The production process, from writing on through post-production, on most TV shows is a year-round affair, and HBO's Game of Thrones is surely no exception. With the enormously popular series returning for Season 5 in just over a week, writer-producer Bryan Cogman revealed intriguing details about the show's writing process in a new interview with Observer. Given that the show is such an immense undertaking, one of the few TV shows that shoots two separate units simultaneously, it may be surprising to learn that there are never more than four writers in the "writers room" each season, with Bryan Cogman and creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss the only writers who have been on board for all five seasons. When asked about how the writing process on Game of Thrones works, Bryan Cogman gave the following lengthy and detailed response
"Well, it's varied from season to season as we figured out how this thing works. But it's basically run the same way the past few years. As we're shooting one season we're trading emails and/or chatting on set about the broad strokes of the next season: "Character X" starts at "blank" and we want him or her to end up at "blank." Then, as we start to approach the end of production, David and Dan, in some years, will assign the various writers a few characters. For instance, when we were working on Season 4, I was assigned Arya and a few others. So I'd go home and work for a few weeks on my "Arya Season 4," keeping in mind a few scenes we'd already discussed and what chapters and scenarios and themes from the books we might use.
Then, in January, when we're back in L.A., we'd meet for about two or three weeks, armed with the work we'd all done individually, and throw it all up on the board. You debate, you use some stuff, you throw some stuff out, you think up some new stuff. Sometimes what you end up with is really close to the individual outlines. Sometimes it's very different.
After we map out all the main characters' individual arcs, using color-coded index cards, we arrange them by episode and get a rough idea of the scene order. From there, we all split up again and each tackle a chunk of the outline-a detailed outline, which sometimes ends up being over a hundred pages. David and Dan polish it, and that's what we use to script our episodes. I'm generally assigned mid-season episodes-it just seems to work out that way. George (R.R. Martin) wrote a script per season for the first four seasons, but took a break for Season 5 as he's hard at work on the next book. And while George isn't in the writers room, he reads the outlines and gives his notes.
From there I write my two scripts-it takes me about a month and half to do both-D&D read them, give notes, I do a rewrite, D&D sometimes do a pass on it themselves. And we continue to tinker with all of the scripts through prep and production. But they're generally camera-ready when we finish them. They have to be, as we have to have all 10 scripts complete well before shooting starts. We shoot all 10 episodes simultaneously, out of order, like a big, 10-hour movie, with two shooting units going at all times, sometimes in different countries."
He also discussed the benefits of having such a small writer's room on Game of Thrones.
"I think it's worked so far; don't know if it would for other shows. But for us, it's nice and focused. We're all present for the entire production, which isn't typical of most shows, so we're very connected to all the actors and departments. But, yeah, we've never had more than four in the writers' room at any one time, and in the case of Seasons 1 and 4 it was just David, Dan and me. We had the wonderful Vanessa Taylor for Seasons 2 and 3, and this past season we had a terrific young writer named Dave Hill joining the staff, so that was great. But in the end, the show's voice is David and Dan's. My job is to support that voice and write for that voice."
It's worth noting that HBO has already ordered Season 6 of Game of Thrones, so Bryan Cogman, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are most certainly already working on the story for next season. What we don't know quite yet is if George R.R. Martin's long-awaited sixth book, entitled The Winds of Winter will be ready for fans to read before Season 6 debuts on HBO, but we have reported in the past that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have already discussed the stories that will be told in the last two books with George R.R. Martin, so even if the show does catch up with the books, which seems likely at this point, they already have a plan in place. What do you think about these new details regarding the Game of Thrones writers room? Let us know what you think below.