The One Where Syrio Saves The Seven Kingdoms

By Bryan A Westfall

[Pinned from event in Summer of 2019 – See latest updates below this interview article!]

This past weekend, people from all across the Seven Kingdoms descended on Nashville, Tennessee for “Con of Thrones“. Over the course of three days, fans of both the literary and television versions of “Game of Thrones” were treated to panel discussions on a range of topics, including some featured panels with stars from the HBO series.

One of these spotlight panels featured “The First Sword of Braavos” himself, Miltos Yerolemou, who played “Syrio Forel” in the first season of the show. He also teaches Syrio’s “Water Dancing” to con goers lucky enough to score a spot in his coveted class (pictured above).


When I learned I was going to have a chance to sit down with Miltos for a one-on-one after his panel, I sent ravens to Thrones fans online, soliciting questions or comments regarding Syrio. One fan comment immediately jumped out as a pretty commonly held sentiment:

“Compared to the length of the series, he was only in a few episodes. Yet, because of an unforgettable performance and character, every time I think of Arya’s character arc, I think of Syrio. The two are inseparable for me.”

This seemed to be the perfect jumping-off point for our conversation about the man who set Arya Stark up for survival along her eight season long path (and beyond):


When you took the part, did you get the impression that Syrio was shaping Arya’s future in such a significant way?

I think so. Although we didn’t know what her ultimate destiny was going to be in the story in the TV show, we always knew that she was going to end up being an assassin. I definitely remember having those conversations with Maisie. She was only 13. She was only told what her mother had told her. We did know that she was going to become a blind assassin.

So, it was quite clear that her pursuit of these lessons – and being good at them – was going to be the constant in her character. That was quite profound. Obviously I didn’t realize that “What do we say to the God of Death”, would turn into the *most literal interpretation* of that. Of her *literally* killing death.

One of my favorite parts of that episode [Season 8 Episode 3, “The Long Night”], is when “The Hound” really loses his shit and he just starts cowering “There’s nothing we can do. We cannot defeat death. You can’t kill death.” and Beric goes “Try telling her that”. And it’s like “OH, YES. OF COURSE”. It was that moment when I went “This is all about the God of Death” and this is when I first thought “She might be the one to do it”.

And then, of course, when they literally had Melisandre going “What do we say to the God of Death?” I was like “OK, this is what’s going to happen.” I really felt it.

What drew you to the role initially? 

It’s that kind of Eastern mysticism. I think that’s the thing I loved the most. I grew up on martial arts films and Bruce Lee films. Films about the Shogun. I used to love all of that. I mean, I loved “Monkey”. In the 70’s there were two shows: One was called the “Water Margin” and the other was “Monkey”. It was badly dubbed, but were these stories about how god-animals take this Buddhist priest on journeys. I always had this deep fascination with Eastern philosophy.

That was the thing that connected with me the most. I really understood when he talks about “The seeing. The true seeing, is not with your eyes”. How you are in the moment. We talk about this a lot when we do acting exercises. How do you become in a place where you are so relaxed and so open that your reaction is instinctive & precise & clear. I love all that stuff. I completely understood it, so I could say those lines and believe them. That’s what I think I connected with the most.

– and also playing a character who is much cooler than you, as a human being. It was incredibly daunting, because you have only a little bit of time and you really need to look like you were born with a sword in your hand.

During your panel you brought up learning the “Water Dancing” with the fight and stunt coordinators – 

– and with William Hobbs. William Hobbs was my mentor. He was the one who really created the vocabulary with me of the “Water Dance”. The fight and stunt coordinators actually put the fights together, but the actual quality of what that movement would be…that was William Hobbs.

You mentioned having experience with stage combat. Was learning the “Water Dance” something like a musician learning a new song?

I guess so. It’s interesting because I always had a natural aptitude to be shown movement and I could replicate it. You could show me a couple of times, and I could do it. Some people can do that, and some are really good at maths. When I was younger, I loved all that. I would do circus skills, and anything that was kind of physical. If you ask me to do aerial trapeze, I’d go “YES I want to do that”. Learn to do back flips, “I want to do that.” All the kind of crazy stuff.

