GateWorld: You guys are getting ready to head into hiatus. How many hiatuses are there [for Stargate]?
John G. Lenic: The mid-season hiatus is from anywhere from two weeks to three and a half. It's been four weeks in the past, long. It really is a time for everybody to recharge their batteries and shut down. There's this hiatus -- the winter hiatus is usually anywhere from three to four months long, depending.
This year it'll probably be a bit longer quite frankly, between this year and if there is a Season Two because the Olympics are happening in Vancouver and we can't be shooting during the Olympics. So we'll probably start a little later next year, then, if we do come back.
GW: Can I ask where you're planning on going?
JL: Yeah, tomorrow I leave four days in Madrid, four days in Barcelona and then four days in London.
Lenic is currently serving as a producer for SGU.
GW: Wow, you're not going to get any rest.
JL: Then I'm back in Vancouver for a whole week and a half to relax and do nothing after that.
GW: There you go. So that's your genuine vacation right there.
JL: Yeah, exactly.
GW: So you were 20 years old when you started really getting involved in producing. How did you get involved in this? And was this something that you had always hoped to do? What's the story here, John?
JL: I was working on a TV movie. I was working for a producer name Tracy Jeffrey at the time. Back then she did a lot of low-budget TV movies and all that. We had just finished ten that year -- '96. They were all moment-of-truth movies, you know, women in peril kind.
GW: You mean the Lifetime channel, right?
JL: Well, they were NBC at the time. They're NBC movie "disease of the week" where "The dentist got me pregnant." or She Woke Up Pregnant, was one of them. Harry Hamlin and all those people from LA Law and those kinds of TV shows; Jake and the Fatman and all that kind of thing, way back then.
We were working with a production manager named Ron French. And Ron got the call from Michael Greenburg to come in and interview for Stargate SG-1. At that time they were looking for stage space and we were -- the TV movies I was on -- were shooting out of the Norco studios where we shot SG-1 for however many years.
They came in for a little tour of the building and at that point I knew that Ron was interviewing for Stargate and I said, "That would be such an awesome show to work on."
Because for me, it was all about experience. Any TV cop show is all talking heads. It's fairly straightforward. You shoot downtown, you shoot nights, you shoot cops ... You know, talking heads. Stargate would give you the opportunity to shoot special effects, visual effects, everything. I saw the potential there as a show that I would want to work on because of the experience that I'd gain. And so I convinced Ron to hire me as something.
I didn't want to go into the office at the time because I wasn't member of any union or guild at the time. So I said, "If there was a producer's assistant job available I'd love to do it." I met Michael Greenburg there and he said, "Sure, we'd love to have you."
I got hired as he and Rick's assistant 'slash' take care of all the paperwork and everything for their company; Gekko Film Corp, at the time. They had a whole bunch of ongoing projects because Stargate only went one or two years, they had other movies and series in the works that they could pick up and run with once Stargate ended. Because, first year series, sci-fi series, who knew whether it was going to go longer than a year.
GW: Showtime had original gotten involved for two years, I think, and then a little ways in they decided to pick up for four. So I imagine that must have been pretty exiting.
Showtime had guaranteed SG-1 four seasons before the first had even finished shooting.
JL: Yeah. I think it was halfway in, or three-quarters of the way in [to Season One] they decided to pick it up for four. I remember being on the set when they announced that. And at that point I started transitioning. I was already involved in budgets and the numbers from the Gekko side because Michael wanted me to be the analytical one who also looked through all the budgets to make sure that nothing was being coded improperly, et cetera, et cetera, from their perspective because they were a partner in participation financially.
So I ended up doing that. When they started doing Season Two, MGM took me on and wanted me to be the unit manager and really take care of budgets and numbers and all that kind of stuff along with accounting and the production manager.
That year, MGM basically paid for me to join the guild, which was a five thousand dollar fee, and I was thankful to them for that because it really got me set up in that way. So that was Season Two. And then Season Three I became the production manager while Andy Mikita got his first directing gig on an episode called "Foothold."
In subsequent seasons they kept giving Andy directing gigs for Season Three and Four. So I got upgraded to production manager for those episodes, beginning and ending when he was going to be a director. Then slowly but surely I took over and he became a director full time and I became the production manager full time.
That was for seasons Five, Six and Seven. Then Season Eight was the first year that I became the producer and production manager.
GW: I'd like to go back to this in a little bit, but first of all I think to really get down to it I want to go to the nucleus of you here. Why did you want to get into this industry? Is it the thing to do in Vancouver? I mean, Vancouver is obviously considered North Hollywood. How did you wind up in this?
JL: When I was a kid I actually wanted to be a doctor. Like when I was a little kid. But then as soon as I saw ... It must have been Indiana Jones, one of the Indiana Jones movies, "The Raiders of the lost Ark," I think. And I said "You know what? I want to be making that kind of a movie."
I never, in my memory or recollection, ever wanted to be a director. I always wanted to be a producer. And reason being is that a producer sees a project through from the very nucleus, from the beginning stages, from the infantile stages of a project all the way through into the end. And you're still dealing with the studios years after the project's done.
" I never, in my memory or recollection, ever wanted to be a director. I always wanted to be a producer."
I love seeing the whole scope of it and putting all the puzzle pieces together because a movie -- or a series -- is really like putting all the pieces of a puzzle together. And so for me, that was the big thing. That was what I really was looking forward to doing.
GW: Were you interested in sci-fi when you were younger at all? Or is this just the big thing that's in Vancouver.
JL: I want to say no, I wasn't interested in sci-fi from the beginning, but ultimately I did watch "Star Wars." I love the Star Wars franchise. I still remember I was in tears at the end of "Empire Strikes Back" because I was so frightened [for] Han Solo. I was so scared. That whole image of him being frozen in carbon was just to me ... scared me to death. That's the first time I ever thought of the possibility of death. It was like "Aaaargh." That's so scary.
GW: Did you see that in the theater?
JL: Yeah, I did.
GW: How old were you?
JL: Oh, God. I was born in '74. That came out in '82 didn't it?