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The Anti-Targ

Starting time for filming

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The announcement over there <------ says filming to start Q3 of '09. Not authoritative I know, but still, this means July/Aug/Sept. Where are the casting calls and announcements of who has been cast for major characters? Q3 '09 ain't that far away to book all the actors needed for the series.

Even Dinklage hasn't risen above rumour yet.

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GM's blog says filming starts in October and there's more news on the way which he can't reveal which I presume means the casting.

As he proposes to go to Northern Ireland to see some of the shooting in the autumn I was wondering whether that would be a good opportunity to tie-in a UK book signing for A Dance with Dragons........... :P

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Updated with GRRM's October date. I have also linked to a Belfast Telegraph article in which "film sources" claim that the production can be "worth" as much as £10 million. Which is, to say the least, a flabbergasting amount of money for a pilot without a full season order.

However, a source with some knowledge of things indicates that may be overly-enthusiastic estimates with a political motive, rather than where the pilot is actually budgetted. We'll see how things develop. I expect once casting announcements start, the Hollywood Report and Daily Variety may start taking a closer look and provide more solid information.

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The announcement over there <------ says filming to start Q3 of '09.

Actually the press release says that production will begin in the third quarter of 2009. I assume that means that they will be constructing sets, acquiring props, assembling wardrobes, etc. in Aug/Sep to prepare for an Oct shoot.

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After some discussion, I think the phrasing that the production could be "worth" as much as £10 million is referring to the economic impact of the production rather than just its budget. It basically covers all economic activity that comes from the production -- every dollar they spend to buy materials, and every dollar their suppliers spend to buy those materials, and so on.

They tend to use a set multiplier to figure this out, based on various calculations. I have not found an equivalent economic impact study anywhere, but typical ranges of multipliers I've seen for the U.K. and Australia range from 1.5 to 1.8. So if it falls within that range, then the production may directly spend anywhere from £5.55 to £6.67 million according to that estimate. And this is, of course, probably an optimistic estimate. Still, doesn't sound like it'll be a shabby budget.

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Ran, that is some good info. I had done some speculating on my blog about what the potential series budget would be. I had figured it would probably be somewhere in between the average cost for The Tudors and Rome, basically $5-6 million per episode. Considering the pilot will most likely need to be higher, since you have to build the sets and everything else, I expect $8-10 million isn't that far off from what HBO plans to spend on this thing. No wonder they wanted to go with a free studio!

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What a deal that's being offered for that Studio, though! Basically, "so long as you use a NI crew and spend at least 4.8M total on us, this is yours for free! Oh, and by the way, here's $1M." Looks like 4 adjoining sizable sets can be built, which I can totally see being used for:

- Winterfell

- The Red Keep

- A King's Landing exterior set, probably Flea Bottom (tricky to do an external location on a closed in set, but it can be done)

- Probably the Eyrie for S1.

Obviously Northern Ireland should be able to provide extensive access to location shots as well. Looks like shrewd move to me. As Varys might say, "Deftly done. Oh, deftly done!"

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With all the money they are putting into this pilot, the amount of excitement coming from the N. Ireland government, and, especially, in light of GRRM's intimations that more exciting news is on the horizon with an emphasis on that news coming directly from HBO, does any one else get the sense that they may be planning to announce that the series has been picked up?

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Given the economic climate, it's not a great surprise the Northern Ireland government would be so chipper -- doesn't really mean anything. The amount of money put into it remains a question, but I think a $7 million budget is very nice but not, necessarily, anything very remarkable (yes, Lost cost $12 million for its two-hour opener, which was a very high sum at the time -- but they had a lot less in the way of sets and costuming costs, I'd guess). And the announcements are probably related to casting, director, and so on, so don't necessarily mean a lot either.

So I wouldn't hold my breath for a pick-up announcement. It seems unlikely to me that they'd do that before they've shot even a single frame of film.

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With all the money they are putting into this pilot, the amount of excitement coming from the N. Ireland government, and, especially, in light of GRRM's intimations that more exciting news is on the horizon with an emphasis on that news coming directly from HBO, does any one else get the sense that they may be planning to announce that the series has been picked up?

I think so. That's a lot of money to sink into a one off episode. Plus you have multiple shooting locations reported.

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So I wouldn't hold my breath for a pick-up announcement. It seems unlikely to me that they'd do that before they've shot even a single frame of film.

I believe it was Wert that said that this sort of thing is not without precedent. I believe HBO has done it before with one (or more) of their shows. Basically they see how the production is going, evaluate the script, casting, etc. and if it seems like it is going positively they announce that a full season has been ordered. It makes sense to me anyway. Putting this much time, money and effort into a pilot that could very easily be turned down seems like a waste. And having to spend 10 weeks of production time on a pilot and then close up shop and wait around 2 months while HBO decides what to do seems counter-productive as well. Easier to just make the decision ahead of time and get the whole season shot in one 2-3 month filming schedule and have it ready to air in fall of 2010.

But you are probably right about George's hints. He is most likely referring to casting and director. But there could be something more. Certainly there is a bit of wishful thinking on my part, but I can't help but get that feeling. We shall see soon enough, I suppose.

