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Everything We Ever Knew About the Long Night Prequel Pilot, "Bloodmoon" - summary video report

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Everything We Ever Knew About the Long Night Prequel Pilot, "Bloodmoon":

a Bialystock & Bloom Production

 

Over the past 2 years I made over 8 hours' worth of video reports on set leaks from the Long Night prequel HBO picked over all the other ones - and which was abruptly canceled as soon as the rough cut was delivered in late 2019. A burst of new leaks came out from multiple sources in summer 2020 describing what it was actually like - which actually corroborated with other disturbing leaks we'd heard about it before that.  

This video is a condensed summary of all these 8 hours+ of old and new reports, made across the past 2 years, condensed into a single 2 and a half hour video.  I implore @Ran and @Linda to watch the whole video and seriously consider reporting on it with a front page news post on Westeros.org. It took me weeks to put this video report together.

Bullet point highlights of the summary video:

Inherent problems that made this a bad idea for a prequel from the start:

  • 1 - It very specifically rehashes the White Walker storyline
  • 2 - It isn't actually based on any "narrative" GRRM wrote, not even a thin "outline" like other prequels. Elio & Linda, who worked with GRRM on the World book, confirmed that GRRM never intended to set a prequel in this era - there are no published notes. NOR are the few legends he wrote about it meant to be interconnected - Lann the Clever isn't part of the Long Night storyline, they'd be shoehorning it in.
  • 3 - There aren't even really "characters" GRRM outlined for this era. Literally a sentence or two about Bran the Builder or Lann the Clever - with no depth or material to draw on.
  • 4 - A rehash should have at least a nostalgia hook, but very few "world building" aspects from "Game of Thrones" would be in it. Even basic physical locations (King's Landing and most other familiar castles don't exist, the Wall and Castle Black don't exist, the only exception is Winterfell - which is at best an unrecognizable small ringfort in this time period). Westeros is just a primeval forest at this point in time. Thus a Long Night prequel offers only the ABSENCE of things, without really adding anything new (in contrast, a "beyond Westeros" prequel like Valyria or Summer Isles, while not focusing on familiar locations, would be showing exciting NEW locations - Long Night has neither).  

In short, this was a poorly thought out cash grab by the outgoing HBO leadership under Richard Plepler, based on shallow brand name recognition (White Walker hype, main characters named "Stark" and "Lannister").  

Filming phase notes - from Northern Ireland & Italy

  • 1 - Starks, White Walkers, Direwolves, & Mammoths are in it
  • 2 - a lot of filming in cave sets at Titanic Studios, as well as real life on-location cave complexes in Northern Ireland - so Children of the Foreset? Casterly Rock? Possibly both?
  • 3 - Casterly Rock & Lann the Clever are in it (in some capacity) according to broad comments by GRRM.  We're reasonably sure that the coastal cliffs at Gaeta, Italy were being used to film Casterly Rock.  Naomi Watts was spotted here in a  spy photo in full costume. Also, a spy photo of a boat with direwolf carvings and what looks like an archaic version of the Stark sigil (though for all we know, this is a Baratheon/Durrandon situation, it might be the heraldry of some prior house the Starks later subsumed)
  • 4 - Spy photos of Naomi Watts & extra show costumes that look like Bronze Age Greece more than Bronze Age Britain (Ngila Dickson did the costumes). 
  • 5 - there was a spy photo of a large pile of two dozen or so rusted iron suits...in the Bronze Age of Westeros? (bronze rusts green, not red)
  • 6 - The non-white people cast in it are only described as "Black" in the casting sheets
  • 7 - Based on races they didn't cast for, such as East Asian or Middle-Eastern/Latino, it seems that Yi Ti, the Ghiscari Empire, and the Rhoynar were probably not in this.  Certainly, not core cast members (some of the hype fansites kept insisting that Yi Ti would be a primary location, and core characters would be Asian...as late as June 2019, AFTER the core cast had been announced, none of them were Asian, and even the casting sheets we'd been seeing since fall 2018 NEVER mentioned Asian people, only "White" and "Black").  

