David Benioff and D. B. Weiss speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con International, for "Game of Thrones", at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.

‘Game of Thrones’ Showrunners’ Panel Gets Internet Attention for the Wrong Reasons

An appearance by the showrunners behind the recently-concluded series Game of Thrones drew heavy attention online on October 26 2019 through an unofficial source covering the event on Twitter:

David is describing the pre-meeting with GRRM who was questioning their bona fides and “we didn’t really have any.” We had never done TV and we didn’t have any. We don’t know why he trusted us with his life’s work.”

— Needle & Pen (@ForArya) October 26, 2019

Twitter user @ForArya live-tweeted David Benioff and D.B Weiss’ panel at the Austin Film Festival that day — threading a partial transcript of the session as it went on. Reporting from both SYFY WIRE and the Austin American-Statesman corroborated one anecdote shared on the thread concerning the casting of Jason Momoa as fan-favorite character Khal Drogo, which Benioff said was prompted by seeing fans online suggesting the actor for the role:

There was some website where it had “Fan-casting of ‘Game of Thrones.'” And a lot of it is kind of knuckle-headed. But some of it was really smart. And there was one person or maybe a few people who said, “It should be Jason Momoa.” And we’d never heard of Jason before. I apologize to the ‘Baywatch’ fans because I didn’t know the other show he was on. But I saw a picture of him and he looked good and I thought, “He does kind of look like Khal Drogo.”

Benioff went on to say that Momoa’s “insane audition” concluded with the actor performing the haka, a traditional Maori war dance. “He was not asked to do that,” Weiss added.

Many stories online — citing only the Twitter coverage — criticized the duo for lacking self-awareness, considering the amount of leeway they received as two inexperienced showrunners who not only got permission to adapt George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series for television, but got the chance to rebound from what they openly state was a disastrous initial attempt at a pilot episode.

As tweets from the thread spread, some media outlets published recaps of the discussion using it as their sole source — which in turn let to criticisms and concerns that its claims, based on just one source, were creatively edited or not legitimate.

We obtained audio of the panel that corroborates the thread’s account of events, which we have posted here.

For instance, it is true that, as stated in the thread, both joked that the show moved forward despite their mistakes because HBO had already sold broadcast rights outside the United States to stations in several other countries. One of the more heavily-scrutinized remarks from the event, which was paraphrased in the thread, came directly from Weiss when he was recalling that he and Weiss had to learn how to deal with costume designers as part of their duties.

“How to talk to people who do things that you don’t understand very well at all is not something that you’re born knowing. It’s something you learn how to do by doing it,” he said. “We were very fortunate to have kind of the world’s most expensive film school.”

The recording also adds more context to the thread’s account of Weiss’ remark about expanding the show’s appeal:

We didn’t just want it to appeal to a fantasy fanbase… We wanted them to love it and parents to love it and people who play professional football to love it. We kind of wanted to reach a wider audience.

We contacted the festival asking if they planned to post the session on video; as yet we have not received a reply.