Have you noticed something odd on Game of Thrones this season? The merciless killing of the direwolves out of nowhere. Daenerys bursting back onto the scene, yet Drogon remaining safely off-camera. Several high profile fights and deaths fading to black (in Arya”s case, literally) before things could really get going. It was almost as if HBO had slashed the budget for their flagship show, and were hoping no one would notice.
Or that they”d funneled the GDP of a small country into Episode 9, the “Battle of the Bastards.”
Episode 9 of Game of Thrones is always a big budget affair. From “Baelor” and “Blackwater” to “The Rains of Castamere” and “The Watchers on the Wall,” the show doesn”t play around when it comes to climaxes. Combine that pressure with director Miguel Sapochnik (who also did last season”s amazing “Hardhome” episode), and you have a recipe for the largest medieval television battle of all time.
But just how large? According to Entertainment Weekly, ludicrous speed large. Some highlights:
• 600 crew members. That”s 600 people that had to be bused in to Northern Island, fed, paid, and generally kept happy enough to not run their mouths with spoilers.
• 500 extras. All those bodies in the preview clips and photos? Many of those are real people, not digital creations added after to create the illusion of bulk. Which means 500 people that had to be costumed, choreographed, and paid. HBO even had the “teams” train separately to foster an air of competition. Combine these folks with the crew and so far the “Battle of the Bastards” production is the size of a small town.
• 25 stunt people. Extras and actors can”t be (legally) expected to do some of the trickier shots in battle. Which means Game of Thrones had to bring in professionals to make those stunts look as real as possible.
• 70 horses. Yep. SEVENTY. Horses are notorious for being difficult to work with and coordinate for battle scenes. Not to mention super expensive. Even well-trained animals can get nervous running at a line of people screaming and wielding weapon props. According to EW, adding in horses can more than double the amount of time it takes to shoot a scene. Time is money, and horses are money pits.
All together, over 1,000 people spread across four camera crews took almost a full month to film this episode. When you split the budget for Season 6 of Game of Thrones evenly across all 10 episodes, the average comes out to $10 million per episode. But clearly all episodes aren”t created equal and a nice chunk of that went into making the “Battle of the Bastards” a spectacular piece of television.
But it”s also probably why we can”t have more direwolves and dragons. You win some, you lose some.