David J. Peterson's post-cancelation interview, November 2019

Linguist David J. Peterson never saw the whole script, and by his own admission, did not have a complete understanding of the plot - but what parts he COULD confirm come from an "official" source, adding weight to his comments:

  • The Andals appear prominently in the Long Night prequel. Even though they really aren't part of this storyline in the books. 
  • He was unclear about whether they were merging the "Andal Invasions" with the Long Night, or if it was merely that some early Andals were involved in politics on the other side of the Narrow Sea. Perhaps drawing inspiration from vague one sentence theory in World book that Lann the Clever was an early Andal? (other reports about Lann in this might not match that).
  • Peterson revealed that a major part of the Long Night pilot episode was a wedding scene.
  • Peterson had to translate some wedding lyrics into the Andalosi language. Given that "modern" Andal was presented as English in GoT, they were going to present the Old Tongue of the First Men in this universally translated into English (makes sense). But they can't understand what Andals are saying; the workaround Peterson did is that they're speaking ANCIENT Andal - so he applied rules of linguistic drift in reverse, to make an artificial variant of Old English that never actually existed (he gave some samples of this in the podcast interview, it was actually quite interesting). So the "Ancient Andal" he came up with used a lot of Old English vowel sounds that don't exist in modern English - so it sounds like something that COULD turn into English, but is still incomprehensible. Like a lost Germanic language. The wedding lyrics themselves revealed nothing to Peterson about the plot, as they were generic well wishes for a wedding day.
  • Peterson's understanding of the plot, which may be inaccurate because he never saw the whole script, was "It's set before the Andal invasion. The First Men and the Children of the Forest are already getting on well together, and then the Andals come over, and that's the beginning of the series".  
  • Moreover, Peterson's understanding was "Somebody was getting married to somebody else, and that made somebody mad. Somebody was getting married to an Andalosi woman, and that was going to start turmoil - but the turmoil didn't start in that episode it was threatened." -- Note that other leak reports contradict that the bride was an Andal woman, though Peterson admitted he never saw the full script. The fact remains that at least SOME relative at the wedding was Andal, due to the Andal song lyrics. Also note how this is basically a retread of the pattern from the Game of Thrones pilot, focusing on Daenerys's marriage to Drogo starting a new Targaryen-Dothraki alliance which threatens the power balance.
  • Peterson only worked on languages for two groups in this prequel pilot: the Andals, and the Children of the Forest. Strongly implying that NO, this is not the world-spanning narrative that the TV-only fansites tried to hype it up to be. No hint of Yi Ti or the Summer Isles. It also implies the Children of the Forest appear prominently in Season 1 - leading to the question, which cast members were playing Children of the Forest?
  • Peterson actually clarified that he didn't make the Children of the Forest language for this prequel pilot, he made it back in Season 6 of Game of Thrones, when Bran is staying with Leaf all season - but at the last minute, the showrunners felt it was distracting, and decided not to use it. But Peterson developed the CotF language in consultation with GRRM himself - some of it might even be considered semi-canon as a result (like Dothraki and Valyrian). Peterson said "I work for GRRM first, then the TV spinoffs" referring to his book and map work.
  • The books say that the name of the Children of the Forest call themselves in their own language is "those who sing the song of the Earth". The term Peterson came up with that means this is "Gerna Mohra" - also called just the "Mohra" for short ("Singers"). Side note: recall how the original name the Elves had for themselves in Tolkien was "Quendi" ("the Speakers"). The podcast interviewer asked Peterson to spell out the name, but it uses non-English pronunciation with a heavily trilled "R" sound, so you wouldn't be able to guess how it's spelled if you heard it aloud (sort of like "Mohrlr-yah"). 
  • Incidentally, Peterson confirmed in this interview details about the other prequel projects. As GRRM himself confirmed, 3 of the 5 pitches were still active by summer 2019. Peterson confirmed that these three pitches were Long Night, House of the Dragon (which is Dance of the Dragons), and that the third one was in fact "Old Valyria". These are the three prequel pitches that advanced far enough to hire a full staff and have series bibles developed. Peterson was actually hired for the Old Valyria prequel, but it got indefinitely shelved (not "rejected") when HBO chose House of the Dragon. Peterson hasn't been hired for House of the Dragon yet. Meanwhile, Peterson said that he had no idea what the fourth and fifth prequel pitches were - nor did ANYONE who he worked with behind the scenes, leading to the conclusion that they were rejected early on and never advanced beyond the basic pitch phase. Based on GRRM's comments, one was probably Targaryen Conqueset (and rejected in favor of Dance of the Dragons, as they are too similar), but we have no idea what the fifth idea was.
  • I managed to contact the prequel's lead graphic designer, Michael Eaton, who was also a major graphic designer on Game of Thrones since Season 1.  I asked him if they came up with a rune system of writing for the pilot, which the First Men used (as seen in the sigil of House Royce). He politely wrote back that they didn't, simply because no writing of any kind appears on-screen in the pilot episode (did we even see a letter on-screen in the first episode of Game of Thrones? They didn't need to invent a pseudo-medieval handwriting until later in Season 1 production).  He also confirmed he designed all the sigils in it, including "that leaked one from the boat in Italy" (that looks like a primitive Stark one).  

