It is always an exciting day when you go out and buy the latest season of Stargate on DVD. For some people they are seeing the episodes for the first time. For others, it's a re-watch. But for everyone, the special features are brand new.Ivon Bartok
has been on the sets of Stargate since Season Four
, and since that time has worked his way through various jobs, from assistant to the executive producers to DVD special features producer. This year he is taking the directors chair to film numerous extras that will be made into content for online sites as well as the DVDs.
Ivon tells us about the the interview that got him hired, taking on extra jobs around the set, getting to know the cast and crew, the creative trials behind conceiving the content we love, and engaging with the team behind SGU
This interview runs approximately 40 minutes and is available in audio. It's also transcribed below!
GateWorld: So, how are things going, man?
Ivon Bartok: Going very well. Stargate Universe has been tons of fun so far in the first half. And this year what we're doing is a little bit different. As far as I know, we're going to be doing volume one and two DVDs.
For the first half this year we changed up the format a little bit. In the past we did a lot of pieces that were anywhere from five to ten, sometimes even they got longer – 15-minute pieces. This year what I tried to do – especially because it's a new show, and it's something Fox and I talked about early on – was a lot more pieces, but shorter.
So what we did for the first ten – the DVD special features for the first ten episodes – was to create 30 two-minute pieces and try to give us a really broad spectrum of things to cover.
And ultimately what that did too is it means a lot more stand-up stuff. So we did a lot of stuff with the cast, which was great. Days on set and particular stuff that was cool that we would go on and follow the cast and talk to them while things were happening. It's actually been a lot of fun this year.
It's great fun. I'm actually really happy with the new format. And also, this year, everything's being delivered in HD, finally, which I'm pretty excited about. So we managed to cover a lot of different stuff on the first half and we're just working out the second half right now.
Much of what happens on a Stargate set can be totally spontaneous.
GW: I was under the impression that you were directing the stuff for the kino.
IB: I'm doing that as well.
GW: You are? So, we're going to do 30 special features for the first ten?
GW: That is extraordinary. What about the back ten?
IB: Back ten? We're developing that now. We're developing the strategy for the back ten right now. So, I don't have the information I'd love to give you, but there's definitely going to be a bunch of stuff on the back ten. And ultimately on the back ten, too, we want to expand the narrative a little bit.
Again this year, being that it's the first year of a new show, everything is a little bit different and pretty exciting around here and so I think it gives us a lot of play with coming up with some cool DVD special features, ultimately. And the cast have been fantastic, which is always great when you're in my shoes …
This is the funny thing about my job. You know, these guys have to get their scripts. It doesn't matter if it was SG-1, Atlantis or SGU – they get their scripts, they have these 14-hour days, and ultimately it's tough to try to fit a lot of stuff in. And some people are busier than others. Some people like to do it. Some people don't.
I guess, for me, you really try to be respectful to their process and so you wait for their lead a little bit. But this year the cast has been so fantastic in terms of jumping on board and doing some stuff and sitting down and also talking on set and all kinds of stuff. So, it's been a lot of fun. It makes it really fun to come into work, ultimately.
GW: Now, let's get one thing straight here. The normal episodes still have to get shot. They have to come in and do their parts. And then when they would have free time you would try and get a hold of them for special features? Is that correct?
IB: Yeah. And, also, because I've been here so long, it's easy to develop relationships with the cast. And so when I am on set I read their mood and if they have a scene that's really deep or dark or whatever the situation is, you kind of stay away.
But, ultimately, you try to track them on set. And also, if you're going to do a particular sit-down interview, then it's just about trying to squeeze them in when you can. I mean, you look at a schedule and you say, "OK." And you know what's going on for this particular episode. You're like, "Well, on Thursday, between scene 52 and 67 they have a break," so you try to get a crew in here and sit them down and do an interview. So, really, it's about being on your feet and on your toes.
And also, what's the craziest part about my job is not the shooting part – it's not about getting people to agree – it's about finding places to do interviews. Because, what's interesting this year is that we have moved into different studios and we lost some other studios. And it's about finding a place to be able to do an interview that has a cool backdrop. And one of the coolest places is, ultimately, Destiny. So, the thing is, if we're not shooting in there they're usually building or rearranging and so it's tough to try to find a space.
