Filmmaker Jeanie Finlay directed The Last Watch, a documentary that goes behind the scenes of the final season of Game of Thrones.. For 14 months, Finlay and her cameras followed the cast and crew of the show, capturing the emotional highs and lows and back-breaking work that went into making the last six episodes.
Recently,about the experience. She captured 950 hours of video, all so she could shape it into a two-hour doc that included a lot more than just Kit Harington’s tears, although there were a few of those. “There were a lot,” Finlay said. “I think the people who work or star in Game of Thrones — this has been their life for 10 years. People have built their lives around it — moved to Northern Ireland, found their family, found their brethren, and now it’s finished. I was surprised how emotional it got so early on, there was this impending feeling of ‘the end is coming’, and nobody wanted to think about it.”
Finlay says she was “amazed at the scale and ambition” of the show. Considering how all-out the crew went to built monster-sized sets for the final season, that’s no surprise. “When you’re at Winterfell you’re in a castle, it’s not just half a set, you’re in a castle. And it feels cold because there’s snow everywhere. You’ve got over 2000 crew members, it’s like a city raising a world. It’s a lot.”
Finlay and her team were there for many of the night shoots that produced the Battle of Winterfell. She was impressed, to put it mildly. “When we drove onto set when the battle of Winterfell was being filmed, and they’re pumping the smoke and setting the world on fire, and there’s a security guard chomping on craft services and 500 extras dressed up, and all the undead, it’s extraordinary. It feels like you’re watching it already!”
And since The Last Watch was a secret project commissioned by HBO, superfans of the show didn’t hound her day and night trying to get information on the final season. “I was really lucky that I didn’t have to think about that at all – as the film was a secret. And because it was a secret I didn’t tell anyone I was making it.”
I had the scripts before some of the cast had read it… I was really glad there were no leaks because of me. But also the idea that HBO wanted to keep the existence of the documentary a secret, and so I edited at home in Nottingham and everyone who touched the production had to sign an NDA. The guys from HBO came and secured my office, my daughter was an extra and managed to not tell her friends.
Why does Finlay think Game of Thrones became as successful as it was? The show had it all, man. “It encompasses love, lust, ambition, a journey — but the thing for me is that nobody’s safe Westeros, and that’s really enticing as an audience. I love the so-called villain Cersei, and Diana Riggs’ character [Olenna Tyrell] was my favourite character in the show. I mean, she’s a big, bad bitch. It’s amazing. Who doesn’t love a queen who gets the job done?”
It’s no secret that a lot of fans were less than thrilled with the final season, but hopefully The Last Watch will at least help them appreciate all the work that went into it. “A lot of people have got in touch on social media to say thank you for The Last Watch and for helping them to say goodbye, and that they didn’t realise it was so much work,” Finlay said. “I think it is good to show the blood sweat and tears of it.”
Finlay even has some thoughts on that petition to remake season 8 that reached over 1 million signatures. “The petition for me just shows the fans care. And I feel like people should be able to express what they think about the show.”
So if you want to set up a petition go for it, or if you want to complain about the show go for it. Game of Thrones is about the show, but is also about the community who love the show and feel passionate about that. There’s also going to be strong opinions so I sort of think that it’s OK for people to express their passion, in whatever form that takes…[I]t’s hard to say goodbye. If you love something it’s hard to let go, and sometimes you’re meanest to the person you love the most!
Goodbye and thanks for all the blood!
Announcing WiC Club: the most exclusive club this side of the wall
To stay up to date on everything fantasy, science fiction, and WiC,and sign up for .