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 of SG-1, 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.
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.
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.
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.
GW: Because I was watching Season Six recently and it dawned on me that Michael Greenburg is filming a lot of this.
IB: Yeah, and I’ll go into how stuff worked out early on. There were some early ones. I think they were Beyond the Gate ones. And I look back and I don’t even think I could watch them now because they were so choppy.
I remember saying, “OK, let me do one.” And they said, “OK. This is how much money we can give you,” which wasn’t very much. And that was fine. I really would’ve done it for free because I thought, “Well, this could lead to something.” And then also I could get better at them.
And they gave me the opportunity. I did one and they liked it. And they said, “OK, do some more.” And I did some more. And then I realized that this could actually be a bit of a career. And this place has been a great learning and training ground to do that stuff.
And also because I had all those relationships with everybody from the camera guys to the cast before. And I was friends with the cast on SG-1 so it was easy for me to be like, “Hey, can we hang out on Saturday?” With Amanda Tapping we went and walked in the woods and walked the dog.
And Richard. I went down to his place and we drove down to PCH and went into the Challenger’s Boys and Girls Club, an organization that’s special to him. And so I had an inside. So it was easy for MGM to be like, “Well, nobody else would really be able to … ”
GW: Almost like a no-brainer. You’re already entrenched.
IB: Yeah. When I first started doing them I didn’t own any equipment. I didn’t have any of that stuff. So I’d be borrowing people’s cameras.
And if I couldn’t be on set that day – because I was still an assistant the first few years of doing this and then even up to script coordinating – I was doing script coordinating and doing special features. So, it was a situation where by that time, three years in I got my own equipment. But a lot of the times, like with Michael [Greenburg], he would be like, “Well, just leave the camera on set. I’ll try to pick some stuff up for you.” And he would shoot some stuff.
And then, ultimately, it just led to some other stuff. Then I started to really work hard and decided that … When I was an assistant and doing also script coordinating, that was a full-time job. And so trying to sneak down to set and shoot some stuff and organize interviews and do all of that at the same time, I figured it would be better served to leave that behind and just concentrate on special features and get better and better at them and try and do some cool stuff.
GW: At what point did you make that choice?
IB: I believe that was probably [a] season of Atlantis … it might have been Season Two of Atlantis.
It gave me the opportunity … And there was that one year where we had – was it one or two years where we had SG-1 and Atlantis going at the same time?
IB: Yeah, so, there were times when I was doing special features for both. And then there was one year – because there was somebody else that did a few for Atlantis in Season One. There were a couple of special features I didn’t do. But I was script coordinating and then doing special features for both SG-1 and Atlantis and script coordinating both shows.
So, I was so busy. I’m not really sure how I actually got any of it done, to be honest. I was pretty sure it was all going to collapse under me. But it ended up working out.
So then I just went and said, “OK, I’m going to do this full-time.” And it’s just gone from there.
GW: You know, comics and video games and the toys, they’ve come and they’ve gone. But the DVD sales have really always been there for Stargate. So it seems scandalous to me that they didn’t consider a special features full-time guy for bonus content for the very thing that sells Stargate on the market.
IB: I’m not sure if there’s too many people on any shows that really – it’s different. I mean, ultimately a studio will hire a company out of, for the most part, LA. Like if it’s a network show or if it’s an American show, they’ll hire a company and then that company will hire somebody to come and do some shooting and then they’ll bring somebody up and do these sit-down interviews. There’s not too many people that actually are full-time doing this on a show. But Stargate’s kind of different because it’s been going on so long that it kind of makes sense.
And also I have those relationships with the producers on the show where I know them and I think they trust me that I’m interested in making people look good. And also that they know I’m not going to go – and it’s not even about that necessarily. They know me. We’re friends and there’s a trust there. And they know that I love my job and I love being around here. And it’s important to make sure that I’m respectful.
And also, being on set, there’s a certain amount of set etiquette that’s involved, so they trust me there. And so, I think it’s a no-brainer for them too because it’s not something else they need to worry about.
