by Sandy Auden
It's all happening on the Supernatural TV show at the moment with Season
Six drawing to an exciting close and the news breaking this week that the show's seventh
season has definitely been picked up by the CW network. But as the series goes into its
usual summer break, we'll all be looking around for somewhere to get our Supernatural
fix during the long lazy evenings. So why not try listening to music from
Supernatural convention veteran Jason Manns or delve behind the scenes
in Nicholas Knight's Official Companion books?
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The Supernatural TV series has gone from strength to strength over the last few years and it's had an impact on a lot of different people's lives. What started out as a seemingly straightforward story -- of two brothers searching for their missing dad and killing monsters and saving people along the way -- has turned into a multi-layered, character-driven show that is happy to explore all kinds of themes including the role of family, the abuse of power and what it is exactly that makes us human.
Aside from the obvious effect the show has had on the cast and crew of the show (lack of sleep is one of the major changes the team experience apparently) the Supernatural influential net has actually been cast a little wider and caught a range of additional people who work on the show's merchandise or have just come to the attention of the show's legion of fans.
Singer/songwriter Jason Manns discovered just how enthusiastic the Supernatural fans could be when his buddy Jensen Ackles -- who plays one of Supernatural's Winchester brothers, Dean -- invited him over to Europe for some sightseeing and they both ended up singing on stage at a convention. It was a gig which ultimately led to Manns' song "Vision" featuring in Supernatural's Season Four opening episode 'Lazarus Rising,' and a long series of conventions appearances, including the Asylum 6 Supernatural event this weekend (14th May) in Birmingham UK...
But Manns was not a convention virgin when he arrived in Europe: "I had played one con before Supernatural, which was an Angel event in LA that my buddy [singer, songwriter and Leverage actor] Christian Kane invited me to," he says. "It was actually a show at the Whiskey on Sunset that kind of coincided with the Angel event, then Kane invited me over the next day to meet some of the fans and sell CD's and it was pretty fun! That was my first Con experience."
With that experience tucked under his belt, Manns played Europe and the concert went down well with the fans -- although Manns thinks that had "quite a bit to do with Jensen jumping up and singing with me!" -- and more convention invitations followed.
Manns has found that there are several things he gets out of playing conventions. "Other than the obvious benefits of playing for a great crowd, it's really fun to get to travel and hang with the actors from the show."
"Supernatural does an amazing job of not only casting great actors, but really down to earth, fun people as well. Its a really fun crew to hang with, and I definitely think that is one of the funnest parts of the convention experience."
And Manns isn't selfish about hogging the spotlight either. At the Asylum 5 convention, he gave up his stage time and guitar to let other convention guests, like Fred Lehne who plays the yellow-eyed demon in Supernatural, perform as well (caught on camera here). Manns says that sharing the stage, "just seems like the obvious decision to make on numerous levels. First of all, it's obvious to everyone, (myself most of all!) that I lucked out big time. Not to say that I don't work hard, I definitely do, but it takes a lot more than that to make a living playing music, and I was lucky enough to have a friend that was willing and able to give me a leg up. That being the case, who am I to be stingy with the stage time? Secondly, I know a lot of people at these cons have seen me play multiple times, and so I relish an opportunity to make the show unique to that night. Third, they're good, and I knew the crowd would enjoy it!"
And the crowd weren't the only people to enjoy the concert that night. "It was a lot of fun! That was a really fun trip all around, and that was just kind of icing on the cake. I was just impressed that [the convention guests of honour] were all there, it was a long day! I never really expect the guests to come to the show, because I know that if I had the day they had signing, pictures, smiling till your face hurts, all in a different time zone, I would have trouble motivating myself to make it to a concert!"
That concert went down so well that Manns was back again this weekend to sing at the latest Asylum convention. And what reaction did he get from the Asylum fans? "Kinda warm and fuzzy!"
Jason Manns isn't the only person who has been influenced by Supernatural's success. Writer Nicholas Knight has been working steadily on each season's Official Companion book for the last five years.
Knight has been maintaining a consistently high standard with these Companion books since Season One and they've all been regularly spaced until the latest two were commissioned. "Since the publisher seemed to be happy with my first three companions, I was pretty sure I'd be doing the Season Four companion as soon as I found out there was going to be a fourth season. But the deal with Warner Bros. wasn't finalised until just before Season Five's holiday break, at which time I learned that I'd be doing the Season Four and Five Companions back-to-back."
Knight doesn't wait till the last minute to get working on the Companions. "I start prepping for the books the moment I start reading the first script of the season. Right away I'm paying attention to which new characters and monsters should be profiled, thinking about what interview questions to ask cast and crew, noting quotable dialogue, etc.
"Watching the episodes several times each is mandatory prep work, of course. And since I also write Supernatural articles for the official magazine and other publications, whenever I do the interviews for those, I always try to squeeze in a couple questions for the Companions as well so that I can stockpile material. But I still always have to do a few weeks of back-to-back interviews of everyone who's willing and able to speak to me for the specific season's book. And I research the new monsters for the "A Closer Look at" sections, pester crew members for exclusive photos, and so on..."
With having both Companions to do so close together, Knight had to change the way he worked to accommodate the deadlines. "The major difference was that I had to do a lot of the prep work concurrently, including interviewing many people for both companions at the same time. Also, in the past I'd done the bulk of the interviews after the seasons were completed and aired, but this time I had to speak with people about Season Five while they were still filming and producing it. Fortunately, I was able to interview some key people shortly after they finished production. And I didn't turn in the Season Five manuscript until after I'd watched the season finale."
Obviously after three volumes, Knight is finding his previous experience is helping -- in some areas at least. "The planning stage is easier because I have a good idea what I need to do to put the books together. But transcribing the interviews isn't!
"I always try to interview everyone I've spoken with in the past (who's still with the show), and on top of that there are always new guest stars, new directors, and new crew to interview as well. So the amount of transcribing keeps growing each volume, which of course is on top of the time spent writing personalised questions for everyone and conducting the actual interviews."
And with all the people he has interviewed, Knight says there hasn't been much change in his interviewees or their answers as the seasons have progressed. "From the start, everyone's always loved working on Supernatural. Cast and crew are like one big happy family, and it shows. You might think that everyone would be bored of talking about Supernatural, but their enthusiasm remains high. They're on a successful show that's maintained its quality through six seasons and they're proud of it."
With so many interviews and monster facts and behind the scenes anecdotes getting covered in the Companions, no article would be complete without asking what are Knight's favourite bits in these two latest volumes. "How can I answer that? That's like me asking my interviewees what their favourite episodes are... Oh, wait, I do ask them that. And I'm often cussed for it. So I guess it's only fair that I answer your question. I like the fun little things, like Dean's Teddy Bear Doctor card and the part where people talk about what movie they'd like their life to be like in the Season Four book, and the 'Gassing Up for the Apocalypse' bit in the Season Five book.
"I had a lot of fun asking everyone if working on Supernatural had prepared them for if the Apocalypse were to actually come tomorrow. Shockingly, most people did not feel prepared."
And finally, what's happening with the Season Six Supernatural Companion? "I've had word that the deal's been signed. It's scheduled for the Fall, to tie in with the start of the seventh season."
Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic interviewer/reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; and a diligent interviewer/reviewer for Interzone magazine and SF Site. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. For background information, visit www.sandyauden.co.uk.
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