NYCC 2019 Interview: ‘Game of Thrones’ Production Designer Deborah Riley, Author Of ‘The Art of Game of Thrones’
By Dr. Zaius
Monday, October 14th, 2019 at 10:09 am
At this year’s New York Comic-Con earlier this month, I got a chance to meet some incredible women who helped shape and capture the world of one of TV’s biggest shows of all time, Game of Thrones. The HBO series finished its 8-season run earlier this year and the fantastical series based on The Song of Ice & Fire books by George R.R. Martin set new standards for production. At the Insight Editions booth on the NYCC show floor, I met with Deborah Riley, production designer on the epic series to discuss what it takes to make Game of Thrones look the way it did, as well as her new book, The Art of Game of Thrones, which is available for pre-order now.
Geeks of Doom: How long did you work on Game of Thrones?
Deborah Riley: I was the Production Designer on the show from seasons 4 – 8.
Geeks of Doom: As someone who works in that field, was this a fantasy project for you? What was it like having an artistic say in what was maybe the most important television series in the last 20 years?
Deborah Riley: Oh yes, it was amazing to even have a seat at the table. I was thrilled to be there. Obviously I had seen the first three seasons before I started the job, so I knew what I was getting into. But it’s such a high level, I knew I had to measure up. It was pretty intimidating when I first arrived. We found our speed and it was quite the run.
Geeks of Doom: What is your favorite piece of production you worked on or had a say in?
Deborah Riley: You know it goes right back to season 4 for me. The Meereen audience chamber was my favorite. I also really liked the Dragonstone audience chamber, too. That was kind of cool for different reasons. Even season 8, the King’s Landing that we built and destroyed, that was kind of an emotional set to work with.
Geeks of Doom: Is it bittersweet when you spend so much time putting these sets together only for a CGI dragon to burn them down?
Deborah Riley: We literally pulled them down though. We built a full firestorm set, we did a destruction set, a devastation version. The whole set went through like four different versions, so we were doing a lot ourselves and it was pretty difficult in that sense.
Geeks of Doom: Putting the book together, The Art of Game of Thrones, you must have four years of images and things you want to put in, but there are page restrictions. How do you decide what goes in and what doesn’t make the cut?
Deborah Riley: Do you know, most stuff is in. All of the best stuff is definitely in and I contacted all of the artists and got them involved as well. All of the concept guys and girls were able to send their folders in, so we had everything at the highest resolution available. Not everything is filed in the best resolution, it’s stored at the resolution we would just use to send to each other, other than a printable version. I was in contact with everyone making sure we were, including what were their favorites as well. Then there is a limited edition that come out with the graphics and props and all the visual effects artwork.
Geeks of Doom: Oh yes, Insight does a lot of those great books with artifacts and replicas. They’re great collector’s items.
Deborah Riley: Yes, they’re beautiful and they’ll be available on the website soon.
Geeks of Doom: What was the biggest challenge you faced on Game of Thrones?
Deborah Riley: Time. We were always just so short for time. And also covering so much in different countries and running around, but again if we had more time that wouldn’t have been so stressful. It was just time. I put on eight kilos since I finished the show just because I was always running around on set.
Geeks of Doom: Now that Thrones is done, and you have this book coming out, what projects do you have coming up?
Deborah Riley: You know I’m still waiting to land. A lot of these big projects are slow-moving machines and they take awhile to get to the ground. I’ve spent twelve months and not really achieved anything aside from this book unbelievably.
Geeks of Doom: It’s got to feel great to relax after such a huge show.
Deborah Riley: Yeah, I needed a good sleep.
Geeks of Doom: Is Game of Thrones the biggest production you worked on?
Deborah Riley: Oh yeah, I came from doing some feature stuff before that and while it’s different, the volume of Thrones is beyond anything that anybody, even those in the industry, can imagine. The sheer volume was unbelievable. We would shoot like 250 shoot days, I mean that’s a lot.
Deborah Riley took time out from signing exclusive copies of her book at the Insight Editions booth to speak with us on the show floor. Her book, The Art of Game of Thrones, is written with Jody Revenson and licensed by HBO and features a foreword by show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. It releases on November 5, 2019, and is available now for pre-order. Check out all Insight Edition’s collections at their site.