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"HotD: Inside the Creation of a Targaryen Dynasty" making-of book info

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I'm working on a summary video of everything in the making-of book that came out a few days ago, but my bad cough returned and I lost my voice again. So here's an ongoing list that will be updated with direct quotes. This is just going off my notes.


This isn't a very good behind the scenes book, even relative to other ones they put out for Game of Thrones. You can tell they padded out the length; needless full page high resolution promo screenshots from the episodes themselves, needlessly long summaries of episode plots (more than would be needed to give context). -->You get the feeling that they started out wanting to do a comprehensive "interview book", but then a directive got handed down to make it "accessible to a general audience" and more of a "coffee table book" so they gutted more of the detailed content. Keep in mind that they didn't know that HotD would be a hit, so it seems they rushed to get this book out at the last minute: it was only announced on October 12, for a digital release that actually came on December 13 (I was unaware of that) - and the physical hardcover came out January 31st. So it feels like a rush job.

Nonetheless there is at least some useful information in it.

Most frustrating is that the concept art is of very low quality: it only shows the FINAL versions of the concept art, when they entire point is to show the progression of ideas through stages to that final form. Case in point, the Vhagar concept art which spreads across two pages is just of the FINAL version - when this past week, the concept artist released over his own Instagram one of the EARLY designs when Vhagar still had horns (before they got the idea that they snapped off with old age). This is gravely disappointing.

Design Information - from the set designers, costumers, etc.

  1. Almost no new dragon information is given that wasn't already released in other public interviews. It repeats stuff about Vhagar, Caraxes, and Syrax we already knew. NOTHING about the three dragon "breeds" they developed. HOWEVER, one interesting tidbit is that Moondancer was supposed to briefly appear on screen late in Season 1, but like Baela's deleted scene that was screened in December, it was cut for time; due to this miscommunication, it actually gives a paragraph long description of what Moondancer looks like: it's one of the more interesting designs, away from the "Drogon" template like Seasmoke; she's small but described as "punk rock", with a mohawk-like frill, and her green scales have a very intricate pattern to them.
  2. The book only gives very brief quotes from the costume designer, nothing we didn't know already, but somewhat better info from Jim Clay's set design team (much of which was already in other interviews, but still nice). Both sets of interviews didn't go into too much detail about historical styles that they drew influence from, but instead focused on the more easy to understand quickly *color schemes* and their progression across the season (something a coffee table book can easily and quickly convey). I.e. Alience starts in innocent teal, then after she marries Viserys switches to Targaryen red, then in episode 5 dramatically switches to Hightower green. Rhaenyra actually dresses in purples and burgundies a bit more than Targaryen red, to show how she's kind of an outsider in the family who doesn't fit her assigned role. More info about the ROOM color schemes, how Viserys's chambers are a bit more gold and black to make it more regal and set it apart. 
  3. Architectural styles: they already said this in other interviews but restated a bit differently here - the main styles they came up with were Valyria (including Dragonstone, an old Valyrian fortress), the Red Keep, the Dragonpit, and High Tide. But also our first info on the design ideas that went into Storm's End (even though it was a purely digital set).
    1. Valyria had a "Brutalist" architectural style, as Jim Clay extrapolated from Dragonstone. That is, big monolithic structures with large blocky geometric shapes, not hiding that they're made of stone. You see this with Dragonstone, also in Viserys's model of what the larger capital city of Valyria looked like, and even the Dragonpit.
    2. The Red Keep has a more "Mediterranean" style, I guess to match the Dubrovnik sets of early seasons plus now Spain. Described it as bits of Spain and Morocco, etc., but Mediterranean with a dash of "India" here and there. This refers to the stone structure itself, though, a holdover from the Conquest era - during Viserys's time it got "decadent" and they have all the erotic tapestries. I wonder why they had the Dragonpit be Valyria-style when the Red Keep is not, even though they were both built around the same time (maybe because Aegon I started the Red Keep and they used local Westeros artisans, but after Maegor had them all killed he brought in masons from the Free Cities to finish the Dragonpit, and it was Maegor who ordered the Dragonpit). 
    3. They vaguely imply that between the "Brutalist" style of Valyria and the more "decadent" but "Medieval" look of Viserys's reign, the first century of Targaryen rule from the Conquest through Jaehaerys's time looked "Byzantine". Rhaenyra's investiture gown in episode 1 is said to have been used for generations, and have a Byzantine look because it's an older style; the garden party scenes in episode 4 in the godwood have Byzantine style mosaics. High Tide looks very "Byzantine", possibly because Corlys is older - the idea behind High Tide is that most castles were built incrementally, i.e. Winterfell, but Corlys was so wealthy he could design and build a new castle from scratch with money as no object, and so more elaborate things like a big spiral staircase in the main hall. 
    4. Storm's End: this is new info from this book. The design influence is actually *ancient Persian temples*. The idea being that Storm's End is this ancient relic from the Age of Heroes, built by an ancient civilization possibly at the same time the Wall was built, and many openly question how the First Men could even have built it when they never built large castles like this (and what castles they did have were more primitive and squared, not rounded to deflect projectiles). So unlike other castles that might be in the contemporary Stormlands, Storm's End just looks....different. It's this mysterious holdover from whatever civilization built it.


