*This article was originally published in shots, a source of news, insight and inspiration for the global creative community, and part of the Extreme Reach family.
As Game of Thrones begins its final season, the editors at shots.org, remind us of the creative talent behind this decade’s greatest pop culture phenomenon. We hope you’ll enjoy this interview from 2013 with David Nutter, director of Great Guns, who helmed a number of episodes in the series. Here he discusses the Golden Age of TV and the tensions around shooting the infamous Red Wedding in the much-discussed episode, The Rains of Castamere.
A quick note to the reader: If you’ve somehow not yet seen any of the series but are planning to do so and don’t want to know anything about the show, it might be best to stop reading right here. There aren’t any major plot spoilers in this interview, but some unsubtle references to the action that took place in Season Three.
How did you first get involved with Game of Thrones and what was the first episode you directed?
I had worked extensively for HBO prior to the debut of Game of Thrones (directing an episode of The Sopranos, as well as numerous episodes of Entourage), so I’m guessing I was a “known commodity” over there. And there was some discussion about my being involved in the initial season of GoT, but my schedule didn’t accommodate this until Season Two, when I had the chance to direct two episodes: The Old Gods And The New and Men Without Honor, which was a total blast for me, of course.
Were you aware of the books before you came on board the TV show?
I hadn’t read the books, but I was well aware of them because my son Ben was a devotee of the books, and was psyched about the prospect of them being adapted for television.
The recently broadcast episode nine of Season Three, The Rains of Castamere, was another example of how you never know what will happen with the characters in the series and who might survive; is it more exciting and interesting dealing with such shocking events within the series?
Yes and no. What’s fascinating to me is the whole idea of approaching Game of Thrones (and anything I do, actually) with the audience’s interest and proclivity in mind. On the one hand, there’s a certain satisfaction that an audience gets when they see what they want to have happen actually happen. I mean, in every romantic comedy ever made, you want those two people to get together at the end, right? And they always do! That’s very satisfying for an audience.
But then there’s that other side of the coin, as in the climactic sequence in Rains.. where something happens that’s so completely surprising that the audience is galvanised, shocked, and emotionally thrown for a loop. It’s tough to say which narrative mode is the more effective, but I love doing them both.
The tension of the wedding event is palpable; how did you approach shooting that scene?
It was an extremely specific and detail-oriented approach, as you might imagine, that saw us shoot for five full days in that big room. It was supremely important to me, though, that, despite the scale of what we were doing and all the various elements that were involved, we focus, primarily, on the emotional countenance of the characters. In other words, the faces. I mean, if we didn’t get that and the accompanying emotions that were swirling around there we didn’t have anything.
What’s the mood like on set when many of what were considered main characters, are killed off and those actors know they’re shooting their last scenes for the show?
Very bittersweet and emotional. But also totally professional. These are some of the best actors in the world, you understand, and although they loved their characters it’s not as if they’re the last roles they’ll ever play. Far from it! I can tell you, though, that each one of the “actors that were killed” is going to miss Game of Thrones tremendously. It’s a career highlight for all of them.
That scene and that episode was shocking because of its suddenness and its unexpectedness; at what point, if at all, can you tell that you’ve achieved the tone and feel you were aiming for?
I was confident that we’d shot the sequence with the utmost level of effectiveness, but it wasn’t until I heard that music – which was played on set, and which was then laid in, with such an eerie tone, in post-production – that I realised the power of the growing dread of the sequence.