You might recognize Ivon from his cameo appearance in SG-1's "Prodigy."
But things have been going well, ultimately. Carol Marks-George has been a blessing this year. She's really great organizing stuff and getting people to help out and agree to get all of these interviews done. It's been fantastic.
GW: You're not much older than I am. How did you get into this whole thing? What were your childhood ambitions? Let's start from there.
IB: My childhood ambitions! I was in university for international relations. I remember being in my second – or actually my third year – I was a visiting student in Concordia, Montreal. And I remember, I was like, "Is this really what I want to do?" And, "I don't know if I could wear a suit and tie for the rest of my life."
I was like, "Well, I have to finish this. I have to stay in school. I'm in year three here, so I'll finish this." And I remember being like, "Well, I would love to get into television or film." And I remember saying that to myself. And I was with my girlfriend at the time, but I had no idea. It was one of those things where it's like saying right now, "I'm want to climb Mount Everest." I would have no idea where to start.
When I went back to Toronto I signed up and did some stuff at Second City. Did some comedy stuff there. It's one of those things, I think for me, where I think if you have a goal but you don't know how to go about accomplishing it – but the fact is that you put that seed in your mind. And so you end up talking to people and you talk about what you want to do.
And one thing led to another. And I met this girl I worked with and she was coming to the Vancouver film school for the writing program. And I was like, "Well, let me look into it." And I looked into it and I applied and got in. And it was just sort of a series of lucky events from there. When I was in school – when I was in the program – a husband of the script coordinator at the time was also in the program. And he was like, "Well, there's a job opening on Stargate for Richard Dean Anderson's assistant."
He's like, "I can't apply. My wife already works there and that would be a little weird." So I called and then they were like, "Well, no, we have all the people we need." And somehow I talked my way in. I don't exactly remember how I did it.
But I remember talking with John Lenic and somehow convinced him that I really should get in there for an interview. Kind of pushed my way in a little bit, in a nice way. And I got an interview. And then I interviewed with [Michael] Greenburg first. And then it came down to basically me and somebody else and we were going to interview with Richard Dean Anderson. And I did a bunch of research on him. And to be honest, all I did for half an hour is talk hockey.
GW: Really? [Laughter]
IB: Yeah, and he's like, "Alright, I'm going to have to hang around that guy for a while." So he picked me. And then, ultimately, this is the thing – and I've sort of talked a bit about it before – is that doing that job as an assistant, you get to be on set constantly. So, I remember – because, you know, DVDs – I mean, for me [there's] nothing better on a Saturday night than to just rent DVDs.
But I remember getting the Stargate DVDs -- the early seasons. This is when DVD special features were starting to really be important. And I remember seeing them and being like – well, they were these boring special features. And there really wasn't any behind the scenes stuff. It was more just scripted stuff.
" [I was] going to interview with Richard Dean Anderson. … And to be honest, all I did for half an hour is talk hockey.."
GW: Yeah, it's always felt like – and the rumor has been kind of going around on GateWorld and a couple other places that they weren't originally DVD special features. That they were designed for something else – to kind of like sell the show to certain syndicated markets or whatever -- and then they were ported in to DVD special features.
IB: I don't know what the actual truth is, but it makes sense because ultimately they were probably looking for material. What happened is that just because I spent time wandering around when I was Rick's assistant – there were two people from marketing in the publicity office. And there was a woman named Allison Rosenzweig and another guy named J.D. And I walked in and I introduced myself and I sat down. And they were just sort of talking about special features and I was like, "Well, I can do something." And that was literally how it started.
GW: You wandered into this.
IB: Yeah, I literally wandered into it. Because I also knew that there wasn't much there. And we talked about it a little bit. And I said, "Well, why don't you let me do something?" And they're like, "Well, OK." And so we talked a little bit and they were like, "Well, do one."
GW: What season is this, Ivon?
IB: What was it? Let me see. I've got my list here.