I’ve written extensively about this week’s Game of Thrones and its maginificent battle scene but here’s a behind the scenes video from HBO that shows how the crew brought the equivalent of an F-15 fighter jet to a medieval battle!
The video details many of the hardest and most thrilling aspects of producing such an impressive technical battle – from pyrotechnics to drones and spider-cams and horse-riding techniques, but of most interest is what first-time Game of Thrones director Matt Shakman says about shooting multiple character’s points of view during “The Loot Train Battle” because there’ll probably never be more important characters (and their individual stories) on screen at any one time than in a fuck off big battle.
Here, the script would have mostly done the director’s job for him as Jaime Lannister and Bronn’s points of view would have been written as the pimary perspectives but the POV does switch numerous times during the ten minute battle and is always handled with aplomb.
Especially when you consider this is (presumably) Shakman’s first ever battle scene… unless he went all Gettysburg in one of the forty-plus episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia he directed!
Of course, there’s Dany’s POV atop her dragon (shot from drones and spider-cam!) there are random soldier’s perspectives and battlefield direction also requires the view switches often between overhead, god-like, omniscient views of the whole battlefield to up close and personal, cinema verité, war-film documentary style shots in amongst the action.
I don’t remember seeing any here but think of those Saving Private Ryan blood and mud splats that hit the camera. Great in a documentary but my suspension of disbelief is always pulled from under me when I see it in fiction.
Giving Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister a better vantage point on a hilltop gives you an advantage in more ways than being able to cut to a character overlooking the battle – this ‘Commander’s bigger picture’ POV also gives your character chance to narrate proceedings meaning you can add perspective and tension.
Switching perspective is as necessary a device as the size of your shot and pace of your edits and the three are interwoven. For instance, Tyrion atop the hill has to see lingering wide shots of the whole battle while Bron, lost in the fog of war needs tightly framed shots and quick cuts so flaming soldiers and Dothraki warriors can come out of nowhere.
In summary: Remember to think (when both writing and directing) who’s story you’re telling. Generally, whoever has most to lose, pick them!
Choose the size of your shots and speed of your edits based on POV.