GW: Your title for years has been “DVD Special Features Producer.” What does that entail? Do you decide who will be interviewed? What special features you’re going to do at the beginning of the year? Are you the one that sits down and says, “Well, we’ve got Jason Momoa coming in this year so we’re going to want to interview him.” And, “Ben Browder’s coming in and he seems to be really good with stunts, so let’s do a piece on that.” How’s that work?
IB: Every special feature done up to this point I’ve created and it’s been my decision. Ultimately if I talk to the studio they’d be, “This is how much content we need.” For the most part they’ve just left it up to me. What happens is it’s just a lot of planning and organizing and paying attention to what’s going on.
If I want to do a piece on a fight with Ronon it’s just about me getting the schedule and talking to James Bamford and “Where are you guys going to be? What are you going to do?” And talking to them prior.
For the most part this is the first year I’ve actually worked with the publicist. In the past I would go up to Jason Momoa and be like, “Hey, I know you’re going to practice for that fight. Can I come and shoot that and we’ll sit down and talk about it after?” He’d be, “Yeah, sure, come on out.” So that’s how I’d done it.
With regards to actually what the content was, I have pretty much come up with all the features that I’ve ever done.
GW: Is there any one piece over the years that you were really looking forward to doing that fell through?
IB: I think because the fans were always so interested in having bloopers that I was like, “Well I really want to do this.” It wasn’t a difficult piece to do or anything.
GW: Material’s already shot.
IB: Yeah, but at the end of the day I don’t think it turned out that great. It was one of those things where the fans wanted it. And then also, too, it’s never been something that the producers of the show were dying to do. I had to fight for that. And I think it was “OK.”
GW: I heard a couple of the actors were averse to it as well. I mean, they’re “dud” takes.
IB: Yeah, I mean that’s the thing, too. You spend so much time trying to be the character and work hard and then, “Look, we’re going to put on their mistakes.” And I don’t know if there was an aversion, but you have to basically get everybody to sign off on stuff. If somebody’s walking up and they’re pants are ripped, does that put them in the best light? Ultimately it’s them making mistakes, and we want to put it on the DVDs.
It just depends. It’s just one of those things where I think in people’s minds there’s more bloopers than there actually is. I mean a lot of funny stuff happens between takes. And joking around. There’s funny stuff going on. This year we have Louis Ferreira who’s hilarious on set. I’ve shot tons of stuff. The guy’s always doing impressions and he’s always joking around. That’s the kind of stuff I find funny because it’s actually them being funny.
GW: You know, I’ve been on set while they’ve been doing takes. I think in the general fan’s mind — I hate to make assumptions here — but in the general fan’s mind I would think Sam Carter’s doing a line and all of a sudden she busts up laughing because she’s got it wrong. And I would watch David Hewlett and when he would screw up a line he would get frustrated.
That’s not a blooper per se. And I agree with you. I think that there aren’t as many as people are thinking that there are.
IB: There’s not. And also for Atlantis it was seven day shoots, 12 to 14 hours a day, and a guy like David Hewlett would have the bulk of the dialogue. He was the Carter character just in that respect, with Amanda Tapping. The amount of techno-babble that she had to speak. And it’s so much work to get all that done and get all those lines memorized, and then they mess them up. It’s frustrating because it could be the last line of a full-page monologue and the last thing they’re going to do is think it’s really funny.
GW: And you have 50 people standing around that have to do it all over again.
IB: There’s times when there is bloopers and things happen, and it’s really funny every once in a while. There’s that one, and you can probably see it on YouTube. There’s a scene between Richard Dean Anderson and Amanda Tapping.
GW: “Stuck on a glacier with MacGyver.”
IB: Yeah! And that’s hilarious. But those things are so rare. They really are. That doesn’t happen a lot. But at the same time there’s been ones I thought would be good that turned out great. My favorite of all time is the Martin Gero piece.
GW: “Road to a Dream?”
IB: “Road to a Dream.” Yeah. The guy’s the funniest human being of all time. It was certainly not difficult. And also so self-effacing and willing to make himself look like a bit of a dork because he knows it would be funny. That’s the one thing I’m missing this year, is Martin Gero.
