Would Dr. Cooper have been tough on Samwell Tarly?: An Interview with Dave Hill

Dave Hill, a graduate of Indian Springs School (‘02) and a writer for the hit HBO television show Game Of Thrones produced some of the program’s most riveting episodes such as “Home,” “Eastwatch,” “Winterfell,” and many more. The Mire interviewed Dave Hill about his involvement in writing for such a huge television program and how he adapted to that life from his high school experiences. Hill’s friendly and laid back nature show in his answers– making this interview not only a learning experience, but also fun. Scroll down to learn about which character Mr. Hill most identifies with and how the show manages to write an episode.  

Riley Berry: First off, “The Battle of Winterfell” was crazy. But, more importantly, I love diving into the entire universe of the show– that there’s a history and world to explore and delve deeper into than what we see. How did you learn to condense the huge world of Game of Thrones?

Dave Hill: In every scene, we had to figure out exactly what background mythology was needed for the scene to make sense to an audience and figure out how to get it out emotionally through character and conflict instead of droning lectures and exposition. I am sure high schoolers can in no way sympathize.

Riley: I know from reading the books that the detail in certain character paths and story is immaculate.  What do you think that you miss translating from page to screen? And then how do you go about adapting the show to meet the desires of the creators and viewers, while also pleasing Martin himself?

Dave: The books are all first-person so the reader is privy to a character’s innermost thoughts and emotions. We obviously don’t have that. We have to tell our story in the third-person, and figure out to communicate that inner life through dialogue, action, and – most importantly – great actors who often can do more with one look than we can with many lines.

Riley: You wrote for some arguably some of the most important episodes in the series, those being “Sons of the Harpy” and “Home.”  When writing those episodes did you have most of the power of what happens or was it more of a shared effort by you and the creators and other writers? Also did you feel pressure or worry when writing those particular episodes knowing that they were crucial to certain characters stories?

Dave: We all break the story and outline the season together in the writers room, and our outlines are very detailed – our season 6 outline was 160 pages, for example.  Then each of us goes off into a room alone to flush everything out into a blueprint for production/cast/directors. Sometimes, at the granular script level, we realize we’re missing a scene that we need, or that a scene we had in the outline we don’t need after all.

As for the pressure – yep, and you kids will learn how to best deal with it on your 21st birthday.

Riley: What is it like working for one of the biggest television series in the world? How did you initially feel when you began writing for the show? Were you a fan of the books before? What other fantasy books did you read as a teen? In the world of Game Of Thrones which character is your favorite to write about and who do you identify with the most?

Dave: I’m Samwell Tarly. Just check my yearbook photos.

It is pretty insane that this show is my first writing gig in Hollywood. I’d say pinch me, but I don’t want to take the risk. I was terribly excited when I got promoted, but I was also too oblivious to know when to keep my mouth shut. My first day in the writers’ room was tough because I didn’t even know what I didn’t know – which is good ideas vs bad ideas. Luckily another writer, Vanessa Taylor, gave me much-needed encouragement and helped me get to a place where I didn’t embarrass myself… as much.

I read the books for the first time when I worked for Benioff and Weiss’s agent. Their manager’s assistant was a friend and sent me the first book on cassette tapes. I don’t even want to think how many people reading this have no idea what tapes are. But anyway, I was driving to Vegas in my crappy used car – which had a tape deck – and got so into GoT that I drove around the Strip a while so I could finish out a tape side. Anyone who’s sat in Vegas traffic will know that this is the truest definition of captivation.

Riley: Knowing that you once attended Indian Springs, were there any aspects of high school writing and English classes that you still carry with you to this day in your job?

Dave: Besides learning how to write?

Riley:  If you could give high school students any advice for what they could take with them from school, maybe especially Springs, what would it be and why? What advice would you have wanted as a student? What advice would Martin give? Or Jon Snow?

Dave: Nothing that happens on the internet is real.

Every career you can choose will require you to write logically and persuasively. All those papers may seem pointless now, but the facts will fade and the skills remain.

Dr. Cooper was much harder on us than he is on you.