LML's leak report, July 2020

YouTuber Lucifer Means Lightbringer made a big leak report in July 2020. LML is a longtime collaborator with his now-roomate, Quinn Howard of the even bigger channel, Ideas of Ice & Fire.  LML (with Quinn in the background) made a leak video claiming he was in contact with an extra who had worked on the set of Bloodmoon.  I don't doubt that LML's contact really was an extra on the show - too many details matched up with other reports.  What we should doubt is whether this extra had perfect understanding of the whole thing: they were just an extra and only saw their own small part of the production, probably not even the full script.  But this is what an extra on the set thought the plot was like:

  • 1 - The immediate cause of the Long Night took the form of a meteor shower. Perhaps, summoned by magic? I didn't even consider this a very big leak. I always mentally envisioned the Long Night descending on Westeros like a blizzard from the north or something.  So, fine, someone or something summoned a meteor shower - it kicks up so much dust in the atmosphere that the sky gets hazy, making the moon look blood-red: hence the name "Bloodmoon".  In my opinion, this is the sole leak detail which MIGHT have come from a suggestion or footnote from GRRM, as he said he was barely involved with the story, the rest is the invention of HBO:
  • 2 - The pilot has a big wedding scene in it, but it was between a Stark princess and "the Last Casterly". This actually makes more sense with the set photos we saw: a Stark sigil on a boat heading to what we're reasonably sure was the Casterly Rock set in Italy. Cave sets in Titanic Studios with visible lion statues in them.  
  • 3 -  Lann the Clever was in it, as the "cousin" of the Last Casterly. I think we can reconcile this with the simple explanation that this was the "Last MALE LINE Casterly", and Lann is his maternal cousin (possibly with Naomi Watts as his mother? We saw her on set at the Italy shoot, with blonde hair, and fancy costume one might wear to a wedding). No explanation for why there were Andal wedding lyrics - is it possible that Lann's mother was an Andal who had previously married a Casterly? Hard to say. Neither Peterson nor this extra had perfect knowlege of the story.  Lann would get into a "love triangle" between the Stark princess and his cousin the Last Casterly.
  • 4 - The Stark Princess is a latent greenseer, like Bran Stark was in Season 1. 
  • 5 - Both the Stark and Casterly retinues at the wedding were accompanied by Green Men priests (wearing antler-hats, as described in the books). The Green Men in this apparently serving as some sort of druidic priesthood - odd, given that by the present day, the Old Gods have no priesthood.