GW: I’ve watched a lot of these through the years. I’ll be honest with you. There are some pieces that are five and six minutes long and I’m asking myself, “Why can’t they be longer?” And then there are some pieces that are 20 minutes long and I’m like, “Why can’t that one be shorter?”
Is it a hard balance to strike? Do you watch it and feel it as you go? “Well this is getting too long.” Or is it just a matter of “We’ve run out of footage to be able to show.”
IB: There’s definitely been pieces in the past where maybe they’re a little bit too long. There’s a number of reasons. Sometimes you had the best intentions in the world but they don’t turn out necessarily. You’re also limited by being able to get the footage you want, the interviews, cast participation and willingness. I’ll never begrudge anyone for being like, “Today is not the day.” You’re stuck with what you get.
Definitely there’s been ones that if I went back I would love to take another run at fixing, editing-wise, cutting down, trimming. And there’s some that I would’ve liked to have been a bit longer. That’s just the way it goes. Also it’s very guerrilla-style. I can be as organized as I want to be but it’s not like we have a meeting with all the producers and all the department heads and be like, “OK, this is what we’re doing for special features.”
Ultimately I’m one guy here and it’s up to me to make sure I capture everything, organize everything, get everything. Sometimes the pieces turn out fantastic and sometimes it’s like, “Well certain people are going to like them and certain people aren’t.”
GW: Considering that you don’t have the cast and crew at your beck and call, it is remarkable the quality that you have kicked out over the years. When you really think about it.
IB: I appreciate that. I never know. I just do them, and I put them out and I forget about them. I mean really that’s what happens. And then, “OK, What do I have to do next?” Because it never stops. And then you start the next season, and you’re like “Oh my God, I’ve got to climb this mountain again.”
Then you end up climbing it, and you’re like, “Alright great!” You get a few months off and everything’s so great. And then we start shooting in a month and you’re like, “Oh, God. Somebody help me.” But ultimately it’s worked out. I hope that the fans have liked them. I don’t really know. I don’t get a lot of feedback.
GW: Is it really a new mountain every year or do the relationships that you’ve built the previous season help with the content for the new year? “Hey, Bobby [Carlyle], we did such a great piece last year, would you mind trying to do something like that again this year?”
IB: Absolutely. I’ll tell you what — it’s not necessarily a mountain when you’re coming on a new show like SGU because there’s, first of all, all new cast members. And I’m not saying to blow smoke, but I’ll tell you what, coming into a year like this, everybody’s “Yeah, whatever you need!”
GW: “This is convenient!”
IB: Yeah, you’re like, “Aw, thanks.” We have a younger cast this year and they’ve just been so wonderful in being like, “Whatever you want to do! I’d love to do that stuff.”
GW: You have a cast that’s into this.
IB: And what they do is they understand that it’s an important part of the DVDs. A lot of people have seen the episodes and they’ve TV-R’d them and watched them over. But then kind of, maybe, “Hey, I want to see what’s on for the special features.” So you’ve got to provide them with as much as you can.
Ultimately I think sci-fi fans are pretty savvy and also techy. They want to see extra stuff. They don’t just want to have “Oh, the theatrical release” or “the trailer.” They want more than that. It’s been nice to come in this year when it’s a new show and have that participation.
But going back, when you’re on SG-1 and you’re coming in to Season Five of Atlantis, “Oh my God, how much more is there?” And by that time as much as you come back and “Hey, we’ve done this last year.” “Yeah, we’ve done that last year.”
It’s tougher when you’re coming on a hundred episodes or 200 episodes. You’ve covered everything as much as you can. It’s nice to come to a new show with a new style, new cast, new feeling. This is the exciting part of SGU, I think. There’s a lot of interesting stuff to cover. And also it’s still Stargate. There’s some interesting things to look back on.
One of the quick pieces — because they’re all quick pieces this year for the first ten anyway — we had to redo the kawoosh this year. There’s actually a really, really interesting process on how that’s created. That’s a piece that I think fans might dig from a technical perspective. So you try to get a bit of technical perspective with technical pieces. And then you try to do as much as you can with the cast.
