Today, it gives me great pleasure to turn this blog over to a my good friend Ivon Bartok, a shining example for all you prospective go-getters out there. He’s a guy who started from humble beginnings here at Stargate and then through hard work, determination, and the timely and highly suspicious deaths of the next three people in line for the position, eventually took on the role as our Special Feature Producer. Love/hate those DVD extras that appear on the box sets? Thank/curse Ivon because he’s the one who comes up with the ideas for them, shoots, and produces them.
Before I turn things over to Ivon, I’d just like to dedicate today’s entry to NASA. Happy 50th, gang! You don’t look a day over 35!
Well, hello! I must say, when Joe asked me to be a guest blogger and answer a few questions, I was quite thrilled. Plus, Joe is the guy around here, and I would never say no to one of our fearless leaders. Except that time he asked me to do that thing, and I was like “wha”, and he was like “do it!”… anyway, that story is for another time.
Before I get to all the fabulous questions, I must say that season five has been going quite well so far, and I think it may be the best year yet for special features. Each season we try to cover new aspects of the production, introduce the fans to new cast members, and try to amp up the production value of the pieces as best as we can on the budget we are given, and in my humble opinion, I think we are doing just that.
For season five, I have changed up the format a little bit, which actually means I have added five more DVD special features. That takes us from the previous 10 features, to fifteen, for those of you doing the math. Also, they will be formatted in such a way that each volume (if you’re from Europe) will have three feature on each disc: one “Mission Directive” and two other features that will take you behind the scenes of a particular aspect of the production. (For the most part they will all relate to the episodes on that particular DVD.)
Technically, this year I have changed cameras and am shooting everything in HD (Although the DVD’s are not released in HD, you will get the 16:9 aspect ration instead of the previous 4:3) which I am very happy about. For you techies, I have moved to the JVC GY-HD110 camera, and I’m loving it.
So with that brief introduction, I think we should move onto the questions. I will try and answer as many questions as possible, but depending on the acceptable length of said blog, that may not happen. Also, there seems to be a number of duplicates….
Let’s get to the questions, shall we:
Caitlyanna writes: “What got you interested and started in doing the special features for Atlantis?”
Hey, Caityanna… Well, I started working on Stargate SG-1 nine long years ago at the beginning of season four. I was Richard Dean Anderson, and Michael Greenburg’s assistant. Being a fan of DVD special features in general, I saw that Stargate needed to amp up their VAM (Value added material.) As luck would have it, a wonderful woman from MGM Home Entertainment, Allison Rosenzweig, was up in Vancouver trying to figure out what more could be done. I remember she was sitting in the publicity office with a colleague when I walked in and introduced myself. We got to talking, and I said that I could do a few things for her. She asked me who I was again, I said “Ivon.” She asked me to leave… ok, that’s not true, but we got to talking and it led to me creating a few small pieces with a tiny budget on a trial basis, and that’s how it all got started. I credit Allison for where I am now. She really took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to work on my craft and get better every year. She has moved on from MGM, but we still talk every now and then. I still owe her big time. (On a side note: I started the same year as Joe and Paul.)
Enzo Aquarius writes: When conducting interviews with cast/production members, how does one choose what to discuss about? Is it purely up to the interviewee or are other processes involved?
What’s shakin’ Enzo? As the producer, and director of the features, it is completely up to me to figure out what to ask. You make sure to do some research and watch all the episodes. I also shoot all the behind the scenes footage, so I’m on set and see all that happens firsthand. I’m often thinking up questions as I shoot. I find that the best interviews are those that just end up being a conversation.
Lynn writes: “I’ve really love all the great extra features and behind the scenes specials, they’re very professionally done and entertaining to watch, I always wish there was room for even more as they’re the best part of the DVDs. Anyway, I was wondering how you come up with the subject matter or who you pick to interview, or which episode to feature on the featurette, or just what features to include. Is it a request from the studio, suggestions from the producers or input from you or a mix of all three? Keep up the great work!”
Hey Lynn, thanks for the kind words (we have 5 more for you this year). For the most part, it’s up to me to come up with the content, but all three have an important say as to what ends up on the DVD’s. Also, I could have the greatest feature planned, but if a person chooses not to take part, well, then that feature is scrapped. I certainly make sure that the producers take a look at the features after I have cut them together, but they leave me alone for the most part. Plus, they always have great suggestions as to how to make the features better. When you have that kind of brainpower at your disposal, you would be a fool not to use it.