  1. They downplayed to us just how badly the pandemic affected production, but they rose to the occasion. And now they admit it. In contrast with Game of Thrones, where they insisted that D&D were intuitive geniuses who did the whole thing with no training, when they were A - largely figureheads and B - actually had a lot of basic behind the scenes problems due to their inexperience. The Red Keep set wasn't even finished until JULY of 2021! As Condal explains, the lockdowns didn't just affect construction, but the price of construction MATERIALS skyrocketed; things like timber. Supply chain problems. So the reason the first spy photos we got last week of April to May of 2021 were of the Driftmark scenes is because *it was a location shoot that didn't require the Red Keep*. The book has chapters on all 10 episodes - it actually puts the "episode 7 Driftmark" chapter FIRST, out of order, to emphasize that it was the first episode filmed and out of sequence. Then they just went on a three week break in June (which they'd always planned) while waiting for the Red Keep set to be finished in July. 
    1. This probably also explains the switch between episodes 2 and 7; they TOLD us that originally Sapochnik was going to direct episode 2 and Yaitanes would do episode 7, but switched due to "location availability" in Cornwall. I suspect this was a half-truth: that they rushed Sapochnik to film episode 7 first out of order, which was originally Yaitanes', so then they had to trade Yaitanes episode 7. Not that this is a problem. This is the story of professional career filmmakers who worked around problems caused by a pandemic.
  2. Miguel Sapochnik actually gives a full explanation of how the Cinematography is officially different in House of the Dragon: in the Inside the Episode videos he briefly remarked that they wanted to "bridge" the audience from the old GoT look to the HotD look it will have for the rest of the show, thus "Season 1A" is closer to Game of Thrones, but then after the ten year time skip, "Season 1B" starts having very different cinematography. Unfortunately, the brief clip in that video didn't actually explain what that difference WAS, but here Sapochnik gives his full description. This alone makes the book worth the price of purchase, it's a major question I had for some time.
  3. They filmed in long takes more often than trying to micromanage the actors in short clips. Case in point, the entire "Green Council" scene in episode 9 was filmed as one take, 15 minutes long, like a stage play. They filmed it four times. The large wake scene in episode 7 was filmed the same way. Because SAPOCHNIK, a director, was co-showrunner now, he understood that the best way to do this was to set up a LOT of alternate cameras, with "coverage" on everyone, and then afterward, edit together the best shots. D&D had no idea how a filming set works, so we have these nightmare reports how they'd make actors re-do short takes from specific scenes over and over again, trying to get the PERFECT smile or the PERFECT brooding face, to the point the actors were complaining how exhausting and unusual it was. 
  4. They did the exact opposite to Larry Strong that GoT did to Littlefinger.  As you know, even *GRRM HIMSELF* pointed out that the whole point of book-Littlefinger is he has a magnetic personality - like a real life sociopath, many of whom have charming and magnetic personalities (having no sense of shame, they're very good actors). The TV show changed this to...."the Snidley Whiplash routine", the moustache-twirling villain. They just plain liked that Aiden Gillen, the actor, could play "creepy", so they rewrote to character to...in their minds..."show off the actor" (I don't think even Gillen liked this). In COMPLETE contrast, as originally written on the page, Larry Strong was actually CREEPY....BUT they worked out with the actor that it was far more unsettling when he's being entirely pleasant and nice, that "dissonant serenity" as he's describing to Alicent how he killed his own father and brother. Sounds friendly and reasonable. THIS is far more unsettling! They GET it!
  5. Quotes pointing out that they use prop horses and quick edits when people get thrown from horses, they didn't try to do stunts with actual horses (D&D foolishly assumed you can do dangerous stunts with live horses, even when the directors and horse wrangler bluntly and repeatedly told them this was impossible)
  6. Sara Hess had the final revision on all Rhaenyra & Alicent dialogue. As they say, if their leads are both female, they should have their highest ranking female writer have final revision on tweaking their dialogue in every script, even the ones she didn't primarily make herself (dear god, a collaborative "writers' room" where they trade scripts to do revisions on them? Women writing women?) - A real reversal from the days of "You want a good girl, but you need the bad..." ---- Also for those who complain about that Sara Hess had the idea for Rhaenys to have a shot at the Green leadership in episode 9 but refrain from killing them (as she says in episode 10 "because it's not my war to fight" yet)...if you like Rhaenyra and Alicent dialogue, she did most of that. She had final say. Yeah I don't think the Rhaenys/Meleys scene in episode 9 worked, not bad on paper, but it needed more setup scenes to explain its context (which episode 10 belatedly did), but as Condal himself pointed out, ALL the other writers including him agreed to it, he himself approved of it. All this backlash to Hess because she said "Daemon isn't really a heroic character" in an interview around the same time (he isn't, he's grey, that's the point). 
  7. The original version of the Stepstones battle was slightly different. Just little things here and there. Originally the Crabfeeder was this flippant pirate who casually sliced and ate a mango while men were eaten by crabs in front of him, but Yaitanes came up with the idea that "he's this scary greyscale-affected guy who doesn't speak, a horror movie villain like Leatherface") - originally they wanted to film the battle itself on the beaches of Cornwall, but tides made this impossible to keep consistent; they then considered filming at the Derbyshire quarry in northern England where they filmed the Dragonpit; finally they just filmed it on the Leavesden backlot, BUT a benefit of doing it "in house" is they could use more practical fire effects; Rowley Irlam explains that when they shifted to Leavesden they added in that when Seasmoke takes out the Triarchy archers, they had actual stuntmen set on fire with practical effects and jumping off a cliff (they COULD NOT do that on-location, but in the controlled conditions of the studio they could). Caraxes was also more prominent in the final battle (riderless but knowing to attack Daemon's enemies). Different shots of Daemon charging back into battle. 