This is the thing — I don’t particularly love pieces that are just formula and official. You sit down and chat, and you ask the questions you’ve heard all the time. That’s always going to happen. You’re going to ask those questions. But ultimately, too, for me it’s important to get some intimate moments with the cast on set or actually talking about what’s going on in that particular time. I find that interesting. I still do when I watch DVD special features. If you’re watching a feature film and you actually can talk to the cast member on set while he’s ready to go and work, and he tells you what’s going on, I find that interesting.
What about you? What kind of special features do you like to see?
GW: I enjoy pretty much a mixed bag. In Martin Gero’s feature, “Road to a Dream,” I really enjoyed that the most because I appreciated Martin’s energy a lot.
It’s so much easier for me to say what I don’t prefer rather than what I prefer.
IB: You sound like a studio exec. [Laughter]
GW: “Let me tell you what I don’t like and then maybe from that you can draft …” I prefer when they’re genuine. The first season of Atlantis there was a piece where Martin was walking around on set and it was deliberate that the cast and crew were pretending that they didn’t know who he was. And I remember being slightly irritated with that. I enjoy caricature pieces, absolutely. “Road to a Dream” is a caricature piece.
I’m not big on commentaries unless it’s something very interesting.
IB: People love ’em, though. Lawren Bancroft organizes all of that stuff. Some people love them. They’re easy to put on the DVDs. And some people find it just to get some other stories. If I watch the episode I can’t go back and watch it with somebody talking over it. It just drives me crazy. But that’s my personal opinion.
GW: I’m ashamed to say that 90 percent of the commentaries on the Stargate DVDs I have never watched. But it’s funny because if there’s a specific scene that I have truly enjoyed, or I’m asking myself, “I wonder how they pulled that off.” I’ll turn on the commentaries and see if they’ll mention it or see if they’ll talk about this process. I find that much more interesting.
IB: For sure. For me I think sometimes I do stuff I think that I would like, and hopefully people would like that as well. I like to find out — whether I’m talking to the producers and the cast — how stuff developed; how they got the idea. [For example,] I’m sitting down with the producers and visual effects and visit the set designers. Destiny to me, I love that new ship on the show. But even the actual visual effect when we see the ship flying, there’s a really interesting story of how that came about.
I’m going to do a two-minute piece on that. I think that’s going to be really fun because where it came from, the spark to how it ended up, and how it develops, and finally what we see on screen is a pretty cool story. Those are the pieces I like too. Because those stories are “Oh, that’s interesting.” I think that’s what you want to get from it. Especially if they’re technical pieces. And on the cast side of things you just want to get them being honest and fun on set as much as you can.
GW: If you can pick one specific person, who among the new cast has enjoyed your lens the most and has surprised you. Afterwards, “Man, I can’t believe I got that. That’s going to be sweet!”
IB: David Blue’s great. He’s such a technical guy too. He’s the guy that would buy DVDs and he is a Stargate fan. He loves that kind of thing. So any time I’ve asked him to do anything he’s the first guy to be like, “I’m in!” No, not even a question.
Brian J. Smith, I just talked with him this morning. We’re just working on what we’re doing for this back half. He’s like, “Hey man, where’ve you been? I’ve been talking to everybody. They haven’t seen Ivon for a week.” Whatever I want, he’s like “Sure, man. I’m all about it.”
Again, there hasn’t been anybody who’s been awkward or not wanting to participate. I’ve sat down with Carlyle and talked about a whole bunch of different stuff. We’re definitely going to do some more stuff with him in the back half. He’s such a pro and realizes it’s an important aspect of marketing and the business side of things, but realizes that the fans love it.
And he knows. I’ve sat and talked to him about the fan base. He knew coming in how passionate a lot of the fans were for the show. He’s excited about that and nervous about that. Definitely David Blue has been so great.
But, really, nobody has said no to anything. And what’s also interesting is we have a lot of supporting cast who play a really important role in the show. I also think it’s really important to talk to them. They have been really great, and fun. For a lot of them this is their first big break. They jump right at the chance to be involved, so it’s also been a lot of fun for me.