So, learning dance choreography I really enjoyed. When I got a chance to work at the “Royal Shakespeare Company” where there was lots of dueling to do with sword play or knife play – I played Mercutio once in “Romeo and Juliet” – I *loved* that. The fight choreographers would love me because they could give me something really complicated to do and I would learn it and they’d look really good.

The thing is, you don’t cast an actor *ever* based on how good they are at stage fighting. You cast someone that can play the part. So when it comes to the fight choreography, you have to work within what you’ve got. Some people are good with it and some people aren’t. So when you do find someone who picks it up quickly, it allows the fight choreographer to do much more complicated things.

It sounds like you have something like a growth mindset, wanting to explore these different skills.

Yeah, I think so. It’s also that it’s the way my mind processes things. If I can do it successfully, I want to do it more. If I did it and I was rubbish at it…“I’ll do something else now”.

How long before the first shoot day for the scene with Arya and Syrio did you start training?

I worked for about two weeks in London with Maisie’s stunt double, because Maisie was in Belfast prepping. We shot that first lesson pretty early on. I remember doing the read through of the first three episodes, which was one of the first things we ever did as a group. We were shooting two weeks later.

I’d already been working with William Hobbs in London, because I said “I need to work with someone. I need to get up to speed so that when we start filming I kind of understand what I’m doing”.

The thing about filming is you don’t really have time to rehearse these things. So, they asked me whether I could sword fight before they gave me the job. Because with the little screen time he has, you need to really believe that he is the “First Sword of Braavos”. I think they had in their heads that if they could just get someone who was just good at it, that would sell itself.

Me and Maisie both took it very seriously. “We’re not going to use our stunt doubles. We’re gonna do everything ourselves.” And we stuck to that. We were very proud of that. I’m sure Maisie has done all her own stuff, because she’s so good at it.

So, about two weeks in London without Maisie, then I went to Belfast and we spent two days and I showed her what the movement would be in the scene. She picked it up really quickly. And then we just shot it.

We honestly didn’t know it that well. It was a three and a half minute scene. Not just lines to learn, but *really* intricate movement. And the stunt coordinator [Buster Reeves] said: “Do not worry. They’re going to shoot it in bits, so you’ll only have to remember one bit a time.” He said that to reassure us.

When we turned up, on set, in costume…even then Buster was still going “Don’t worry we’re gonna do it in bits. So just remember this bit first. Just focus on that, and then we’ll move on and you’ll have half an hour while they’re resetting stuff to rehearse”. Then the director comes up and goes “Right. We’re gonna shoot it all in one take. We’re gonna do three cameras. We’re gonna have a tracking shot, steady cam, and a static. And…just do the scene, and we’ll catch it all.”

So we start, and Maisie and I are like…fumbling our way through. “I’m gonna get sacked. It’s my first day and I’m already gonna get sacked”. The thing is, we spent nearly three days doing that scene, because David & Dan said “This scene is really important, and we’re going to do it a lot because I want you both to be really comfortable”. It’s also that we had lots of time because it was really the beginning of shooting anything for “Game of Thrones”. They just wanted to get this one scene right because they said it’s really going to be important.

That’s when I realized this was going to be important. Let’s just spend the time. We’re not gonna rush it.

We’re gonna get it perfect.

[NARRATOR: And they totally did.]

Midnight Society – ‘DEADROP’ – First ‘Snapshot’ Experience!

By Bryan A Westfall

Come for the stunning visuals of Midnight Society‘s in-development game ‘DEADROP‘ (which are shockingly great for a game so early in development), stay for my embarrassingly low scores in the firing range games (which is to be expected)!

Announced in December of 2021, Midnight Society is a new gaming studio co-founded by 6 foot 8 gaming-great “Dr Disrespect”, along with game industry veterans Robert “fourzerotwo” Bowling & Quinn DelHoyo.

DEADROP” is the studio’s first game.

Midnight Society is including it’s gaming community & professional gamers much earlier in the development process by providing new playable “Snapshots” every six weeks, years before the games release.

The “Snapshots” are playable experiences focused around specific milestones for the game. Each milestone has feedback parameters around weapons, player abilities, gameplay, and play spaces within the game. Midnight Society will collect feedback, prioritize it, and apply it to upcoming Snapshots.

Here’s to the first of many…

LeakyCon’s Extraordinary Cosplay!

