The Red Wedding is one of the most upsetting scenes to ever unfold on television and definitely one of the most upsetting things to ever happen on “Game of Thrones,” a show filled with upsetting things. The Red Wedding aired four years ago in the ninth episode of season three, “The Rains of Castamere.”
The scene on the HBO drama is remembered most (no matter how hard we try to forget) for all of the deaths, but what about all the work that went on behind the scenes to make such an important moment from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series captivating for audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with the books?
Business Insider recently talked to Robert McLachlan, a cinematographer who’s worked on “Game of Thrones,” “Westworld,” and “Ray Donovan,” about the challenges of shooting the Red Wedding as well as what it’s like to work on such a dramatic and epic show. MacLachlan has also worked as the cinematographer on other huge “Game of Thrones” episodes including season five’s “The Dance of Dragons” (Dany rides Drogon) and “Mother’s Mercy” (Cersei’s walk of atonement). He also worked on two episodes for the upcoming seventh season.
Carrie Wittmer: Was there any inspiration you used going into shooting “Game of Thrones”?
Robert McLachlan: My inspiration for it, more than anything, was more in the realm of fine art, especially depending on where you were in the “Game of Thrones” universe. For instance, in King’s Landing in the hotter climates and Dorne and so forth, I’d really look to the Oriental painters and the very hot, sensuous feel that you got in those paintings. And then my lighting overall would’ve been influenced by the great Middle Ages or Renaissance painters, both in Northern Europe and in Holland and Italy. Whether consciously or unconsciously, I think the production designers and the set designers had that world in mind as well, and if you look at it you’ll see a lot of the Eastern influences in the use of light and so forth. “Game of Thrones” is so damn dramatic that you don’t have to look very far to find your inspiration, either visually or from a story standpoint.
Wittmer: “The Rains of Castamere” was the first episode you shot for “Games of Thrones” ever. Did you realize how big the Red Wedding was when you agreed to come on the show?
McLachlan: I was aware that the Red Wedding was gonna be a big deal, and we wanted everyone to be incredibly shocked by it — those who hadn’t read the books. And the nice thing about the way they approach the filming on that show is that it’s not you do all your prep work in one block and then sit down and shoot like crazy for two or three weeks, like you do in most episodic television. Your schedule is sort of scattered throughout. So I had a lot of time to really chew on how I was going to approach it. The lighting, it’s kind of built into the production design so that part was easy. But I also wanted to heighten it.
Wittmer: How did you heighten it?
McLachlan: I really, really didn’t want to tip our hand to the viewers that anything bad was gonna happen, and quite the reverse: I wanted to make them think absolutely for sure they were gonna get the happy ending that everybody was really dying for. So I got the art department — with the blessing of the producers and director David Nutter — to overload the banquet hall with candelabras and torches so that it was, if not by Disney standards, certainly by “Game of Thrones” standards, very bright.
Wittmer: You’ve worked on cable TV shows as well as network TV shows over the years. On “Game of Thrones,” you’re shooting in all these different locations around the world for such a big, devoted audience, and there are different people working on every episode. What’s it like working on a show that’s on such a grand scale?
McLachlan: Because there’s so many different cinematographers who’ve come and gone on the show — I’m one of the few that’s been there for multiple seasons in a row — one of the things they do is we’re all handed iPads with frames from previous episodes categorized by set, with examples of how each cinematographer has approached that set. The way they organize the whole shoot, it’s absolutely the best organized TV show I’ve ever been on. They’re very good. And from the get-go, there’s a culture of excellence that permeates everything where nobody will accept anything but the best. Whereas in television, most episodic TV, it’s really about getting it done on time and in your tight schedule.
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