‘Game of Thrones’ Coffee Cup: How Could This Have Happened? (With HBO’s Response)

‘Game of Thrones’/HBO

In some ways, the world seems to be coming apart at the seams, but leave it to HBO’s blockbuster fantasy series Game of Thrones to give us all a momentary Monday distraction — in the form of a Starbucks coffee cup.

The cup in question made a cameo appearance in the May 5 episode, the follow-up to the previous week’s massive but murky battle scene. Since this was an interior scene on a set, it was likely filmed in Belfast — meaning, if you go to the Northern Ireland city, you can still get your Caramel Cloud Macchiato fix.

I’ve been on enough sets in my years as an entertainment journalist to know that mistakes happen, but usually they’re caught somewhere along the way. But, this one made it all the way to the final cut.

For some answers, I turned to our producer-at-large, Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., a graduate of USC Film School. Here are my questions, and his replies:

What is continuity, and why does it matter in a movie?

To borrow from business parlance, continuity is a type of quality control in filmmaking that assures a visual coherence by the final airing. For instance, you would not want a character holding a knife in the right hand in one shot and then placing it in the left hand for another shot in the same scene. It creates a nightmare for editing to cut around. For a fantasy piece like Game of Thrones, especially, a set has to be wary of leaving anachronistic items in the shot — water bottles, coffee cups, cellphones, etc.

Whose job is it on a set to make sure anomalous objects aren’t visible?

It is the script supervisor’s specific responsibility to make sure anomalous objects aren’t visible within frame. That said, anyone on set who notices this should inform the script supervisor or one of the producers.

How could this have been missed in all the layers of editing and special effects?

In this day and age, especially in the world of television, when shooting must go quickly, physical production will sometimes film even though another camera crew is in the shot, presuming visual effects can take it out afterwards. Recently, I sat in on an editing session of a parishioner of mine who does visual effects on Paramount Network’s Yellowstone. He pointed out the shots where physical production knew visual effects would work their magic later. Some of the coolest fixes were taking out power lines in a panoramic shot or adding ominous looking clouds in an episode’s final shot, where they weren’t present in the raw footage.

If it had been caught earlier on, how could the error have been fixed?

Editing out the coffee cup could have been an easy fix in post. A colorist could have replaced the white of the Starbucks cup with the color and texture of the cup’s immediate surroundings.

When things like this happen, how often do you guess that it’s an intentional Easter egg and how often just an oops?

It’s hard to believe a show operating with the highest level of technicians in the world would miss this at that all levels of production and post-production, so I suspect it’s an intentional Easter egg.

I don’t watch the show and have found it to be pretty devoid of meaning. It would be the boldest of post-modern statements, if intentional. That for all the fans’ analysis and dissection, the show is ultimately nihilism, and even the producers ensuring the integrity of the fantasy world they’ve created is of no importance.

And fans are indeed debating. But you have to wonder, if you’re truly absorbed in a scene, do you notice these thing unless you watch it repeatedly? This episode only aired last night, so either folks have extremely sharp eyes, or they’re hitting the restart as soon as the episode is over.

Did you see it?

This particularly humorous take on it appeared in a story in The Verge:

And HBO’s response?

In response to inquiries from those who saw a craft services coffee cup in Sunday night’s episode of GAME OF THRONES, HBO states, “The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake.  Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea.”

Images: HBO/Twitter

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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