That graveyard scene near the end of “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster” has become one of the most classic moments in X-Files history overnight – literally. Not only was it a heartwarmingly thought-provoking deconstruction of the bizarre purposelessness of human life in the digital age, but it was also freakin’ hilarious to boot.
Cheeky social commentary aside, it’s also a moving tribute to the man who put the The X-Files on the map: legendary TV director Kim Manners, whose name appears in bold on the headstone Mulder stands (and drinks) in front of. Manners directed almost 40 percent of episodes from the series’ original run, including “Home,” its infamous monster-of-the-week installment, and the series finale.
If the name sounds familiar, he’s also the same visionary that helped define Supernatural, The X-Files’ little spunky nephew from the deep south which also happens to look a lot like British Columbia. (Hey, it runs in the family.)
If you think about it, being a TV director can be somewhat of a thankless job. Not only does most of the audience confuse your efforts with those of an executive producer or creator, but also your talent is treated as just another magical facet of the show itself. Despite this, television directors are some of the hardest working professionals in the industry who perpetually crank out moments we hardly ever forget, making them the most influential filmmakers we’ve never officially been introduced to. And Kim Manners was and always will be one of the best.
Manners learned the secrets of TV magic early on as both a child actor and as a kid who hung out on sets of TV series like The Wild, Wild West, which his father worked on as a production manager. When he was older, he followed in his footsteps and eventually became a director, working on shows like Charlie’s Angels, 21 Jump Street, and Wiseguys. The latter show is where he met Glen Morgan and James Wong, who helped him get hired onto the paranormal detective show that changed the landscape of serialized television forever.
Here’s what the cast and crew of The X-Files had to say about Manners from this rare interview published during the final season in 2002.
“He has an extraordinary visual eye,” lead actress Gillian Anderson (Agent Dana Scully) said of the director. “He knows everything about the camera and about what one will see — where to put the camera in a shot in order to move the story forward.”
For instance, filming repeated conversations on the set of FBI Assistant Director Skinner’s office could easily become run-of-the-mill. “But it’s never tired, it’s never just ‘another episode of television’ to him,” Spotnitz added.
“Having come from a production manager background,” said line producer Harry Bring, “he thinks that way when he’s plotting out his day and moves, very efficiently, through the day to maximize it. His creative eye is wonderful, his storytelling is wonderful, and he does diligent homework.” Manners is renowned on the set for his preparedness. “Kim is the best prepared director I’ve ever worked with,” said 1st AD Barry Thomas. “He’s so prepared that he calls me on the weekends, prior to a week’s shooting, and gives me the number of setups and any special equipment notes I need for the entire week.”
“He brings a wealth and breadth of experience that few television directors have,” Carter said of Manners, “particularly if you consider the hours of TV and amount of film that he has shot. He understands everything about filmmaking.”
In honor of Kim Manners and the historical X-Files easter egg that will forever engrave him in the show’s legacy, here’s a list of all of the episodes that he directed. Why don’t you queue up a few this week and remember a man who helped give birth to our imagination. (Hint: Season 4’s “Sanguinarium” and Season 8’s “The Gift” are underrated and deserve a rewatch.)
Until then, I’ll leave you with Manners’ own commentary on the final moments from the series finale. Hearing him talk about David and Gillian’s relationship will give you all the X-feels ever. Hold on. We need a moment.
Stephen Harber has been ranking all 202 Classic X-Files Episodes (plus both movies) on his personal blog this past year. Check out the first installment here. Follow him on twitter @onlywriterever if you know what’s good for you.