Supernatural and The X-Files would have lost a lot of their edge without the talents of director Kim Manners, who died on Sunday.
Manners got his start working on Charlie's Angels before going on to direct episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and other shows. But it was as a regular director of X-Files and Supernatural that he became indispensible. He directed the series finale of X-Files, and directed every Supernatural season finale.
Here's Manners taking a hands-on approach on the set of Supernatural, photographed by PrincessFaerie:
I first met Manners during The X-Files' fifth season, the series' final year in Vancouver as it would turn out. He was directing a short, inconsequential night scene in a parking garage involving Mitch Pileggi, "Skinner" from the show, and Vancouver acting teacher William B. (Bill) Davis, aka "CSM" or Cigarette-Smoking Man. It was a nothing scene, really, just filler — the kind of scene TV scripts use to "bridge" one key scene with another.
Manners, always one to take a weird angle on the obvious, had decided to shoot the scene at shoelace level — literally. He lied down in a puddle of cold, dank water on the cold, hard cement floor of the parking garage floor and arranged the camera dolly track so that the camera would tilt up from Davis' shoes as the Cigarette-Smoking Man dropped a lit cigarette down toward the camera and then angrily stubbed it out of his toe. Manners laughed easily, and he could curse a blue streak that would put Gordon Ramsay to shame.
In an interview with DGA Magazine, Manners talked about his influences and his approach to filming X-Files:
The movies Manners saw as a boy were those of Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Vincent Price — "This is my niche," he said. The director recalled one of his X-Files shows, "Home," written by Glen Morgan and Jim Wong, which featured three mutant brothers and their armless and legless mother, who lived in a cart under a bed, and with whom they had an incestuous relationship. "The picture opened with this woman giving birth on a kitchen table during a thunderstorm. You never saw the baby, but these three brothers carried it outside and buried it alive, because they didn't want this terrible genealogy to continue. I read it, and I went, 'Now this is a classic horror script.' There are episodes that, when you read them — bang! — the images just leap into your head."
Believability is the key goal for The X-Files, and that, said Manners, is the result of a combination of good scripts, good acting and good directing.
"This is a very difficult show. If you don't do this show right, it would be the most ridiculous show on television. I mean, I directed an episode, 'Leonard Betts,' where a guy had his head cut off in the teaser, and he grew a new one."