taylor continues, “whether to group the storylines together or separate them and cut between them.
“As a director, you get to focus on the overall view of it and you have to see how it fits into the overall context and this year I was more involved in the overall context – so yeah, you have to keep one eye on that, there’s a tendency to forget that and just concentrate on the movie you’re making.”
Game Of Thrones Season 2 begins April 2 on Sky Atlantic HD.
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