TDD's post-cancelation leak on the race controversy

About a month after HBO announced they picked the Long Night prequel over all other prequels, I got into contact with someone who had access to a series bible for the Valyria prequel, which they showed me during a 2 hour Skype video call ("about two hundred" series bibles had been printed by that point, it's a paperback they sent around to their production crew, fully illustrated, looks like a second volume of the World of Ice & Fire). I won't talk about that here, but my source also remarked on Bloodmoon: 

  • 1 - The Long Night prequel's "solution" to racial diversity in Bronze Age prehistoric Westeros, was to cast only Black people to play Children of the Forest.
  • 2 - Given that Game of Thrones already established that the Children of the Forest look like green elf guys under heavy prosthetics...and this didn't occur to them until late in production...their retcon to address this was that the Children of the Forest were originally a race of Black humans, who get "magically cursed" into looking like non-human creatures. 

Given that this is...cartoonishly racist, and I had no evidence of it, I said nothing publicly at the time...other than to urgently start making anti-Long Night videos warning about it in general principle, back in late summer 2018. Then we started getting casting sheets later that autumn...which only asked for "White" actors and "Black" actors.  No Middle-eastern/Latino, no Rhoynar or whatever.  And a LOT of Black actors, not just one or two Summer Islander merchants visiting the shore, but apparently an entire group or faction. And the subsequent first official casting wave in January 2019, with 3 Black actors in the primary cast.  I started getting worried, but said nothing.

Literally the day after Long Night was officially canceled in late October 2019, I made a report video explaining what I was told in the leak, that this is how they were going to shoehorn Black people into the show, in a ham-fisted attempt at "diversity" which was actually deeply offensive.

As I explained, I don't think my source had reason to lie, I already said I hated the idea of a Long Night prequel on general principle, though it's entirely possible that they were either misinformed, or this was an early idea HBO had but abandoned very quickly. But the fact remains that this expensive prequel pilot - a project they put all their eggs in one basket for - was apparently so bad that it was anathema; as soon as they delivered the rough cut of it in September 2019, HBO immediately ordered extensive recuts, but no amount of editing could save this, and barely one month after the rough cut was delivered, they dropped it like a dead weight and canceled it at the end of October. 

Redanian Intelligence casting report, July 2020 (and summary of all casting reports)

Redanian Intelligence is a trusted mainstream fansite for The Witcher TV series, and they were a reliable source of casting info on the Long Night prequel since the beginning - first reporting the casting sheets circulating around in late 2018. In July 2020, they made a huge new report:

  • A bombshell revelation, Redanian Intelligence presented that from casting agency info, they found three Black children who were all cast as Children of the Forest, one of them even playing Leaf. We'd never even heard of these child actors before, in the months of filming, in the other casting reports. Given that this is a reliable and trusted news site, even other mainstream news sites like WinterIsComing.net reported on this, and were appalled - WiC.net specifically pointing out that it seemed like they were casting only Black actors (black child actors) to play non-human creatures, which seemed deeply insensitive.  
  • I point this out: child labor laws prevent them from working more than a limited number of hours a day, and it takes like 8 hours to apply the full Children of the Forest prosthetics - which again, seems to match with my original leak, that the CotF would be Black HUMANS who later get "magically cursed".  And why would they even try to get them all matching as the same race, have all three be black, if they were under heavy prosthetics? (the actress who played Leaf in Game of Thrones was actually Japanese - you can't tell under all that makeup).  
  • The names listed for most of the Wave 3 characters appearing in the show: that is, everyone who we found out about after the first two big FORMAL casting waves, in January and Marcy 2019. Nothing could be gleaned from these names, they didn't seem to match prior naming patterns. At least, it seems like they left out surnames to avoid spoilers, and it's possible these were just casting code-names and not the characters' real names. Also the names of two of the Wave 2 actors, but none of the major actors working on this. My video report goes into more detail about specific actors but little can be said for sure.

