Veteran exec producer Vinnie Kralyevich passes away

The Emmy Award-winning producer, most recently a showrunner with Hit + Run Creative, died unexpectedly on May 9 at the age of 52.
May 13, 2016

UPDATED (2:57 P.M. EST): More information on a memorial service has been provided.

Emmy Award-winning executive producer Vincent “Vinnie” Kralyevich has passed away at the age of 52.

Kralyevich, most recently a showrunner with Hit + Run Creative, died unexpectedly on Monday evening (May 9).

In addition to his work with Hit + Run, Kralyevich recently served as a writer on an upcoming episode of Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, and executive produced Secret Space Escapes for ITV Studios America, which aired on Science in November. The 8 x 60-minute series recounted tales of close calls in space exploration, through first-person interviews with the astronauts and cosmonauts who survived them.

Kralyevich opened his own prodco, Kralyevich Productions Inc. (KPI) in November of 1992 and over the span of 19 years, grew its staff from three to 125 employees. Among the programs produced by the New York-based KPI were 2011′s Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero for Discovery (winner of a News and Documentary Emmy Award and a Realscreen Award); assorted series for History including Deep Sea Detectives, Clash of the Gods and Engineering an Empire (the latter also a winner of two Emmy Awards); Flea Man and Naked Science for National Geographic Channel; and a project that spoke to one his great passions, music – a profile of musician Wanda Jackson, The Sweet Lady with the Nasty Voice, for Smithsonian Channel, which Kralyevich produced and directed with Joanne Fish.

After KPI, Kralyevich formed Pipeline 39, which later morphed into Pulse3tv. Among that company’s credits were two series for The Weather Channel – Iron Men and Breaking Ice – and the 4 x 60-minute Mud Lovin’ Rednecks for Animal Planet.

A memorial service is planned for May 22 at the Parish Hall of the Stone Church, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, from 1-4 p.m.

Also, a memorial fund for his family has been established here.

News of Kralyevich’s passing prompted several of his colleagues to share their memories with realscreen.

“Vinnie had an enormous impact on a generation of non-fiction producers and editors – giving so many their first job in TV and sticking by them as he nurtured their talents and capabilities and then ‘kicked them out of the nest,’ inspiring them to do great things,” offered Kristy Sabat, now an EP with Austin Street Productions, who, along with Bill Hunt and Jennifer Honn, had worked with Kralyevich for over 20 years.

“We were over at MIP in 2005 and my mom came with us,” recounted Bill Hunt, also an EP with Austin Street. “While there, Vinnie – amidst the craziness of a MIP – took the time to write my mom a letter to tell her how much he thought of her son, what a fine man I was and that he was honored to be my friend. My mother spoke of that letter often over the years but it all came full circle just a couple weeks ago as my mom suddenly passed. As I went through her things I found the letter from Vinnie – she had kept it through all these years because it had touched her heart. That’s the essence of the man that Vinnie was.”

Science Channel EP Neil Laird recalled: “I got my first job in NYC with Vinnie 13 years ago, as a producer with KPI on Deep Sea Detectives, and worked with him on his last project, this time as network EP on Science Channel’s Secret Space Escapes. The Vinnie from 13 years ago was the same one I worked with last year. No matter the role or responsibilities, Vinnie was a pro, sharp and on top of everything, and more than anything else, a complete gentleman.”

“I came to NY with nothing more than a degree and dream to make documentaries,” offered Jessica Conway, who began her career at KPI as a production coordinator and is now an exec producer. “I started by answering the phones and emptying garbage cans. Ten years later, I was on top of Tower One at the World Trade, supervising a series about the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

“I had the good fortune to spend lots of time on the road with Vinnie,” she added. “We shared a thousand laughs together and I have so many wonderful memories – we had tea with carnies in Gibtown for Weird US, we retraced the steps of Hannibal in Tunisia for Engineering an Empire and looked for sunken ships off the coast of Florida for Deep Sea Detectives. I will never forget how fortunate I am to make documentary TV for a living. I thank Vinnie for that perspective.”

“Vinnie’s passing is such a loss,” said Peter Hamilton, consultant and founder of doc news site and e-newsletter, “He combined tremendous creative energy with an open heart. He was always prepared to share his wisdom and experience with his colleagues.

“I’m particularly grateful to Vinnie because he helped define the editorial ambitions of my newsletter,” he added. “Vinnie offered to reveal the tremendous risk to life, limb and bank balance that producers take on when they go after the jeopardy-filled stories craved by channels and viewers. His ‘Siberian Case Study’ tells how he hitched a ride on a Soviet-Era, nuclear-powered icebreaker, and is one of my all-time favorite posts about the business of our business.”

“He was one of the more affable people in our business by any measure,” said ICM Partners’ JC Mills, an agent in its international television and media department who was previously at National Geographic Channel as a development executive.

Jennifer Honn, a longtime colleague and frequent editor for Kralyevich’s productions, said: “Our producer/editor relationship with each other speaks volumes as to what kind of a person Vinnie was. He and I would argue from time to time in the edit room. In these instances my instincts were telling me one thing and his were telling him another. And most producers would say ‘Just do it my way! I’m the producer!’ but he never would do that. He and I would hash it all out because he had read once that Coppola said if you’re not arguing about it or if it’s too easy then something’s not working and that the best work comes out of conflict.

“One of my favorite sayings of his when things got a little rough or complicated was, ‘You think it’s easy? It ain’t easy.’ He and I said this to each other for 20+ years. I even said it to him the last time I saw him two weeks ago. ‘You think it’s easy, Vinnie?’ I said. ‘It ain’t easy.’ And we laughed.”

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.