Kim Manners, executive producer and director for Supernatural, as well as long time producer and director for The X-Files, died on Sunday evening after a battle with lung cancer. Below is the official statement and reaction from Eric Kripke.
Supernatural executive producer and director Kim Manners passed away last night in Los Angeles, following a battle with cancer. Below please find a statement from Supernatural creator and executive producer Eric Kripke:
"Everyone at Supernatural is walking around in a daze, shocked and absolutely devastated. Kim was a brilliant director; more than that, he was a mentor and friend. He was one of the patriarchs of the family, and we miss him desperately. He gave so much to Supernatural, and everything we do on the show, now and forever, is in memory of him."
When I first started watching Supernatural, little did I know that I was reuniting with a director whose work I’d been watching most of my adult life. Something about the episodes he directed seemed very familiar, and one quick visit to IMDb told me why. His fingerprints were all over a wide variety of shows. He directed 52 episodes and was a producer for one of my favorite programs, The X-Files. It’s funny how when I watched TV back then I, like many others, only paid attention to Mulder and Scully, and cursed the name of creator Chris Carter when the mythology ran amuck. I seemed to gloss over the other names in the credits.
Apparently I did a ton of glossing over. One of the first TV shows I ever got into was 21 Jump Street. He directed nine of those episodes. The hubby and I are avid fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was stunned to find his name under the directing credits for the episode “When The Bough Breaks.” I remember being forced to watch the awful The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. at my friend's house one evening, complaining how that was an hour of my life I’d never get back. Kim Manners even did seven episodes of that. Hey, a man’s gotta work.
Kim Manners always got the call for the season finales and season openers of Supernatural, his name tied to landmark episodes like “Devil’s Trap,” “In My Time of Dying,” “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II,” “No Rest For The Wicked,” and one of his last episodes, “Lazarus Rising.” He was known for taking episodes and, at pitch perfect moments, giving them intensity, heart, sensitivity, humor, and using every possible element at his disposal to deliver a story that kept viewers deeply involved from beginning to end. Sure, a director usually can pull that off here and there, but when Kim Manners managed to do that each time in a medium where there’s no time or budget for perfection, his record is stunning.
He had a gift for telling the story by filming the maximum emotional impact, using unique camera angles and close-ups and setting the perfect mood so that more came from the characters than just the lines on the page. Two scenes of perfection that instantly come to mind are Dean’s somber vigil over Sam in “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II” and the closing act of “Mystery Spot.”
He had the distinction of helming one of the most controversial episodes in television history, the disturbing tale of inbreeding in The X-Files’ “Home.” It bothered people so much it was banned from FOX after it aired. He also proved his ingenious ability to rehash the Groundhog Day premise, directing The X-Files’ “Monday” and Supernatural’s “Mystery Spot,” both considered to be among each series’ best. He was also the director for both parts of the final X-Files episode, “The Truth,” and we all knew his name was etched on Supernatural’s finale as well. We can’t fathom anyone else taking that spot behind the camera when that time comes.
He also knew how to seamlessly unfold the plot and keep audiences engaged even with the weakest of scripts. Many forget that he was there when Supernatural was finding its footing, drawing the short end and being forced to direct what many consider to be the worst episode of the series, “Bugs.” However, “Bugs” also provided some of the most amusing behind the scenes stories, some told by Mr. Manners himself.
They bring in six hundred bees, or however many bees, and I was like 'Oh my god, I can't wait to see the dailies!' But you watch the dailies and you can't tell there's one bee in that room – they just don't read on camera or they were too sluggish. (…) And you just start laughing because you put your crew in a room with hundreds of bees and then you can't even tell if there are any bees on camera. It's a bizarre job sometimes.
Bizarre job, indeed. The fact is he could do it all. One of his first directing gigs was Charlie’s Angels. His name is also attached to two Baywatch episodes as well. Given the fact he was largely responsible for pulling off the very steamy Sam/Madison sex scene in Supernatural’s “Heart,” he obviously had plenty of gratuitous experience to draw from. He could do complex scenes like that as well as action, suspense, horror, comedy, romance, sci fi, and mystery, cementing his reputation as one of the most versatile television directors in history.
Lucky for him he also had several outstanding actors at his disposal and knew how to work their strengths. Just look at a few of those that have been on the other side of his cameras: Robert Wagner, Stephanie Powers, Jaclyn Smith, Cheryl Ladd, Johnny Depp, Brian Keith, Fred Dryer, Gerald McRaney, Jameson Parker, Patrick Stewart, David Hasselhoff, Michael Chiklis, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and Mitch Pileggi. Throw in two young actors by the name of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, both growing substantially from his years of brilliance, and I have my TV dream list. It was likely his too.
The last episode he directed for Supernatural was the stunning “Metamorphosis.” Like others, I wondered why the show’s top director was missing from the credits for upcoming episodes, but none of us knew he was ill. We thought he was taking a break; after all, he’d earned it after his storied career. The announcement of his passing crushed us all, and we are having a hard time picturing the show without him.
To the family of Kim Manners and everyone who was close to him not only at Supernatural but at other shows as well, you all have my deepest sympathies. As Eric Kripke so eloquently said, everything done on the show now and forever is in memory of him. The same can be said for television in general. A brilliance like his will be sorely missed.