Remember the fallen, fight for the living, and “Bleed for the Throne”
San Diego Comic-Con may be the most known convention for extensive and immersive experiences tied to popular movies and TV shows, but the past two years HBO has made SXSW an experience to rival the biggest comic-book convention in the US. Last year, lucky attendees could step into the world of Westworld with a fully immersive activation. This year, HBO asks for your allegiance in the fight against the White Walkers, as well as a little blood.
Part of the show’s #ForTheThrone marketing campaign, a partnership with The American Red Cross that will bring blood drives to 43 states, as well as additional partnerships in 16 countries, the activation is a celebration of the blood shed in the fight for the throne and following in the footsteps of those who have bled for it. Yes, you can actually donate blood while staring at the Iron Throne, and get an exclusive T-shirt and a chance to win a trip to the world premiere of the last season of the show.
When attendees enter the repurposed market in Austin, Texas, they will come face to face with a replica of the Iron Throne, surrounded by Lannister banners, before taking an audio tour to basically recap the show. You will follow the journeys of Arya Stark, Jon Snow, Cersei Lannister and Tyrion Lannister, and relieve some of the show’s most memorable scenes, including an actual “walk of shame” with a nun screaming at you.
After the tour, you are brought to the front of the Iron Throne, where a choir sings Gregorian songs inspired by Game of Thrones, before your name is called by a red priestess to bend the knee and pledge your life to the Lord of Light and the fight against the undead – you also get a SXSW-exclusive “Hand of the King” pin which gives you discounts at select places around Austin.
After the ceremony, you are called to train for battle, in a space familiar to anyone who has attended a Secret Cinema event. You literally step into a Westerosi battle camp, populated by Wildlings, Dothraki, Unsullied, Knights of the Vale, and members of the Night’s Watch, a total of about 80 actors and musicians take part in the activation, with over 100 pages of script and character backstories to make you feel like a citizen of Westeros. I was asked if I was part of the free folk, if I would bend the knee for Daenerys, and of course, if I would fight against the Night King.
Though obviously not as immersive or extensive as a Secret Cinema event (this event is free), there is plenty to see and stare in awe at, from a palm reader, a blacksmith sharpening his sword, to a couple of soldiers demonstrating their ability to use a sword, to a fight breaking out between some northern soldiers and a knight of the Vale. Thankfully, there wasn’t as much blood, guts, or incest as in the actual Westeros – nor was there any dragons, unfortunately, but they had horses.
The “Bleed for the Throne” activation will run March 7th to 9th on the East side of Austin, and the blood drive across the US from March 7th to 12th.
Words, Photos and Video: Rafael Motamayor