Earlier this week, Game of Thrones star Nicholaj Coster-Waldau was on Jimmy Kimmel, outlining the insane levels of secrecy involved in keeping the plot and story of the hit HBO series’ eighth and final season a surprise for fans.
“We got the scripts . . . but first we had to download an app, because of course you can’t get paper anymore,” he said. “And then the scripts came, and when you finished them, they would magically disappear.”
The app is Scenechronize, a project-management app and platform developed explicitly for the TV and film production business. Launched in 2007, the platform has gone through a few different owners, most recently Entertainment Partners, which itself was acquired a few weeks ago by TPG Capital, the private equity platform of global alternative asset firm TPG (which also has a majority stake in CAA, one of Hollywood’s preeminent talent agencies).
We live in a spoiler culture. This month alone marks the conclusion of two of the last decade’s most popular entertainment properties: Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame. A script leak for these would be worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. We’ve all heard stories about scripts in locked metal briefcases, handcuffed to some guy’s wrist. Or actors forced to read scripts in a locked room while being supervised. All to prevent a leak, to keep the secrets of any new Hollywood script as safe and locked away as possible. In 2010, Scenechronize introduced the enhanced security features Coster-Waldau was talking about, and Game of Thrones has been using the platform since before shooting season one. Ehlers says HBO is a longtime client, as well as just about every other major studio and network production.
The program allows producers to send access to a script to specific people, with the option to set a time limit on that access. It’s a bit like the DRM controls when you rent something on iTunes. Once it expires, that access is as dead as Ned Stark.
“It’s also now important for call sheets, which says what actors and other talent will be where at a specific time,” says Ehlers. “If you’re a paparazzi trying to track someone down, that’s a valuable document. So a lot of our more secretive shows, like Game of Thrones, lock down the entire production with our controls, not just the scripts.”