Odds & Ends:

  • They confirm on the first page that Rhaenyra's mother dies in the year 112 AC. We already independently worked this out on fan wikis - the way they aged up the characters and numbers they mention are internally consistent, 9 years after Jaehaerys died in 103 AC is 112 AC. The question is...this book was written so late, was this info straight from the writers? OR, did the book author simply copy the wiki article I wrote the first week of September? (shrug) either way the numbers they gave are internally consistent. 20 years pass since Rhaenyra is made heir, so the Dance begins in the year 132 AC instead of 129 AC like the books (much like Daenerys in GoT, the calendar year basically got shifted a bit due to the need to age up the younger characters).
  • Matt Smith was hand-picked to be Daemon, without audition, due to his role on The Crown. Always first choice. Then Paddy Considine was hand-picked to be Viserys, without audition. Everyone else auditioned.
  • It mentions in passing that Alicent's mother died *of a long illness*, not childbirth as I assumed. Emily Carey said she worked out a background for her mother because there's nothing in the books. Unclear if this came from her or the book author is making this up.
  • The grips on Blackfyre and Dark Sister are supposed to be made of *dragon leather* - that is, the skin between the thicker scales. To give this odd texture, the real props actually use ostrich leather.
  • Repeatedly emphasize that they had a female director on set during the sex scenes in episode 4 and had a professional "intimacy coordinator" on set (unlike the problematic stuff in GoT, though intimacy coordinators weren't a common practice a decade ago when GoT was made) 
  • A lot of detail and research went into GRRM's much longed-for hunting scene in episode 3 - a nice detail is that because real hunting dogs were expensive to train, you wanted to keep them alive: they have spiked collars so a wolf can't bite their throat out. We've seen the trope of "dog with a spiked collar before" but I never knew why before.
  • A few bits on deleted scenes and alternate shots, though we knew of most already. A nice two page spread with photo on Criston Cole's investiture into the Kingsguard scene (which we'd already heard of). I'm adding them to the list...
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