It’s Monday.  We’re working on the presentation and final report.  It feels like we’ve been doing that for DAYS… oh wait, we have.  It’s a long day to just sit in a room and type and review, discuss, type, review, discuss, type, review, discuss…

You’re getting the idea, right?  Real glamorous.

HOWEVER, as you may have realized, I inadvertently learned on the way here that the only (ONLY) TV show I watch – Game of Thrones – is filmed in Belfast, as well as around various countryside locations in Northern Ireland. I’ve been simply giddy with excitement about that little fact, so much so, that I worked it into my self-introduction during our project launch, in front of about 90 people from around Belfast.  I think I said something like I was excited to be in Belfast because it seemed somehow poetic and historic to come to the UK since my dad is English, right up until I learned that Game of Thrones is filmed here.

Got a good laugh with that one, I did.

Well, do you know these lovely folks immediately started working on getting a tour of the studio together?  And then, of course I felt guilty when I found out it was scheduled Monday afternoon, since we’ve been working ridiculous hours since Thursday to try to get our final presentation and report done.  My team decided I should still go, because I’ve apparently been yapping my face off about Game of Thrones since we’ve been here.

(It was all fine until taxi driver I was interrogating about actors he’d come across let on to the rest of the team that the show is full of sex and violence.  Totally blew my sweet-n-innocent cover.  Thanks a lot, dude.)

So, today was the big day.  It’s nasty, drizzling and grey as we made our way down to Titanic Studios.  It’s an enormous building formerly used for painting enormous ships like the Titanic…  by enormous, I mean it’s 64,000 square feet, divided into 4 different sets.   Yeah, and there was a big sign that said NO PHOTOS, which the girls (Clare, Deirdre and June went with me) helpfully pointed out as we walked across the lot.

Paul, the Studio Manager, gave us the tour – he’s a great guy and a former Irish language teacher who got a call one day in 2007 about some pilot that was filming in Belfast and could he come and help out?

So we walk through a little door into this absolutely cavernous building with ceilings that I think he said were like 80 or 90 feet high.  When you walk in, you could see a bunch of plywood and scaffolding stuff.  Not thrilling until you walk through a little tunnel into one of the four sets.  Here’s what we got to see:

1.  Tyrion’s chambers:  It included separate sections that are his bedroom and several other adjoining rooms.  None of the furniture or set dressing was there, like in this photo below:

(Tyrion Lannister, photo credit UK Daily Mail)

2.  A new set for Daenerys that will be used in Season 4.  It looked like a pyramid with a large bench-like throne at the top of a bunch of steps with a pool of water around them and intricate designs in blue and gold painted on a stone walls and floor.  There was a silent waterfall on a glass mosaic on one side.  This is the first set created by the new set designer and it was freakin’ spectacular!!!

(Daenerys, photo credit:

3.  The upstairs set for Daenyrus’ private suite in the pyramid, also for Season 4.  There were some incredible, very intricate doors that apparently made by laser cutting wood into amazingly detailed shapes.  Awesome.  It’s a new set, new location, so now I can’t wait to see what happens!!  She apparently goes out onto the balcony to look across the Narrow Sea.  Hmmm….  what’s up there??

4.  An ice mountain, also used in Season 4 when Jon Snow apparently is caught in an avalanche.  The actors had to actually use ice picks and spiked boots to climb the set piece, which was made of plywood and styrofoam and covered in candle wax and sprinkled with salt to look snowy.  It looked very realistic!  Because they had to basically destroy the set for each shot of the avalanche, it was filmed during the day, then the set people had to rebuild the set every night for 3 1/2 weeks for the next day’s shoot.  (Can you imagine??) 

I haven’t seen Season 4 yet… (Steve’s got 10 episodes taped for when I get home), but since John Snow is my favorite I had to ask if he is dead.  He is not.  Whew, thank goodness.  Eye candy, ladies, have a gander:

That’s what I’m talking about.  (Jon Snow, photo credit:

5.  Ice maze, also used in Season 4.  This is apparently part of some scenes involving trenches at The Wall (I haven’t seen yet!), which, incredibly, were build on an elevated platform out of huge styrofoam blocks.  The camera crew are  actually are underneath the set during filming.  Whoa.

(The Wall, photo credit:

6.  And…. the Iron Throne.  This set of the throne room is really big, really cool.  The room is big but surprisingly small compared to how it looks on camera.  The throne itself has quite a bit of metal on it, although there was a little section chipped out of the seat and it seemed to be partly wood too, with maybe some sort of foam as well.  I don’t know, I’m clearly not a set designer.  Again the painting to simulate reddish stone walls and floor was so realistic, with detailing of stylized rabbits around the balcony walls.

(Iron Throne, photo credit:

All the chandeliers were gas-fed and lighted with fire, although there was no lighting in any of the sets today.  The painting on all the sets was really amazing – it looked like marble and stone in different colors.  Gosh, thinking of how amazing the settings are on the show, it was really incredible to see them close up.  No wonder the show is getting so much recognition and is such a visual extravaganza.

While we were looking at the various sets, Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) was there filming.  The Studio Manager said he’s a great guy and likes to play pranks all around the studio.  He also said that all the actors are really nice and that the actor who plays Joffrey is actually quite soft spoken, a great testament to his acting chops!

Perhaps the coolest part of all this is that the show employees between 700 to 800 residents of Belfast and is clearly bringing a lot to the local economy.  We walked by lots and lots of semi-circular workshops and trailers that were marked with signs like Special Effects and Drapes.  We could see people in the shops tinkering around a bit too.  They use a lot of local craftspeople, like bricklayers and other construction and artistic effects folks.   Happily, they’ve recently had a massive uptick in studio tours, mostly Americans.  When we were waiting for our cab to head back to work, a bunch of guys kept showing up at the front gate for extras casting calls and Clare said she had read in the local newspaper they’re looking for men with beards.

All in all, a fun peek inside the coolest show since… hmmm, The Sopranos, I think?  If you’re not watching it, you need to get on that, immediately.  June, Clare and Deirdre seemed convinced that they oughta check it out just from seeing the sets.  You can rent it from Netflix.

We now return to our regularly scheduled work marathon….  #smartercities Challenge