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May 30
2019

ISSUE

Summer 2019

D.B. Weiss and David Benioff: Scholarly Pyromancers of GAME OF THRONES

By JIM McCULLAUGH

D.B. Weiss and David Benioff receive the VES Award for Creative Excellence at the 17th Annual VES Awards.

When D.B. Weiss and David Benioff accepted the VES Award for Creative Excellence at the 17th Annual VES Awards in February, they readily acknowledged the contributions of all the VFX practitioners who contributed to the show.

“When George R.R. Martin wrote the book from which Game of Thrones is based,” commented Benioff, “he did so to escape the restraints that film and TV imposed on the imagination. When we first met him, he told us point blank it was meant to be unfilmable. But because of Visual Effects Producer Steve Kullback and Visual Effects Supervisor Joe Bauer, we filmed it.”

He continued, “Steve and Joe have consistently and stubbornly refused to recognize limitations. They have never been about ‘if.’ They have only been about ‘how.’ They and their team made wights, dragons, and dire wolves feel as real as the actors. Working with these gentlemen has been straight joy from the first to the last. This award rightly belongs to them. We write about dragons flying around burning shit – and they do it all.”

It’s more than fair to say that Daniel Brett Weiss and David Benioff have changed the nature of TV and visual effects like never before when they became co-creators and showrunners for HBO’s Game of Thrones. Not only is Game of Thrones, which debuted in April 2011, a smash hit worldwide, but its final 2019 season has been one of the biggest events in TV history.

Consider: It has received 308 awards from various industry groups and cinematic institutions and has been nominated 506 times. It has become the gold standard of TV (and maybe even cinema) special effects.

D.B. Weiss hails from Chicago and earned a degree from Wesleyan University and went on to Dublin, Ireland’s Trinity College where he earned a Master of Philosophy in Irish Literature. His thesis was on James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. After that he earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. It was in Dublin in 1995 that Weiss first met David Benioff.

David Benioff hails from New York City. He attended Dartmouth College and later went on to Dublin’s Trinity College where he, too, studied Irish literature, writing his thesis on Samuel Beckett. Later, he attended the Creative Writing Program at the University of California, Irvine where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

D.B. Weiss (left) and David Benioff on the set of Season 5. (Photo courtesy of HBO. Photo: Macall B. Polay)

David Benioff (left) and D.B. Weiss on the set. (Photo courtesy of HBO. Photo: Helen Sloan)

David Benioff (left) and D.B. Weiss discuss a shot during Season 5. (Photo courtesy of HBO. Photo by Helen Sloan)

Actress Emilia Clark, aka Daenerys Targaryen, enjoys a light moment with D.B. Weiss (middle) and David Benioff on the set during Season 7.

After their academics, both Weiss and Benioff tried their hands at professional writing. Benioff’s first published novel was The 25th Hour, which caught the attention of Tobey Maguire. Benioff adapted it into a screenplay for a movie by director Spike Lee. After that he published a short story collection called When the Nines Roll Over.

Next up for Benioff was a screenplay he wrote for the film Troy. He then wrote screenplays for the films Stay and The Kite Runner, and co-wrote X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

Meanwhile, D.B. Weiss’s trajectory after school was to work as a personal assistant to Eagle Glenn Frey while later reuniting with Benioff in Santa Monica, California in 1998 where they co-wrote and produced several scripts. Weiss wrote a novel in 2003 called Lucky Wander Boy.

The duo really took off in 2011 when they intersected with author George R.R. Martin and HBO to adapt Martin’s book A Song of Ice and Fire. In addition to writing most of the episodes of the series, each has directed an episode. They co-directed the series finale.

The future bodes well for the pair. The duo has been linked to another HBO series called Confederate. Disney has also announced that the pair will write and produce a series of Star Wars films. Benioff and Weiss have become two of Hollywood’s most formidable writers, producers and screenwriters.

As Weiss and Benioff reflect back on their careers to date, they appear to have heeded the words of George R.R. Martin from his book A Dance with Dragons: “If you want to conquer the world, you best have dragons.”


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