SB6 Set Visit 2018 – Day 1

As promised here I am posting again after a couple of years’ absence. I have no excuse for going away for so long. I’d say sorry for my lack of updates but those who know me actually knew I haven’t been absent in social media. So if you want better updates of my happenings, there’s Twitter and Instagram (and even another TwitterTwitter!)

Anyway today I’m writing from Singapore. I’m on an overnight stay before journeying to Johor Baru, Malaysia, for a set visit with Cinemax. I’m visiting the set of US Strike Back season 6 (season 7 for you Brits because the Americans refer to Strike Back S1 as Strike Back: Origins or something like that) in JB and I’m excited. Obviously I’m a fan of Strike Back because of Richard Armitage and John Porter, and the first season was a blast. Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester took up the mantle of co-leads brilliantly after Mr. Armitage went away for The Hobbit. So that the show came back after the Stapleton-Winchester era came to a close in US Season 4, I’m pretty happy. I’m even happier that I got to do another set visit of SB.

Back in 2014, I went to Bangkok to visit the set of US Season 4, where Michelle Yeoh guest starred. She wasn’t there when I visited the set, having finished filming her scenes already probably, but I got to talk to Stapleton, Winchester, Michelle Lukes, Milauna Jackson and Christian Antidormi. (Sully is a great interviewee, by the way. We doorstopped him on location at the train station that doubled for airport and he answered all of our questions with relish and lots of laughs. He’s a huge dude in real life but he sat down when we talked to him so I was saved from having to look up all the time.) The Fab Four of US SB was actually fabulous in real life. One of the best set visits I ever did, period.

So now I’m anxious and a bit worried about tomorrow’s set visit. I know a lot less about ‘the new guys’, Warren Brown and Daniel MacPherson. I mean, yes, I’ve watched Brown in Luther (I’m still pissed off they killed Justin!) but I barely remember MacPherson from The Shannara Chronicles. To be honest, I’m actually a little hazy on what the reboot season (US Season 5) is all about… I haven’t finished even the first episode. (Okay, so maybe I’m not THAT devoted a fan…) Also, the set is actually in a jungle. An actual jungle. With trees and all that. I’m not sure I’m cut out for that environment. This could turn out to be the set visit from hell…

Right now I’m trying to focus on other work (yes, work, I brought a laptop to a set visit trip abroad because I have work) so I don’t worry too much about tomorrow but it’s not effective. I was focused on working earlier and forgot about my anxiety but then my brain started overthinking again and I’m, like, screw it. I’ll just write a blog entry to try and express my worries ‘out loud’. Usually it goes away after I do that. Let’s see if this blog is successful in making me chill.

On the meantime, allow me to reminisce a bit more. Here are a few more pictures from the Bangkok set visit 4 years ago.

Bangkok skyline, 18 December 2014.

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Alley in a Bangkok market.

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HBO’s Game Of Thrones

Later this month, Indonesia – and I think the rest of Asia – will be able to watch Game of Thrones on HBO. It’s a new 10-episode TV series starring Lord of the Rings‘ Sean Bean, 300‘s Lena Headey, The Station Agent and Prince Caspian‘s Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Mark Addy and a group of talented young ensemble cast that will have a bright future if they can keep performing the way they do in this show.

For those who are unfamiliar with the series, this is of course the on-screen adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s classic fantasy novel, A Game Of Thrones, the first in the A Song Of Ice And Fire series. It’s a story set in a fantasy realm called Westeros and deals with the positively medieval intrigue and politics of the land’s most influential families. Despite bearing the ‘fantasy’ label, the story is rooted heavily in reality (particularly The War of the Roses in England’s history) so, unlike LOTR, it has a strong historical feel to it.

The series is not for everyone (for one, the mature themes alone are enough reason for parents to bar the television from the kids during the show’s broadcast) and it has no obvious ‘movie star’ among the cast to immediately appeal to everyone (especially in Indonesia, because people here are usually more concerned about the ‘who’ than the ‘what’ when it comes to movies). The majority of the series’ population can also annoy the hell out of you with their misbehavior and the whole story is pretty dark. Furthermore, because of the very adult nature of the series, many parts of the series will definitely be censored so I’m not sure if GoT will be successful at all in Indonesia.

However, if you’re wondering if it’s worth spending an hour of your time to watch… the answer is a resounding yes. It’s a very well-made series, thoughtfully crafted and brilliantly executed, with performers that are simply flawless. There are not many fantasy series on television that deals with serious drama the way LOTR deals with it in cinema. It’s as if HBO is making a statement with this series, showing everybody else the correct way to make a fantasy show on TV. So, if you appreciate good filmmaking, this is an example of how any TV show should be done in all aspects.

Lord Eddard Stark is one of Sean Bean’s finest character performances so those who still remember how charismatic his Boromir was in LOTR will want to see him in all his glory here. I am truly glad that the show’s creators, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, picked him to play Ned Stark – there can never be anyone else in this role, in my opinion – and that Bean agreed to play him. And then there’s Peter Dinklage, one of the absolutely best two ‘small’-sized actors working in movies right now (the other being Warwick Davis), who gives a stunning performance as The Imp, Tyrion Lannister. If you thought he was brilliant in The Station Agent? Well, here he is even more brilliant.

Then there ‘s a plethora of amazing female characters and performers. Headey as the wicked Cersei Lannister and Michelle Fairley as the strong and graceful Catelyn Tully are only two of the many amazing talents showcased here. At the head of these amazing performances is Emilia Clarke, a practically unknown actress from London, England, who plays the deliciously sensual and also very empowering Daenerys Targaryen. I salute Clarke for snagging this role – she is perfect all the way through and she can only get better.

A hopeful note for the prospect of this series in Indonesia is the fact that the books have been selling like peanuts and become bestsellers in the bookstore I work in. We’ve been selling the book and its three sequels, A Clash Of Kings, A Storm Of Swords and A Feast For Crows, since 2008 and we are constantly replenishing the stock. This series, along with Tolkien’s works, are the top-selling fantasy books in the bookstore. In the past three months, thanks to the Game of Thrones buzz in the US, the sale of Martin’s books have put the Fantasy category on top of the Romance category (which usually takes top spot) in the bookstore’s internal bestsellers list. This means that the people here are reading… they know the books (or they’re getting familiar with it) and they like it. So, if the series is played here officially, there’s a very good chance that the readership will become its viewership – it’s an instant fanbase, which is always a good thing.

Even though I’ve already watched the series in its entirety, I plan on watching it again on TV when it officially airs in HBO. It’s a series worth following at least two or three times over and investing in because the entertainment value is so high. So if you’re wondering if it’s worth your time or not… the answer is yes. Do enjoy it and let the ‘games’ astound you.

Enjoy this photo of the GoT cast from EW.com (from San Diego Comic-Con 2011), just so you can feast your eyes on the gorgeousness of the cast:

(My article on Game of Thrones will be published in Total Film Indonesia’s next issue.)