|Oh Ned, why didn't you just stay in Winterfell?|
Last night we had the chance to participate in a focus group discussing one of our favorite book series, A Song of Fire and Ice by George R.R. Martin. We found out about this opportunity through a post on Westeros and the Livejournal community, Westeros Sorting.
Weeks before the focus group took place, we had to speak with a representative of the marketing company who were presumably hired by HBO to gather fan feedback for the upcoming HBO series, A Game of Thrones, based off the books.
During this phone interview, we had to answer several trivia questions about the series to prove our fan status. These questions included: “Who is Cersei’s lover?”, “Where did Catelyn take Tyrion?”, “What is Gregor Clegane’s nickname?”, “ Who is Robert’s true love?”, and “How did Tywin’s wife die?”.
After answering all the questions, we were invited to join the focus group and were told to bring any fan paraphernalia we had, a list of ASoFaI related websites we read, and were asked to create a collage based on elements we enjoy about the series. The collage request tripped us up a bit. We stewed over it for a while until we created these using Polyvore:
The Princess's collage featuring her favorite couple, Rhaegar and Lyanna:
The Warlock's collage featuring the Kingsguard:
Yeah, we won’t be quitting our day jobs – don’t worry.
The focus group itself was split up into two groups – one group of nine females and one group of eight males (ten signed up, but only eight showed). The session lasted about two hours, with the ladies going first, followed by the guys.
We discussed our separate sessions with one another afterwards and came up with the following rundown:
For the most part, we were asked roughly the same questions. They seemed interested in finding out what we loved most about the books, who our favorite characters were, and what type of extras we would like to see in the series.
Both groups mentioned that the detail in the world was a big factor in what makes the series stand out. Everyone seemed to agree that the wealth of history really helped make it a believable setting. The stylized POV chapters were another huge draw for everyone since they allow for multiple perspectives and the chance to get inside different characters minds. Other things mentioned in both groups were the witty dialogue and dynamic characters.
As for characters, it appears that Tyrion was the favorite in both groups. Both groups spent a decent amount of time speaking about him, followed by Sansa, who divided the groups into Sansa fans and Sansa haters. For both Tyrion and Sansa, there was a lot of discussion generated on their motivations and what makes them so interesting to the readers.
They asked us a few other character questions, too:
Who did we feel the main hero of the story was? Both groups went with Jon Snow.
Who did we feel the central bad guy was? Both groups mentioned Tywin, but the ladies veered more toward Cersei while the guys veered more toward Littlefinger.
Now the interesting thing is that the ladies were asked two questions that were not brought up in the guy’s group:
Who did we think was the sexiest character? (The ladies went a unanimous vote of Jaime)
Who did we think the most romantic character is? (Both Sansa and Rhaegar won out here)
After characters were discussed, our focus group leader asked us what kind of extra features we would like to see included in either the DVDs or extra feature section on HBO. Both groups mentioned features on fight choreography, costume design, character histories, family trees, character profiles and flashbacks (though the guys said that they would actually prefer to have the flashbacks in the actual show and not as extras). The guys also requested maps while the ladies mentioned detailed looks into the Wall and the various castles.
We were also asked if we read any websites related to the series. Winter is Coming, Westeros and Westeros Sorting were all mentioned.
The ladies group was also asked for words of wisdom on things we felt must be present in the show or things that should not be present in the show in order to make the adaptation work. The ladies mentioned that the most important thing was for the overall tone and theme to remain the same as well as the characters personalities and motivations. All the ladies agreed that changing core parts of characters would really upset them. Additionally, the ladies also requested that the appearance of the characters be consistent with the descriptions in the book since families and bloodlines are an important factor in the series.
In general, we conclude that the ladies group covered more topics while the guy’s group covered less topics but went into greater detail and discussion on the topics presented. It also seems like there was a definite consensus between both groups in regards to over many elements of the series that we enjoyed and wanted to see present in the show.
Does this mean we might see more screen time for Peter Dinklage (who is playing Tyrion in the upcoming HBO series) and Sophie Turner (who is portraying Sansa), plenty of flashback sequences and a making-of extra featuring fight choreography and costume designs? We hope so!
On an side note, The Warlock was pleased to get pulled aside by one of the clients who is interested in playing in The Warlock’s planned weekend long ASoIaF LARP for next I-Con. Score!
EDIT: We were just reminded by one of the Westeros Sorting ladies that was in the focus group with The Princess about something we forgot to mention... Both groups were also asked if we had any suggestions for good taglines in addition to "Winter is Coming" which is already featured on the teaser trailer. "Win or Die", "When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die", "Life is not a song" and "Don't wake the dragon" were all mentioned as taglines we liked.