GW: You know with the first season — you have shows like Atlantis where they change something up almost every year so you had a chance to go and do something new. With the first season of a show I don’t want to say laundry list, because that has a negative connotation, but there are certain things fans want to see. There are certain things that I am really looking forward to seeing and will be disappointed if you don’t do.
IB: Like what? [Laughter]
GW: The concept of the Destiny. How that ship arrived where it is. Brad scribbling on a napkin. Those are kinds of things that you’ve got to do!
IB: That’s definitely something we’re going to talk about. That napkin scribbling will be in the special features. I have a copy.
GW: That is awesome. So tell us about your new assignment this year. We saw the kino at Comic-Con. It’s a softball-size floating orb. Are you basically “Mr. Kino?”
IB: I have been given that title. When we were shooting “Vegas” and we were in Soyuz we were just sitting by the monitors. [Rob] was like, “I have this idea.” He explained the softball-like ball and it’s going to be like the M.A.L.P. and it’s also going to have a camera on it so it’s going to give us these possibly intimate moments.
I thought about it, obviously, but I didn’t push him because these guys have been busy creating the new show. As I came back, he was like, “Well, we’re going to do this.”
GW: It’s a little voyeuristic.
IB: Yeah! These kino scenes really cover the gamut. There’s everything. It gives us the opportunity to have these stand-alone scenes that might be attached to an episode or not attached to an episode, but stuff that’s gong to be released on the Web throughout the season.
Ultimately the writers write these scenes and I get to direct them with a full cast and crew. And it’s been tons of fun. I actually put on a directors hat and do that. So far we’ve shot a whole whack. So far I’m still doing it. So they’re happy with the work I’m doing and the cast has been great.
GW: Is there at least one an episode?
IB: Yeah, pretty much. Sometimes it’s tied to episodes, sometimes it’s not, but they’re generally a lot. I know we’re going to be doing more.
It gives us a really great tool to capture intimate moments. As people will find out, it’s a pretty interesting predicament that these people are [in] on the ship. It really lends itself to capture some of the emotions. And then also it gives us the opportunity to capture some pretty funny things that happen, as you’ll see.
I don’t want to give away too much, but it also captures a lot of things that you’re watching an episode but we’re only in one room in this particular time, and if there’s an explosion for example, what happens in the other part of the ship when somebody else hears that? Maybe there’s a kino there.
And I think it does expand the narrative, and it opens up the show and the ship. You get a little bit more from some of the characters that maybe you wouldn’t get from when you’re watching the show. It’s actually really fun. There’s some really funny ones. There’s some emotional ones.
It’s great. It’s been a lot of fun. I think the cast has jumped on board and really had a lot of fun with them as well. Brad and Rob gave me that opportunity. Those guys have been nothing but amazing to me. Ultimately you get to direct. How great is that?
GW: There is some footage of the kino in the episodes itself. Do you direct those as well?
IB: No, and those aren’t going to be because they’re tied to the episode. For me to come in while an episode — it just doesn’t make sense. The director just does that. But it’s a similar look. They’re all one-ers. The ones that are in the episode are directed by the director who’s directing an episode.
GW: Most people don’t like being filmed without their permission, and that’s basically what this little critter does. And this is one of the things that I’m curious about. Is it normally direct with the fact that it’s in the room or does it sometimes have to hide in order to capture what it wants to get?
IB: It’s a solid mixture of both. The thing about the kino, for the most part, it can wander around on its own, but there’s usually somebody directing this thing to go certain places.
There’s times where I think we’re going to see the characters filming themselves. There’s a really wide variety. It’s a remote ball. Think about a M.A.L.P. but this one has a camera and gets to float around. It’s not cumbersome like the old one that we used to have. There’s really a lot that can be done. It can certainly be a tool that can be used to spy.
GW: So you’re planning on sticking with this for a while. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
IB: Hopefully my mortgage will be paid off. [Laughter] Hopefully married with kids. I’ve got to get started on that. Should get a girlfriend first.
GW: Yeah, we’re all busy working men, aren’t we?
IB: Yeah. In ten years there’s a lot of things I’d like to do. I’ve been on Stargate for so long and there’s some other opportunities that have come up for me recently for some other productions. I definitely want to try to take those on as well.
