Guest Contributor Interview: Niall Devlin
This week we got chatting to one of the original builders of the infamous Wall from Game of Thrones, Niall Devlin.
Niall is a supervising carpenter on the production and we discussed all things Thrones, how he got into set construction and how TV and film has changed his career…
Revival: “So what is your trade background and how did you get into working in TV & Film?”
ND: “Originally, I worked with my Da as a roofer before getting into set construction. I started in TV and Film around 15 years ago when I did my apprenticeship with a firm called Parker and Butler. P&B were very experienced in this field and worked on entertainment and drama productions for BBCNI, RTE, TV3, BBC Sport etc.”
Revival: “How long have you been involved with Game of Thrones specifically then? Since Series 1?”
ND: “ I have been involved with GoT since the very start, around 8 years now. Just before it started, I worked on a film called ‘Your Highness’ for a firm called Acapple ran by a guy called Tom Martin who has extensive experience across the UK in set construction. After this, Tom got the contract for Game of Thrones and the rest is history.”
Revival: “What is your role within the production now?”
ND: “I am a supervising carpenter on the production and mostly deal with our construction manager Tom, the set designer and the set dec.”
Revival: “How has the production changed from when you started until now?”
ND: “Bigger. Everything is much bigger now compared to the start. The work is also steadier with 28 weeks straight for the final season! Overall, the sets have gotten way bigger since the start and there’s also a lot more VFX used now than at the beginning – there are huge green screens everywhere!”
Revival: “Tell us what a regular day is like for a carpenter on Game of Thrones. is it quite repetitive building the same things repeatedly or do you get your fair share of exciting tasks?”
ND: “Honestly, all the sets are built in a very standardised way so there are days that can be repetitive. However, we also spend a lot of time working with the designer and set decorator who may ask us to get involved with prop maker’s tasks and things like that which helps to mix it up a bit. As a supervising carpenter, one of my daily tasks is to train and nurture the young apprentices in the team. I feel this is the best place for those guys to learn their trade – better than being out in houses and commercial properties learning.”
Revival: “Getting to the exciting stuff now… What’s your favourite set that you or the company have built while working on GoT?”
ND: “We have built and rebuilt the wall several times which is impressive! My personal favourite would have to be the tunnel and gateway which has been used when we see characters going “beyond the wall”. That’s a great set and has recently been altered to serve as the ‘Eastwatch’ tunnel entrance.”
CASTLE BLACK TUNNEL
Revival: “GoT is famous for making well known landmarks almost unrecognisable as locations. Have you got to spread your wings and work on location or have you been mostly studio based?”
ND: “I have got to work on my fair share of locations and was out in Spain 2 years ago working just outside Seville which was great. Locally, I would go out to location as and when required. ‘Hardhome’ and locations like that which have a lot of work put into them are mostly built in the workshop and then shipped out to the location. With larger huts and things like that, we go out and build them on location.”
HARDHOME: A DISUSED QUARRY IN N.I.
Revival: “As a prop house, we feel obliged to ask you at least one prop question! You mentioned working with the set dec previously… how much exposure to prop making have you had while working on the show?”
ND: “Only when it is required. Occasionally, the set dec will come to us and ask us to help if all the prop makers are too busy. This has been for things like building crates, barrels and things like that.”
Revival: “How does working in TV and Film compare to the regular life of a tradesman like yourself?”
ND: “The difference is unbelievable. In TV & Film, and with Acapple specifically, we are all well looked after. Compared to site work there are better conditions, better facilities and there is more money to be earned to top it off! Resources and materials are always in good supply and easy to obtain when you are working in TV. On top of this, NI screen have really helped further our skillsets and they have put us through our forklift licenses and cherry picker licences all free of charge – you wouldn’t get that in site work!”
Revival: “Now that Game of Thrones is nearing the end, do you have plans to stay in TV and Film going forward?”
ND: “Yes, I have no desire at all to go back to regular site work. Tom Martin (Acapple) makes sure we have plenty of work all year round and I can’t see that changing. We did the sets for Trainspotting 2 in between seasons of GoT so there will always be work with Acapple when it’s needed.”
Revival: “Finally.. Do you actually watch (and enjoy) Game of Thrones? If so, how does building the sets tie in with this notion of plotline spoilers? Does this affect your enjoyment?”
ND: “Yes, I absolutely love the show! In all honesty, you’re always going to know some bits that spoil the storyline for you in some way due to the instructions the designer is giving you and the things you are building. There’s always little bits you don’t know though as it may have been a bit of the build you had no part in. For this reason, I try to stay away from the bits I am not working on as that leaves some guessing to be done and I can still enjoy the show when watching it on TV!”
**SPOILER ALERT** It’s safe to say that the wall set could be coming down soon with the way story is panning out! I am sure Niall will be kept busy with the monumental end to the production and we wish him all the best on future jobs. The N.I. film scene is buzzing right now and we can only hope it goes from strength to strength after the departure of the much-loved Game of Thrones.
Keep an eye out for our next contributor interview and feel free to get in touch if you want to be involved!