Lex PR designed and planned an immersive experiential event for HBO Canada to promotes Season 3 of the epic TV series ‘Game Of Thrones‘ at Berkeley Church event venue Toronto.
The #Gameof ThronesTO event was a fully immersive environment in so many ways, from the seating of guests into distinct houses to the entertainment of the flame throwers and aerial acts, to the chance to wander around the fully decorated venue and at every corner have their picture taken with a character from the cast. In the planning stages how did you first begin to shape such an impressive event and how did you leverage the historical aspects of the venue to highlight the themes of Game of Thrones?
With most of my HBO events, I try to put the guest in the world of the show being featured, rather than just having the show as a décor theme. Being a massive fan of the Game of Thrones and with the venue in place, I knew I wanted to create multiple geographic/atmospheric areas of Westeros for the guests to explore. Berkeley Church had the perfect look so the event design process was fairly quick!
– The stairwell to the mezzanine became The Wall (highlights: trees, blowing “faux” snow, high-powered fans and even White Walkers)
– Half of the mezzanine was Winterfell (highlights: stone fire places, forest areas, house sorting)
– Other half of the mezzanine was King’s Landing (highlights: The Iron Throne, 5’ tall dragon ice sculpture, massive interactive map of Westeros)
– The Grand Ballroom was the Red Wedding dinner (highlights: Tables broken into houses, staging to look like the Red Wedding set from the show)
– The Wine Cellar was our green room for the talent, and some private interviews were held there.
The entertainment and live performers added such a visceral element. What was your process for synching up the time period of the events with its multiple themes with local talent?
All of the entertainment was relevant to the show, although it may not have exactly matched the time period. I tried to ensure there was entertainment throughout every minute of the evening.
The violin and cello duo, Duo D’Amore, played from the beginning of the event until mid-dinner. I had made sure they could play The Rains of Castemere (the infamous Red Wedding song) and the Game of Thrones theme to introduce the entertainment; for the rest of the evening, they played top 40 songs (everything from The Beatles to Rihanna) with a traditional string sound.
Illuminair Entertainment is a trusted vendor – They have an amazing team of cirque talent with a gothic edge that was a perfect fit for the event. They are known for their fire entertainment, so they performed a choreographed fire sword fight with solo performances in fire poi and staff, as well as an aerial cube act (trio) with performers body painted/costumed as Daenerys’ dragons.
Another one of my vendors is Alchemy Center, who provide incredible makeup and body painting artists. They created our White Walkers. I sent them photos of what I was looking for and how it would fit into the event, and they did the rest! It took around 2.5hrs for each White Walker to be fit in custom prosthetics and be fully body painted.
The sumptuous dinner was thematically appropriate. How did you plan this out with Berkeley Catering?
Having worked with Berkeley Catering before, I knew they would create an amazing menu themed to the event. I worked with my coordinator, Liz Moore, to tell her what the overall feel of the event would be. Liz, a big fan of the show, worked with the chefs to create a beautiful dinner menu that was a perfect fit for the event.
Some of the dishes included were; roast beef, smoked lake trout, portobello lasagna, roasted potatoes, and roasted vegetables.
There were numerous accounts on twitter and other social media about how gracious and truly genuine and available the two stars from the show were with the evening’s guests. How did you structure this so they could so easily mingle and be at ease with the crowd.
HBO has amazing talent that are up for anything! We had Isaac Hempstead-Wright (Bran Stark) and Kristian Nairn (Hodor) attend the event. They came out during the Red Wedding dinner to do a Q&A hosted by Devon Soltendieck from eTalk, and after the dinner we had them at the Iron Throne to meet and greet fans and take some amazing pictures with them!
The Berkeley Church venue allows for several different and distinct activities to be occurring simultaneously. Was this a benefit in managing the ease and comfort of the guests?
Definitely! With different areas in the venue for guests to explore, the flow of traffic was great and it was never crowded.
As guests arrived, the goal was to sort them in one of five houses for the evening and let them enjoy some interactive stations (White Walker photos, Iron Throne, golden bar) and cocktails before being called down to the Red Wedding.
They were called house by house to be seated within The Red Wedding area and enjoy the dinner, talent Q&A and live entertainment.
After that, guests could move freely throughout the venue and try something they didn’t get a chance to earlier, meet the talent or just relax with an amazing cocktail.
How thrilled were you to do this event? Did the brainstorming process happen quite quickly or culminate over a stretch of time?
I was so excited! I had started thinking about this event in Season One and already had Berkeley Church on my radar. When the event was confirmed, it was put together in less than a month, but I had been dreaming up ideas for almost two years!
What were the key experiences you wanted your guests to have?
My goals for the evening were:
– One on one time with the talent
– Participation in interactive stations (Iron Throne, White Walkers, house selection, etc.)
– Getting amazing photos for social media (sitting on the Iron Throne, beside a White Walker, Red Wedding dinner, décor, entertainment, etc.)
– Learning about the special features of the Season Three Blu-ray set
– Having amazing food and cocktails!
Was there a lot of chatter and speculation about what would happen next season?
Of course! The event was for the release of Season Three on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download, but people are always curious and extremely excited about the upcoming on-air season. Only minimal information can be given out, but people always ask!
With a show of such epic magnitude you are existing within a high fantasy reference as well as the fictitious place of the film. Did you have to reach outside of the confines of the show to find details or is the show so detailed that it could be the only reference you needed to create your event.
For any interpretation, you can create additional details that enhance the original story. Game of Thrones is rich in detail and has such beautiful imagery (as well as hardcore fans) that I didn’t need to stray too far off the show – I just needed to design the event so it was aligned with the show, interactive for the guests and ultimately approved by the fans.
What were some of the key themes of the show that you wanted to bring out in the night?
The whole evening was centered around the Red Wedding, which is the infamous scene from Season Three. The invitation was a digital wedding invite, so the guests were excited and mentally prepared from the beginning. We had the tables and staging arranged just like the show. We even had the violin and cello duo play The Rains of Castemere before we showed the intense scene on a massive screen on the main stage.
What was your biggest sense of accomplishment about the whole night?
My biggest sense of accomplishment was the guest interaction and staging. Guests were blown away by small details (flying dragon shadows, specialty cocktails, etc.) and how the evening allowed them to be immersed in the world of Westeros (being divided into houses on arrival, having a seat at the Red Wedding, sitting on the Iron Throne, etc.)
There was so much participation in the twittersphere and on instagram. The event buzz spread quickly as there was so much instantaneous sharing. This level of engagement at a live event most definitely heightens the guest participation in such events and opens up new channels for the guests to share their experience with their friends, most probably sharing a passion for the themes of the show. How significant was this level of social sharing to your event?
With the primary goal being to get guests excited and to spread the word for the home release of Game of Thrones Season Three, social sharing was very important. We sent the digital wedding invite that included the social media hashtag to guests over two weeks before the event and it started the ball rolling. Shortly after, random people started contacting our office trying to find out how to get on the guest list. The chatter was great and as the event was starting it was trending in Canada on social media which was absolutely amazing!
Thanks you LexPR for a fantastic interview and an even more stunning event.
Venue: Berkeley Church
Caterer: Berkeley Catering
photographs: Paul McNulty
video by BloomMediaToronto