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I know HBO has basically approved shows without any pilots being filmed at all -- IIRC, they went forward on ROME without a pilot -- but I don't know of any cases where they gave the go ahead for a pilot, and then mid-stream said nah, go ahead and make it a full season.

Could be wrong, of course.

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Given the economic climate, it's not a great surprise the Northern Ireland government would be so chipper -- doesn't really mean anything. The amount of money put into it remains a question, but I think a $7 million budget is very nice but not, necessarily, anything very remarkable (yes, Lost cost $12 million for its two-hour opener, which was a very high sum at the time -- but they had a lot less in the way of sets and costuming costs, I'd guess). And the announcements are probably related to casting, director, and so on, so don't necessarily mean a lot either.

Lost's pilot costs also got the guy who approved the show fired from ABC (without a word of apology when the show became a massive hit with 20 million+ viewers). I think DS9 and Voyager's pilots also cost $10-$12 million (which in 1993 and 1995 were massive sums of money), but DS9 at least also had to make do with six less episodes than normal in its first season to claw back the money. On network it is very hard to justify spending anything approaching that sum of money on a single episode, even a pilot.

I know HBO has basically approved shows without any pilots being filmed at all -- IIRC, they went forward on ROME without a pilot -- but I don't know of any cases where they gave the go ahead for a pilot, and then mid-stream said nah, go ahead and make it a full season.

I think Band of Brothers was also pilot-less, although that was also a single-season project from the start, so there was less riding on the first episode. I need to research the situation with Rome more closely, as I've encountered different reports saying they had a pilot which they then reshot as episode one, and others saying they didn't. Typically the pilot-get approved-film Season 1 model is only used by HBO for their small-budget, film-at-home projects like The Wire, simply because holding the studio free for a month whilst they deliberate over the decision is normally very expensive (but if they are getting the studio free, maybe that's not an issue this time), as is holding the actors who may get other offers in the meantime.

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Interesting. This film, Your Highness, is a medieval fantasy/comedy filming in Paint Hall starting July, from Universal. One vaguely wonders if there's any possibiltiy that HBO-BBC worked out a deal with Universal to rent/purchase some of their sets, costumes, etc.? Nothing I've ever actually heard of before, so it may be unfeasible, but OTOH it'd make economic sense -- Universal can earn back a bit of money on sets they'd otherwise tear down, and HBO could save some money.

In any case, more interestingly is that they quote the same figure: £10 million of potential economic impact. Now, film productions tend to have a lower impact multiplier than TV productions (at least, so says this PDF I've found -- I'm assuming in this case, the multiplier might be even lower because more post-production will be done back in the States than is the wont for local productions), but still. Seems odd.

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I think Band of Brothers was also pilot-less, although that was also a single-season project from the start, so there was less riding on the first episode.

Band of Brothers was pitched and sold as a 10-part miniseries, so it makes sense that it wouldn't have a pilot.

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Band of Brothers was pitched and sold as a 10-part miniseries, so it makes sense that it wouldn't have a pilot.

Band of Brothers was also a Spielberg/Tom Hanks produced project with the same production crew used for Saving Private Ryan...it's pretty much a no-brainer to greenlight that. It's a bit different than the case with AGoT. Still, the way they are proceeding it does sound like they have very high hopes or this, assuming it's even reasonably good I think odds are strong it will be picked up.

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It wouldn't surprise me if the show has already been picked up. HBO can't rely on ratings to decided the fate of new shows like other networks can. AGOT already having a fan base makes the deal sweeter.

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Still, the way they are proceeding it does sound like they have very high hopes or this, assuming it's even reasonably good I think odds are strong it will be picked up.

Thats the (totally inexpert) feel I'm getting too. If the execs at HBO were totally psyched about putting out a groundbreaking genre series they may just be waiting to see how all the pieces fall together in pre and initial production to get an idea of whether the project is even doable at a reasonable budget. With confidence in Dan & David and a quality book series with a proven fanbase maybe there're just waiting to see how filming progresses with the intent of greenlighting the series officially during pilot production so they can keep on filming the whole season in continuity.

*hopes*

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I think the show will get picked up. HBO is in desperate need for something grand. A magnet show, like the Sopranos was, to get people to watch while being bombarded before and after with promos for the other "smaller" shows. There's really not much at all on HBO anymore that can do that, and none of their other pilots (not even Treme) can accomplish as wide a spectrum as ASOIAF can.

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Ran, that is some good info. I had done some speculating on my blog about what the potential series budget would be. I had figured it would probably be somewhere in between the average cost for The Tudors and Rome, basically $5-6 million per episode. Considering the pilot will most likely need to be higher, since you have to build the sets and everything else, I expect $8-10 million isn't that far off from what HBO plans to spend on this thing. No wonder they wanted to go with a free studio!

With all the greenfield work that would need to be done for a pilot, $10 million seems like the least they could spend if they wanted to make a quality product. Keeping the SFX to a minimum they will keep their costs down. This series requires a much heavier investment in the pilot than one with a bunch of people running around in rags on a beach, and indeed probably more than the cost of a pilot where almost the entire time is spent on a single set (the brudge of the Starship Enterprise).

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