LML's extra report, Part 2:

Around the same time as the Redanian Intelligence report, LML made his live-stream report video. The leaks were considered reliable enough that even the trusted Wertzone blog made a combined report on both of these together. 

But for LML's livestream I was in the live chatroom, along with multiple other people, who had heard my leak, and we asked him if the extra knew anything about who the black actors were playing in it, or what was going on with the Children of the Forest. He said he'd seen my leak but hadn't asked, so he'd get back to me on that...A few weeks later, LML showed me a screenshot of a second text exchange he had with that extra, confirming it:

  • According to the extra, the Long Night pilot was indeed presenting that the Children of the Forest used to be Black humans.
  • He texted back that they were called the "Moarya" - which sent off alarm bells for me, because this MATCHES what Peterson said! That the name for them was "Gerna Mohra" or just "Mohra"...but as I said, with this non-English pronunciation with a heavily trilled R.  So yeah, I can see how an extra on set who didn't see it spelled out but just overheard it would transliterate that as "Moarya".  
  • In the story HBO came up with, the Children of the Forest split into two factions during their long wars with the First Men:  one group realized that the First Men were inevitably going to win, so they switched sides to ....help the white colonizers.  This group became the Green Men, who went on to be a priesthood of trusted advisors for the First Men, teaching them to adopt the religion fo the Old Gods and weirwoods.  The other faction of the Children/Mohra retreated further into the deep forests and caves.
  • What kicks off their story of the Long Night, is that one rogue Green Man priest decided to switch sides back to the Children of the Forest who still hate the First Men. For some reason...the extra says that the Children had "lost their magic" by this point, but the rogue Green Man gave it back to them. Under his leadership, the Children of the Forest call down the Hammer of the Waters to attack the First Men.
  • Keep in mind how little sense this makes, though that doesn't mean the extra's report is inaccurate. The First Men had been living in Westeros for centuries by this point, so this isn't to break the Arm of Dorne - this is the second, lesser Hammer of the Waters that only succeeded in flooding the Neck.
  • In retaliation, the remaining Green Men who stayed loyal to the First Men "magically curse" the Children of the Forest, who were Black humans, turning them into non-human creatures. 
  • Apparently in retaliation for that, the rogue Green Man and Children of the Forest - this is my speculation - then initiate the Long Night and activate the dormant White Walkers.  

Conclusion:

Much still remains unknown.  I even tried to find copies of the Long Night pilot script by contacting both the WGA archives and the Texas A&M university library where GRRM sends archived copies of his scripts.  WGA told me they only archive scripts that have been produced as aired TV episodes, not failed pilots, while Texas A&M's Cushing Library told me that GRRM simply hasn't submitted an archived copy of the Long Night pilot script yet.  It's possible he never will, given that he kept trying to distance himself from it - "This is HBO's idea, Jane Goldman is writing most of it, I was left making a few meek suggestions on a prequel show for my own franchise, which they were free to ignore at their whim".  

And we've only scratched the surface of what really happened.  Despite the ...barrage of propaganda HBO put out through 2018 and 2019 that everything was sunshine and rainbows on this amazing prequel, after it was canceled the phrase we heard from news sites like Deadline was "budget problems, personnel disputes, and creative differences".  They tried to feed us the same propaganda they did for the Game of Thrones pilot and Season 1, hiding from us just how much of a disaster it actually was behind the scenes.

But the key takeaway here is that THREE different reports, independently, have now reported the same thing:  that HBO was casting only Black actors as Children of the Forest:

  • My initial leak report in October 2019 (which I got in July 2018)
  • LML's leak from a set extra, presented in July 2020, which not only matched what I reported but was even more detailed
  • Redanian Intelligence's report, which isn't even a "leak" at all, but a report based on casting agency info, listing off three Children of the Forest, named characters, all of whom were being played by Black child actors.

This needs to be reported on by news sites.  If not this, what?  What have we to fear? Richard Plepler doesn't even work for HBO anymore, AT&T is in charge now - why would they get angry about criticizing the former administration?

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