As for which episodes and subject matter to cover: It’s a mix between making sure they fit into the right place on the DVD, both volumes and box sets, and also what I consider ‘cool.’ When deciding on an episode for a Mission Directive, I try to pick one that may have things that the fans haven’t seen before. If we are doing a new and exciting stunt for example, I’ll try to cover that episode. Variety is the spice of the special feature, especially if the franchise in on season 15.
Syble writes: “First and foremost, Thank You for all the wonderful extras so far! They have been awesome and I am very thankful we get them on the DVDS. Most, but not all, of the main cast has had a special feature done on them. Will we be getting one for Joe Flanigan/John Sheppard on the season 5 discs?”
Hey, Syble, that’s what I’m here for. Sadly, no. Due to time constraints, it is tough to get Joe to sit down. He flies home on weekends, and is out as soon as he is done. Also, not everyone loves the camera around, so you roll with the punches.
Davidd writes: “Hey Ivan! If you don’t mind, I have a few questions for you…
Don’t mind at all.
What is the hardest part of your job and why?
Overall organization of time. Because I shoot everything, the toughest part is making sure I have time to get everything done. It’s a little easier this year with only one show.
When there are interviews with cast and crew on DVD extras, did they volunteer to do them or did you request that they do it?
It’s always by request. For the most part everyone is pretty good around here.About how long does it take to complete a featurette for the DVDs?
It’s so spread out, but if you compressed time, I’d say a few weeks per feature, depending on length. Give or take.
Is there a cameraman who specifically captures footage for DVD extras, or do you use a combination of clips from all over the place?
I shoot it all except when I do interviews. Then, I bring in the amazing Jordan Willox. (who is also my crack editor)
Patricia Lee writes: “Thanks for taking the time to address some of my Questions: Is there any chance we can get more deleted scenes than last time? Couldn’t you put all the deleted scenes on the DVD for each episode?
I hope so. I am definitely going to include deleted scenes this years, but you don’t know what is there until the shows are finished. However, I do know there are some cool ones up to this point in the season. Also, not every episode has deleted scenes. In fact, sometimes the writers are forced to add scenes.
Could you also petition TPTB to put out takes on the DVD’s?
I’ll be completely honest with you…. doing that in season 4 was a huge hassle for reasons that I won’t bore you with. Also, lots of funny things happen on set, but it doesn’t mean the cameras are rolling. I can’t see it happening in season 5.
What was your major in college and how did that prepare you for your current job?
I studied International Relations, then went to film school for a year… and it didn’t prepare me at all for my current job. Nothing prepares you like being on set everyday. Spending time with RDA and Greenburg is what really prepared me for what I do now. Those guys were good to me.
Keep up the great work! IMHO the Extra’s are the best part of the DVD’s!”
Thanks so much… the episodes aren’t bad either…lol
Ganymede writes: “For Ivon: Many of us really want to see that rumoured deleted scene of Ronon cutting his hair!!! PULLEEEZZZE!!! AND, all of the BROKEN TIES ’sword fight’ — it’s been hinted that there’s a lot more footage to it…”
Hmmm, you have a credible source my friend. I actually went into the trailer as they cut off Jason’s dreads (with camera in tow). It’s really 20 minutes of Jason in pain… How about this, I will find a place to put some of that footage in the DVD special features. And with regard to the sword fight… I am hoping to find a place for that as well.
Smileyface06 writes: “Question for Ivon: How do you decide which episodes get a Director Series featurette?”
Well, I try to make sure all the directors get featured, as well as spreading them out so that each DVD volume gets covered. This years “Mission Directives” have both the Director and writer/producer. Watch out for Joe in the “Whispers MD.” Also, I read the script, and talk to the writers to see if we are in store for anything new and exciting in the upcoming episodes…. Funny, they always say yes. Often the writers will fill me in on what they are up to. For example when Joe was writing “Whispers,” he let me in on what his plans for the episode were. I new I couldn’t miss that one.
Chevron7 writes: “Thanks Joe for inviting Ivon – I’ve kinda got a crush on him :-D.
Yeah, Joe… thanks. Wow, I have a secret crush…
Is there an award for best Special Features? I watch a lot of box set Special Features and without a doubt, not even a contest, Stargate SG1 & Atlantis would win hands down.
I have no idea, but that is really nice of you to say. I’ll take that as my award. (Please send trophy)
Who’s the toughest person on set to interview and why?
Bam Bam… he’s great, but that boy can talk, and talk, and talk… next thing you know we are deep into his childhood. It took me three season to realize that it’s therapy for him.
How’s the hockey going?
Great, thanks. Just finishing up my summer league, and looking forward to the start of the long winter season. Man, I love hockey. Go Leafs! (My life will be complete when they win the cup)Jenny Robin writes:
What have been some of the high points in your career thus far?
