A total of 9 directors have been used to direct the Game of Thrones TV series till date.

I was left wondering as to why use so many directors for a single plot story! Wouldn't their individual styles and approach to the story contaminate each other? And how would actors react to being directed in a different manner, each episode?!

Is there any reference and justification to the studios decision regarding this?

PS Here is a list of the directors.


7 Answers 7


From Wikipedia:

Some [TV-] shows have a small stable of directors, but also usually rely on outside directors.

Given the time constraints of broadcasting, a single show might have two or three episodes in pre-production, one or two episodes in principal photography, and a few more in various stages of post-production.

The task of directing is complex enough that a single director can usually not work on more than one episode or show at a time, hence the need for multiple directors.

Television vs Film Directing:

Film directors usually have most of the creative control, but in television this control tends to be more in the hands of the producer.

Although this is not always the case, the television director can be thought of more as someone who molds the show into the package requested by the producer, as opposed to someone who stamps their own feel on the production.

The Showrunner is usually the person responsible for a TV series.

TV's showrunners outrank directors:

For film directors, it's all about control. Realizing it will be their vision that appears on the bigscreen, and knowing they'll be judged on whether the film is successful or not, helmers fight for final cut, casting choices and answer to no one -- except, possibly, the visiting studio suit or producer -- while ruling on the set.

With episodic television, however, directors walk a fine line between their own creative muse and the expectations of the showrunners.

From an interview with Jeannot Szwarc, who has directed episodes for several TV shows (Supernatural, Bones, Grey's Anatomy, Fringe, Smallville, Heroes,...):

Now being a director who travels from show to show can be difficult. Always fitting in. Always having to adapt to new styles. Do you have a philosophy that helps you?

  • Well, yes. The philosophy is that you are a guest wherever you go. You want to preserve your style and sensibilities, but you must also fit into the style of the show and into the group. ...

    First thing is to try to make the show the best it can be within the parameters that are established. Try to improve the script as best you can. And to try to convince everyone to see it your way.


This is routine in one-hour high quality television series, and is not unique to Game of Thrones. Season One of GoT is 10 episodes long - almost 10 hours of finished material, and typically they want to have a new season every year. It would be logistically difficult for one person to manage this in the same way as a movie director does.

If you compare this to the context of a movie with 1.5 to 3 hours of finished material, it is a significant increase in the amount of footage that must be planned for, shot and edited. Even movies have second-unit directors who shoot in parallel to the named director of the movie. Andy Sirkis was the second-unit director on The Hobbit for example.

As a comparison there were 19 directors of episodes of Breaking Bad, a show with more episodes than Game of Thrones, but a similar level of critical acclaim and a consistent treatment of plot and character was achieved despite the large number of people involved.

As other answers have said, it is the job of the overall creative team - producers and writers to map out a season of episodes, and the directors have less power and direct as required by the creative team as a whole. Often a there is a 'headline' director, who helps set the look and style of the season, e.g. Alan Ball wrote and directed the season opener and finale of Six Feet Under and True Blood, Martin Scorsese directed the pilot of Boardwalk Empire - a great advertisement for the series as a whole.


Firstly, TV episodes aren't always shot in sequence, so having multiple directors share the responsibility makes things run smoother. Even in movies, a director doesn't always direct each and every scene. There are usually a few assistant directors who film less pivotal scenes.

Also, the role of a TV episode director isn't as encompassing as a movie director. TV directors usually have less leeway in the medium where producers have more power. It's the job of the producers (and writers) to keep the whole series as homogeneous as possible.


Game of Thrones is actually three separate TV shows filmed and shot simultaneously, in different locations. There are three completely separate crews and teams known as "units".

Many big films have a "second unit" with a less important director than the official one; who shoots establishing shots, minor locations and other scenes that the headline director cant be bothered or doesn't have time to do. This happened on the Godfather for example where the close ups of sonny being shot at the traffic booth look noticeably different from the rest of the movie and are often viewed as weirdly cheesy or Bugsy Mallone like, because they are the work of a second unit director; to Francis Ford Coppola's eternal embarrassment.

GOT is unique in that rather than a junior and senior unit, it has three equal first units in different parts of the world, codenamed Wolf, Dragon and Lion. They cover the different climates that the show takes place in.

  • One in Iceland covering all the snow scenes like Bran and Jon.
  • One in Northern Ireland doing all the British looking scenes as well as all the interior scenes shot on sound stages and in the studio
  • One covering all the hot desert scenes and shooting in Croatia, Morocco and Spain, though sometimes they may switch them around and have two units in the med, one in Morocco / Spain and the other in Croatia, depending on how busy they are.

Different units each have their own equal directors leading them. When everything is shot the show runners pick one person who may or may not have run a unit, to be in charge of editing and unifying the footage for each episode to set the tone and flow of that piece.

They pick the director based on the nature of the episode. For example they chose famous British horror / action director Neil Marshall to direct the episode Blackwater because of its focus on violence and his experience of shooting and editing hard action on the cheap.

  • 3
    It would be helped if you could link some articles that corroborate your assertions. It sounds very feasible but some sources would really help the answer out a lot.
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 22:32

Although Game of Thrones does not have an excessively high number of directors for a series of its type, it would also be impossible for it to have another model due to the nature of its storytelling and location shooting. With such an expansive storyline, following many characters in vastly different locations, shooting often happens on multiple continents at the same time. Locations have included Malta, Croatia, Iceland, Ireland and Morocco. It's less of a problem for the actors because most of their storylines are confined to one location (Jon Snow is not spending a lot of time in Morocco). It would be highly difficult for one director to do it all though.


I think the best answer was given here by Oliver_c: Why do British sitcoms have so many fewer episodes than American ones?

American television is a producer's medium.


I think the directors do not actually work per episode. So it will be different directors with different teams and actors, doing different scenes at the same time. So, director A works on Lannisters problems, director B works on Bran Stark's journey, and somewhere else director C is on Daenerys. With this way, there's no problem in directing style because each piece is handled by one director (there's also blue print of style from previous seasons). This will save time and money. At the end, all pieces are combined into 10 episodes or something, and names of directors are attached to different episodes based on their portions of work.

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