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Game of Thrones
...because once upon a time, the idea of a violent, complicated fantasy narrative becoming a globally successful TV series seemed impossible – or at least about as likely as a popular character’s odds of survival on “Game of Thrones.” In adapting George R.R. Martin’s books, creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss chose not to water down the story for a wider audience and instead embraced the twist-filled multiple narrative arcs that often end in tragedy. To bring such an expansive imaginary world to life, the show films on multiple locations with careful attention to below-the-line production elements like makeup and costume design. Another overlooked factor of the show’s success is the use of unique social media campaigns to engage fan interest across different platforms.
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Arguably, no show has ever had more narrative to work with than “Game of Thrones.” With literally thousands of pages of source material as a framework, the showrunners manage to weave different characters in and out of each episode, along with references to backstory, histories and mythologies. While a film adaptation would inevitably cut out too much from the novels, the television format gives just enough time to convey Martin’s world in rich detail. The structure of the novels allows Benioff and Weiss to create such a complex, serialized story without ever having to bring characters together in contrived ways or jump any sharks. By being relatively faithful to the books, the show also shields itself from the fan outrage that ensues when beloved characters meet their untimely ends – they die in the books too!
Part of the show’s success relies on the overall excellent production values. Because the story jumps around from different fictional lands with unique geography and histories, the show films on location in countries ranging from Iceland to Morocco. The costume designers draw on a more historically medieval look than traditional fantasy, adding to the realism of the entirely fictional world. The brutality and violence that are also central to the series demand careful work from the show’s makeup department: instead of comical gore or unrealistic flesh wounds, each and every act of violence feels like it could take place in our world as well as Westeros.
From Facebook to YouTube, “Game of Thrones” has social media marketing in place to make sure fans never feel left out of the action. In addition to promoting the upcoming episodes and seasons, social media campaigns also feature popular crossover tie-ins such as the Pop Vinyl action figures produced by Funko or the craft beer series by Ommegang. There are also some trans-media projects that tie into the series, such as a role-playing video game and wikis that help non-book readers with the references. The show also has turned to newer digital distribution channels such as HBO Go and HBO Now, in addition to on-demand viewing and digital recording, all of which are basically required to keep up with the show’s labyrinth of narrative.
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