Director Jack Bender is headed to Westeros.
The veteran director and producer is preparing to travel overseas to tackle two episodes of Game of Thrones season six, which will pick up the pieces following the show’s most controversial season to date.
Though Bender has worked on high-profile shows such as ABC’s Lost and HBO’s The Sopranos, he admits that tackling two episodes of Thrones is going to be unlike anything he’s faced, “because of how complex and enormous their production is,” he says.
“I’m very calendar-challenged and the Game of Thrones production calendar might as well be in Chinese, it’s so complex,” Bender tells The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s how they achieve their extraordinary ten episodes per year.”
He hasn’t received any scripts yet, but he did get an outline for the season while season five was still airing. He says the writers have “about six or seven scripts written” for season six so far.
Bender was originally approached several years ago to work on the show, but the time commitment even to direct two episodes is so large that he wasn’t able to make it work until now. He’ll be overseas from the end of July until the first week of December, before returning home to work on an adaptation of Stephen King‘s Mr. Mercedes for Sonar Entertainment.
“When my agent called and said, ‘These are the dates,’ I said ‘No, you are wrong. It’s not possible,’ ” Bender recalls, admitting he was in denial about the time commitment. “But that’s how long it takes. You’re overlapping with another director. There are two full units. You are there for a long time.”
Before heading to Thrones, Bender is unveiling a gentler project: an illustrated book he describes as a children’s book for adults. Bender is crowdfunding The Elephant in the Room (click here for the details), which features spreads like this one:
“It’s animals who have stuff to say to us, like a bear who says, ‘Of course I shit in the woods’ and various things like that,” says Bender.
He found the inspiration when he noticed an errant pool vacuum hose in his backyard, and noticed it looked like an elephant’s trunk. He took it into his workshop, mounted it on a piece of board, painted an elephant and wrote, “I am the elephant in the room.”
In addition to drawings, paintings and sculptures of animals, the book tells three human stories, which he describes as fairy tales for adults. “The Urban Acrobats” tells the story of abused children who learn to defy gravity to “float above the pain.” “Wanda Woke Up” looks at the journey of a young woman with low self-esteem and questionable choice in men. And “My Wife Got Eaten by an Alligator” is the revenge tale of a Florida man seeking to ill the alligator who made a meal of his wife.
“This is a way I can tell stories that is completely unique to me,” says Bender. “Whatever medium I’m in, I always want to take people to a place that hopefully is not only entertaining but also sheds a little light on their own lives.”
As for Thrones, he remains mum on which episodes he is directing or which characters he will be working with, though he does say he won’t be directing the first two episodes of the season.
“They do a brilliant job in having complex, flawed, human, at time’s deliciously terrible characters,” says Bender. “I’m quite looking forward to everyone I’m going to work with.”