By Bryan A Westfall

LeakyCon took over the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando over last weekend, and there was no shortage of extremely inventive and stunning cosplay on display.

It was a refreshing change of pace after seeing the Wizarding World fandom underrepresented at other pop-culture cons!

They hosted both a cosplay parade & contest, and I’ve included photos from both. First place went to the “Dolores Umbridge” cosplay! Love how eager they were to dip out with that 1st place trophy before the judges could change their minds. 🙂

The Agent K Approach To New Things

By Bryan A Westfall

Web3 has a marketing issue. It lies within a lack relevancy to the broader public. This is easily proved by the fact that most “normal” folks (like me) who’d read that first sentence would reply with:

“What TF is Web3”?

Exactly. Before I go on, however, I’ll take a weak stab at answering that question based on what I’ve gleaned so far. Web3 is simply the term being used for what some believe will be the next (more secure and decentralized) iteration of the internet. Web1 was essentially pre-social networks with static web pages, and Web2 is what we’re using now.

By now I’m sure most of you have seen a lot of hullabaloo surrounding Bitcoin (& cryptocurrency in general), but have no experience with it personally. Same here.

“NFT’s” and “Blockchain”? Most scratch their heads, but have perhaps heard of each in passing. Someone bought some digital artwork somewhere. We see something in some tech blog we skim past because of a lack of relevancy to our real lives.

Therein lies the issue. Without a broader scope of usage and need for this “new net” (which is mainly this NFT & crypto usage), it’s simply not relevant to most of us. It’s not meeting the majority in areas that are meaningful or important to our lives.

The only reason I know what little I do about Web3 is because I’ve *sought out* this information so I can understand it. Having to seek out this information is a marketing issue. A big one. There is a huge opportunity here for someone to step in and re-brand this new net, as the nerds with the mic are speaking in terms (and to un-relatable usage) that are alienating to the rest of us.

For Web3 to gain real traction in the *real world*, it will need to find more usage relevant to the rest of us.

What is relevant to me? Good question. Gaming is relevant to me.

In walks Midnight Society. They’ve found a small way to make this new net relevant by meeting me somewhere that is meaningful to me. Games. More specifically, cosmetics in games.

Their current involvement in Web3 is based in NFT’s in the form of player profile pictures (see images above). They are one-of-a-kind, and owned by the user. Currently, those users are an upcoming 10,000 “Founders” who will be chosen from over 400k applicants for their “Founders Pass” (players who will have input into the development of their upcoming game “Project Moon”).

In their latest press release, they go into some detail on their partnership with Polygon Studios (who are the hub for the cosmetic Web3 aspects of the gaming project). Most relevant to me is how it offers “digital ownership and tradability of in-game items”.

That’s super exciting for gaming cosmetics fiends like myself. I’m speculating, but if this ends up being weapons, weapon-skins, player skins etc, that would be a ton of fun and a huge leveling up from the current usage of cosmetics in games.

Ownership and tradability of these skins is much more rewarding than (for example) gambling on purchasing “packs” in Apex Legends, in hopes you get something cool which can only be used by you in that game no matter how tired you might get of it. Most of the time you get something related to a weapon or character you don’t use. Then…you’re stuck with it. Trading or even selling these items is an exciting prospect.

Ryan Wyatt, CEO of Polygon Studios, speaks to the games dual-citizenship between Web2 & Web3:

“Project Moon is entering the space by providing an off-chain and on-chain experience, allowing gamers to have the best of both worlds. They can own, monetize, and transfer digital assets in-game through the opt-in NFT experience, without it being an obligation.”

Midnight Society is dipping their toe into Web3 in an area relevant to their players, and I’ll be joining them once the game is ready to go (if I’m not one of the lucky 10k Founders). Even better, this meeting point will be somewhere comfortable and familiar: a PC, an Xbox, a Playstation etc.

Before Web3 can fully take off, however, it’s going to need buy-in from a much broader group. It’s the “normals” who need to be sold as there are more of us than there are of those currently obsessed with this new net.

More companies like Midnight Society need to come along and engage with their customers/users in ways that are already relevant & meaningful in their lives through Web3 functionality. That’s where the broader buy-in lives.

Step one for those companies is to take the mic away from your IT department. Give it to Marketing. People in the business of communicating with normal people who don’t care “how the sausage gets made”. People don’t need or want to know how it all works, they just want to know how they’ll listen to “The White Album” on this thing.

