Game of Thrones is arguably the biggest show in the world right now, and one local man right at the heart of it is Holywood man Garth Hill.
It’s certainly not the norm to go to work with giants or White Walkers, but for Garth - a member of the greens team on the hit HBO series - this has been a regular occurrence over the past six years.
In his time working on the show, Garth has been involved with some of the most iconic episodes. From Hardhome to the Battle of the Bastards, and that emotional scene with Hodor ‘holding the door’ in season six, the local man has been part of television history in the making.
He even has an Emmy certificate proudly hanging on his wall to show for his work on the show.
But how did he become involved with the show in the first place?
“I know my Head of Department, Michael Gibson, and I just happened to bump into him, and he was looking some tree work done for the first series.
“He got me in as an outside contractor to do some pruning of some trees.
“I now work for the Game of Thrones production company, Fire and Blood Productions.”
Did he know what an epic show he was getting involved with?
“I’d never heard of it,” Garth admitted. “I’d never heard of the books or anything.”
So what exactly does a Greensman do?
“I suppose it would be building and dressing sets, using natural and artificial materials,” Garth explained.
Officially, a Greensman’s role is an extension of the art department on a film set, responsible for obtaining and taking care of anything ‘green’ – plants, grass, trees, flowers, and landscaping materials like rocks, gravel or sand.
The duties range from tending to plant nursery operations, from watering or fertilizing to transplanting plants, through to the artful crafting of vines, trees or flowers using cut living material and various forms of artificial material.
“For the indoor sets it’s mainly artificial because the lights would kill the living plants,” Garth explained, “and we do a lot of ground cover.”
Such ground cover would include the infamous ‘King’s Road’, which was filmed at the Dark Hedges.
“That was covered in peat and then there were grasses and turf to break the line up and a lot of leafage collected,” Garth stated.
Northern Ireland has been central to the filming of Thrones, with locations across the whole country, and local workers involved in the production.
Holywood man Garth has certainly been involved with many famous scenes from the show, but the first scene he was in charge of was the filming of the Iron Islands at Ballintoy Harbour.
“I hadn’t a clue,” Garth admitted. “I’d never done anything like that before and it was handed to me to do.
“It was when Theon meets his sister when he returned to the Iron Islands.
“We had to hide a lot of concrete and green out the houses and cottages, and lighting cables etc.
“We knew a farmer up there and he gave us his field. We stripped his field and transported that down to the harbour in tractor loads.”
“My main set would have been the three-eyed raven cave underneath the Godswood tree, in Banbridge.
“That was collecting and transporting 26 lorry loads of rhododendron roots of all sizes, and then stitching them all together with screws and putty.
“Some of the roots were maybe 30 foot long, the size of the chamber. They all had to be stitched together to make it look like a half man, half tree sort of thing, him living in the roots.
“That was a big one,” Garth said.
Then of course, the last big one was the Battle of the Bastards, with the epic showdown between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton.
“We were just given a huge field, and we had to make it look like a dead, sparse place.
“They wanted it white and grey, as if there was no life about.
“We knew there was going to be trouble with drainage and with all the horses and action, it was going to be a quagmire. So we put about 400 ton of stone into that field.”
With 4am starts, it was tough going for the greens team.
“We covered the field with a thing called haylage, then we dug up a field of reeds, I think it would have been about 1000 reeds, just to get textures, so it didn’t just look like a flat field.
“Everyone pulled together on that one because it was such a big production, with 500 extras and 80 horses.
“You have to work quick,” he added.
So what is it like to watch such an epic episode come to life?
“It’s incredible,” Garth commented. “It’s an eye opener.”
Whilst viewers won’t see season seven of Game of Thrones for a year, work is already well underway.
“Work has started,” Garth explained. “No spoilers, but it’s going to be great, already you can tell.”
What will he do when the final two seasons of Thrones has been filmed?
“I suppose when Game of Thrones is over, I’ll just get on to the next thing,” Garth said. “But I’ll always be able to say that I was involved in it.
“And I’ve got the Emmy Award certificate,” he adds, almost an afterthought.
“The departments that won the Emmy’s all got a certificate, and we got our photographs taken with the Emmy itself. So that’s my legacy really.”
So how does it feel to go to work with White Walkers and Giants?
“It’s weird,” Garth laughed. “You’re in the Paint Hall and you see a giant just walking over to get a cup of coffee, or Daenerys dandering about, or the Lannister Guards, all sitting around chatting.
“The White Walkers are incredible when you see them. The prosthetics are incredible. Most of that is real, it’s not visual effects what you see with them.
“I have to mention Hardhome,” Garth added. “It was incredible to work on. Seeing the work going into the White Walkers, the visual effects, and the construction. I worked on that one for a long time.”
One scene that was particularly poignant in season six was the revelation of what happened to ‘Hodor’.
“I was very involved with the making of the Hodor scenes last series,” Garth explained.
“That was between special effects and us on the door. They’d made three or four doors, one main wooden heavy one and then they had the fake ones, and we had to dress that door inside and out with roots, and of course they had to retake that scene several times so when they put the next door on to shoot again, they all had to match the exact same.
“It was quite an intense wee scene with the amount of work that went into it.
“It was a big iconic scene; it was sad. A lot of time went into that scene.”