Write Your Screenplay Podcast
Game of Thrones Episode 4: Lessons in Revision
Game of Thrones Episode 4: Lessons in Revision Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4: Lessons in Revision As you know, I’ve been doing a series of podcasts on Game of Thrones, Season 8. If you’d like to check out the whole series, including complete transcripts of each episode, you can find them out on my website: www.writeyourscreenplay.com/got. And if you can’t wait for the full podcast, then tune in for some instant analysis on Facebook Live each Monday at 1:00pm Eastern Standard Time by following @thejkstudio. Season 8, Episode 4 is a challenging episode. We’ve just experienced the battle of Winterfell, the most epic battle sequence in the history of Game of Thrones and the fight between the living and the dead we’ve been anticipating for eight seasons. Somehow, you’ve got to get that engine started again. You’ve got to create a journey people are going to pay attention to, connect to, and care about again. It’s hard because we’re all feeling a little bit let down. Where the hell are we going to go from here? How do we get excited again now that the Night King is gone? To make it even more challenging, the beginning of Episode 4, “The Last of the Starks,” is pretty slow. There is almost five minutes of saying goodbye to the dead and an incredibly boring speech by Jon Snow before we finally get to the image that matters: all those bodies lit on fire, with the final image being Jorah’s body consumed by flames. This is followed by another 12 minutes of celebrating the victory, with a couple of nice scenes of characters jockeying for power mixed in. It’s only once we’re one-third of the way through this Game of Thrones episode that anything of real consequence happens. Don’t get me wrong, most of the writing is good. Most of these moments are good and most of these characters are good. Plus, it’s nice to check in with all of these characters we know and love in the wake of their epic victory. But, we can also see the length of a Game of Thrones episode is quickly ballooning in this last season. This is a risk you can take on a hit HBO series, but not one you can take as a new writer. Almost always, new writers come to me deeply concerned about one of two things. One, they’re concerned about not having enough material, that their idea isn’t really a movie or television series. Or two, they’re afraid they simply can’t fit all their material into a single feature, television, or web series pilot. They wonder, “Maybe it needs to be a two-episode pilot? Or maybe it needs to be a miniseries?” No, that’s not what needs to happen. The truth is any idea can become a movie or TV series if you’re willing to push on it hard enough. By the time you get to the end, the concern isn’t going to be running out of material, it will be figuring out how to squeeze in all your great material. This leads us to an important lesson about revision. Many people think revision is about changing or cutting the bad stuff in your script. That part is easy. Great writers know revision is about cutting the good stuff in your script until all that’s left is great. Revision is asking yourself after you’ve seen, heard, felt and captured on the page every moment in all its specific detail, “What is this scene really about? What is this sequence or this act or this movie really about?” Then it’s about capturing the heart of your story into the bare minimum number of pages possible, squeezing your scenes down to only the very best of the best moments, until there’s no good writing left. Until everything is great. What is this episode about? It’s about Daenerys and Jon and the rift that’s growing between them, their people, and around what it means to be a leader and who should sit on the Iron Throne.