There’s a couple different places. There’s a possibility of directing but there’s also a possibility of taking this business and making it a little bit bigger. I still think that this is going to be around. But the thing about anything is it has to evolve. I think I need to spend a lot of time coming up with what I think maybe will be the next cool concept for DVDs.
I still believe there’s lots of room for the classic behind-the-scenes stuff. I think that’s really important. I’m not the person that buys a DVD and wants to play a game on DVD. But certainly that’s what a lot of people like to do. I think maybe spending some time and figuring out what the next move is for DVD special features.
I really like doing what I’m doing, but I think I’d like to take it out a bit bigger. I think I’d like to have more productions under my belt and expand a little bit that way. Directing is something that’s really fun but it’s really early for me. Being given this opportunity — As aggressive as I think maybe I can be sometimes, you can’t jump ahead to far. You’ve got to take it day by day and season by season, and working at this place has been great because I’ve been given so many things to do here and taken advantage of that.
I really love coming in to work. I’m sure every time you talk to somebody they say that. But I really do. There’s times when it gets really busy and you can’t wait for the weekend because it’s a job like any other.
GW: But you still enjoy getting up, don’t you?
IB: I do still enjoy getting up. And also, I’ll tell you what — working for the last ten years I’ve had four months off a year and that’s not so bad. [Laughter]
GW: It’s like summer vacation. Just not always in the summer.
IB: I wish I could say that I have this ten year plan, and maybe they tell you to do that, but I take it as it comes. It’s really tough and I think if you talk to an actor and talk to any writer/producer in general, you never know what’s around the corner. I think that’s a little bit exciting. As long as you keep your ears open and your eyes wide open and just take advantage of opportunities that come that’s what I do. It’s worked for me so far.
GW: I’ll share something with you. If I were to put myself in your shoes, Stargate is an amazing job. It’s certainly helped me with my career. It is my career in a lot of ways being a satellite reporter for it. And it seems to always be there. It seems to be ever-going and consistent and rock-solid. And the people are friendly and great. But every once in a while I have to ask myself, “Am I doing this because I like it or because I’m not brave? And I’m not willing to try and expand myself somewhere else?”
IB: I ask myself that question every year. But I’ll tell you what — there’s just days when you’re here and you’re like, “Man, this is such a great place to go.” Obviously “the grass is greener” — I think all the time people have that idea. I have friends who are some of my best friends. They might be a lawyer or they might work in finance. It’s the same slog all the time.
And just because it’s the same show it’s never a slog. Every day there’s something different. Today there’s a bunch of craziness going on in stunts, and it’s fun to watch that. Or there might be a particular set that you walk in and you just marvel. It could be some guest cast that comes on. “Man it’s fun to watch them work.”
Every day is a little bit different. It’s a very causal environment. Everybody works very hard here but you get to wear jeans and running shoes coming to work. There’s good food and it’s just a really fun place to be. You just feel comfortable. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong, and I certainly don’t want to run away from this place.
I’m also very loyal to the people that have given me the opportunity. I’ll really do anything that Rob, Brad, Joe, Paul, Carl, those guys ask me to do. They’ve just been so great and have been so kind to me in terms of begin supportive. That means a lot, because I think when people give you that opportunity to run away it’s not the best thing.
Also it’s such a crazy business that leaving for the sake of leaving …
GW: Yeah. Bravery aside, count your blessings.
IB: Yeah. Vancouver’s a beautiful place to live. I love being here. They give me a lot of time off to enjoy what Vancouver has to offer. Life is pretty good. Certainly, when it comes to work and happiness on a professional level, I’m certainly happy. And I have a lot of friends here. You come to work and it’s fun to be with people you like.
If I didn’t like the people here I think that’s standard for anybody. It didn’t matter what job you do. It’d be tough to come in. But you come in and I have my offices in the post-production department this year. The last couple of years it has been. They’re just all good friends. So there’s a lot of fun to be had, but you’ve just got to work hard as well.
Interview by David Read. Transcript by Ungoaulded Unas and David Read.