For 13 years, producer/director Ivon Bartok worked for the long-running Stargate TV franchise, starting out as the assistant to Stargate SG-1 series lead Richard Dean Anderson and executive producer Michael Greenberg. The Toronto native later founded Grey Road Entertainment, a small production company that produced specials and special features for Fox and MGM. Among other things, Bartok himself produced and shot the Stargate DVD special features as well as directed the SGU: Stargate Universe “Kino” webisodes.
Since production wrapped on SGU in the fall of 2009, Bartok has been focusing his creative energy on some of his own projects, including a pilot for a new sci-fi TV series called Captain Starship starring Paul McGillion (Dr. Carson Beckett on Stargate Atlantis). Writing the script, prepping the pilot and ultimately shooting it were all labors of love and a true collaboration involving Bartok, McGillion, actor/writer Michael Northey and writer/producer/director Jesse Miller.
“Michael Northey, who plays one of the characters [Dropkick] in Captain Starship and is a really good friend of Paul McGillion’s, came up with the idea for the show,” says Bartok. “It’s a half-hour comedy where Paul’s character of Pauly Sullivan just happens to play the lead [Captain Frank Lucas] in this low-budget sci-fi TV show, but the real story of Captain Starship is about his life outside of work and dealing with his friends and family.
“In the pilot, Pauly is forced to make some changes in his life when his nephew Kevin [Quinn Lord] comes to live with him. Michael wrote the pilot script a while back and when we read it we loved it and thought it was really funny. A year or so ago, Michael, Paul, Jesse and I met for lunch and decided, ‘OK, what do we have to do to make this happen,’ and that’s where it all began.”
Having assembled their cast, most of whom are good friends of Bartok and the others, there was one crucial factor that needed to be sorted out before Captain Starship could be scheduled for liftoff. “We had to answer the question of, ‘What are we going to do about money?’ So we all put in a little bit of cash,” notes Bartok, “but ultimately when you’re doing something like this you can’t pay everyone. We ended up shooting the Captain Starship pilot for around $12,000, and we used a RED camera, so it looks fantastic.
“Once we had our actors cast and the money, we had to then find our crew along with filming locations. We were lucky enough to get guys like Ryan Purcell and Grizz Salzi, who were both camera operators on SGU. Everyone we asked jumped right onboard. Again, like our cast, none of the crew said, ‘No.’ The only time someone did was if they had already committed to another job.
“As far as locations, we shot some of our scenes at Bridge Studios and in the SGU studios [at Bridge Studios] as well as the show’s production office. Brad Wright [SGU co-creator/executive producer] was kind enough to let us to film there. We also shot some of the main scenes involving the Pauly Sullivan character at a friend’s condo in downtown Vancouver.
"Of course we had to follow protocol and the order that anyone would when shooting a TV show, but we had to do it without spending a ton of money. Having said that, we wanted to make sure it was done right and everyone involved felt like we were making a professional product. We weren’t doing a student film, which we’ve all done. We were trying to make a show with the intention of eventually selling it and having it picked up by a network. That certainly is the goal.”
With a finished Captain Starship pilot in their hands, Bartok and his fellow producers have been busy shopping it around to various parties in the hopes of one day soon getting it picked up as a series. “We’ve been spreading the word, sending press kits out to companies and showing the pilot to those who need to see it, which is pretty exciting,” notes Bartok. “Now we just have to wait and see what happens next.”
Check out a sneak peek at the Captain Starship pilot.