8-Bit-Music-Theory: Creating Game Tunes

By Bryan A Westfall

During VGM Con in Minneapolis, 8-Bit Music Theory had a panel where he took the audience through writing a video game level tune with as much *theory* and as little *creativity* as possible. 35 minutes later, a sweet lava level game tune emerged!

“Be Curious, Not Judgmental”

By Bryan A Westfall

Judging by the vitriol that permeates most social media, it should come as no surprise that the above quote (which Ted Lasso misattributed to Walt Whitman) would be so apt for an announcement from a new gaming studio which included a particularly polarizing tech.

The pseudo-anonymity of social media coupled with that place in all of our brains which becomes inflamed when we come across tech we don’t yet understand, has turned into a bit of a two headed beast in response to the newly formed Midnight Society gaming studio’s announcement of their “Founders Pass“.

The origin story of this particular beast lies within three letters which regularly elicits rage-full reactions in some (normally the most vocal), simply because of a lack of understanding of what it means. I’ll go ahead and spell it out:


If you’re still here, it means you either have at least a basic understanding of the technology, don’t understand & don’t care if you don’t understand, or are actually curious to learn when faced with something you don’t yet understand.

When it comes to NFT’s, I fell into the latter…then I took ten whole minutes to do two things:

  1. Googled “NFT” and watched a few videos to gain a basic understanding.
  2. Researched how Midnight Society was incorporating them into their “Founders Pass“.

Much sweat was broken. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Essentially, an NFT is a one of a kind (or one of a limited run) item you can own…only digital instead of physical. So, instead of owning that original physical painting, you’d own a piece of original digital art. The encoding of the digital item acts as sort of a certificate of authenticity, similar to what might come with owning a one of a kind physical work of art.

That’s just one example using my very basic understanding, and it’s enough for me to move on to how Midnight Society is using them in their “Founders Pass“.

People saw “NFT” on twitter in regards to the Midnight Society announcement, and because they’ve decided (in life) to rage at what they don’t understand, they decided to (obviously without research) throw around accusations of their upcoming game being an “NFT game” etc.

A few minutes into their site, their Discord, and their twitter it was clear how this technology was going to be used in the “Founders Pass“.

Studio co-founder Dr. Disrespect went on to state outright in his day-of-announcement stream that anyone will be able to play the (free to play) game without ever utilizing NFT tech if they so desired.

As for NFT inclusion in the “Founders Pass“, 10,000 applicants (of nearly 400,000 so far) will be chosen as “Variants“. I’ll let Midnight Society take the mic for a sec (with a little bolding by yours truly for emphasis):

“Founders Access Pass holders gain Early Access builds to playtest the game, early access to Industry Guilds when they open, voting rights in dev round tables, invites to in-person community events, exclusive merch drops with Founder’s only designs, and finally a one of a kind VisorCortex design as part of your unique Variant.

There it is. If you’re one of the 10,000 chosen, you get one of these one-of-a-kind bad boys (example courtesy of one of Doc’s Warzone partners, ZLaner):

A one-of-a-kind masterpiece of a gaming PFP, which is an NFT. That’s it. That’s how NFT’s are currently being used in relation to this project.

If among the 10,000 chosen, there is a $50 fee to “mint” the “Founders Pass“. The inclusion of the PFP NFT is clearly an attempt by Midnight Society to include some additional, unique value to the pass, a point of view sadly missed by too many.

The amazing (and most important) thing I found when doing this small bit of research is how solid and engaged the community surrounding Midnight Society already is, as are the folks running the show.

UPDATE 3/28/22: A great example of the community and developers involved in Midnight Society can be found in their first developer AMA that took place on 3/16. Over an hour of Q&A between the community of players and developers:

They’ve made it clear that they’re looking for a diverse and passionate group of people to be the 10,000 involved in game development, and it’s very clear they will have plenty to choose from.

Those not chosen to be founders are a few years out at least from seeing what “Project Moon” will be (the code name for the studios first game), but if you’ve followed Dr. Disrespect for any amount of time we at least know there will be some insanely high quality audio.

Wait…can you hear footsteps on the moon? BRB GOTTA GOOGLE.