Without a doubt, going to the Arctic to film Continuum. Just being there, living on the ice for a week was magic. Also, getting see a US nuclear submarine come crashing up through the ice, live and in person was unforgettable. Oh, and going to Joe’s chocolate parties.
And finally, because truly, we’re all wondering about this one…How on earth are you able to work with the nefarious evil-no-good-doer Joe Mallozzi?
Ah, I see… you have fallen for his act. Joe’s actually a real life superhero. By night he runs around in a spandex outfit saving people from harm’s way. (Although there is no confirmation of the ‘saving people from harms way’ thing.)
LindaGagne writes: “Also to Ivon: I am with all the others who’d like to see Joe Flanigan featured. Is that your decision or his?”
His. Some people are into special feature; some are not.
2Cats writes: “Great job thus far on all the special features. I always look forward to them with much anticipation. Their addition to the DVDs just adds to the magic as I build a lasting archive of my favorite program.
Thanks very much, 2Cats… let me guess, you have two cats?
Do you write/script the features yourself?
Yes, for the most part, but certain features like “Road to a Dream” are ad-libbed. I told Martin about a general idea I had, and he ran with it. Comedy falls out of that guy’s pockets. It’s crazy.
Do you complete the editing yourself or does the crack editing team on SGA lend a hand?
The crack team at Stargate are too busy to even think special features. I have a great editor named, Jordan Willox working for me. He kicks ass. I think this is his best year yet.
Do you read/follow the various fan outlets for ideas to include on future features? I guess I’d like to know if the fan base has helped?”
I look every now and then. I know what the fans want, but what people want, and what can be done are often two very different things. I would be crazy not to pay attention to those who buy the DVD’s. I try to make everyone happy, but that’s impossible.
Sherwood Forest Maiden writes: Could you do a special features on the wardrobe dept, esp how the designers come up with the great ideas for costumes for the different human tribes and of course the Wraith. Oh, also a special on Connor Trinneer?
Sherwood Forest Maiden…. ah, I remember spending time in Sherwood Forest as a kid. I have lots of relatives in Nottingham. I have to get back there soon. Little known fact: I am also a British citizen. But back to your questions, my fair maiden… I am in talks right now with our fantastic costume designer, Val Halverson, about spending some time in her world. And as for, Connor – well I might have just sat him down last week… but that’s all I’ll say.
Alipeeps writes: What’s your favourite of the special features you have produced to date and why?”
Without a doubt, “Road to a Dream with Martin Gero.” I laughed so much when we made that feature. He is honestly the funniest guy I have ever met. Martin had no fear of doing anything, or looking like an idiot. The day he put on that Atlantis costume and walked on set, I had to put down the camera so many times due to uncontrollable laughter. Also, that extra long hug with Joe Flannigan = priceless. I still laugh at that piece. None of that was set up, it was all gorilla style where Martin and I would just walk to people and start filming… cast included.
AmyFo writes: Do find most actors and crew members want to be a part of the special features or do they get camera shy?
You would be surprised how camera shy they can get, but for the most part, they are great. I also have to realize that they need downtime when they are on set, and sticking a camera up their nose between each take is not conducive to making sure they are ready for the next take. I have to be a fly on the wall and know when to go in for the close up. To be honest, the SG-1 cast was a lot more into special features… different strokes, different folks.
Jason writes: “Ever thought about doing a day in the life of an extra? I think it would interesting to see what some of the background players go thru or ever the stand-ins.”
Funny you should ask that. I have been wanting to do that forever, but I am not sure if anyone would really want to see it. I mean sure, if it was Ricky Gervais, we all would… but it might take a while to find one that we would be interesting enough to do a piece on. I’m keeping my eye out.
PG15 writes: Have you had any ideas for special features that couldn’t be made for whatever reason?
Yes, and it is the one that you all want.
I always like to see how a story is created, so is there any chance we can have a special feature covering how the writers spin out a story? Maybe even footage from a writers spin session?
I did some of that in an SG-1 feature, but I plan on doing it again in the future. The only thing is that the writing process is hard enough, and it might be a little intrusive to shoot the guys in the early stages of a story. But… stay tuned.
That’s it for now. Thank you for giving us your time and entertaining our questions! I love the DVD special features, especially recently. You do great work!”
Thanks for watching them, it really means a lot that people actually like the work that I do. I really mean that.
Thanks, Joe for letting me be a part of you blog, and thanks to all of you who sent in questions.
Peace out… and wonder bread!