- LOS ANGELES
Skip Short, veteran executive producer, commercial production house entrepreneur, an avid aviator, and a beloved mentor to assorted industry professionals, died last week (4/17) in Los Angeles at the age of 74.
Short began his career at the venerable production house Wakeford/Orloff, moved onto The Film Consortium, then partnered at GMS, Flying Tiger Films and then Aero Film before retiring from the business. He left an indelible impact on agency and production house collaborators, numerous colleagues, and helped to shape the careers of many.
Director Klaus Obermeyer (now of Rocket Film, which he co-founded), who was a partner in Aero Film, posted a tribute to Short on Instagram, stating, “This extraordinary man believed in me and built me as a director, he backed me unequivocally as a business partner on every creative idea that I ever had, without hesitation. He was trustworthy, honorable and beloved by everyone. He was my dear friend. I hope that I will be able to honor his spirit of generosity and empowerment by carrying him in my heart and myself being as quick to give and empower those around me as he was. He changed my life by believing in me. Thank you Skip.”
Director Ken Arlidge (also a Rocket Film founder) came to know Short at Flying Tiger. “We forged a friendship and a bond there,” recalled Arlidge. “He was my best friend. There is not one person whose life he did not profoundly and positively affect. And they all regarded him as a close friend, loyal, genuine and giving. What I loved about Skip is he had integrity, honesty and loyalty. We shared those values and that was reflected in our relationship and in the quality of work we delivered. That’s why in part he had so much repeat business. Agencies had trust in him as a partner and a friend, working in support of the client.”
Still, that didn’t stop Arlidge and some of his agency collaborators from playing a joke or two on Short. “Skip was a tidy, clean man, almost OCD,” related Arlidge. “I’d take the agency team aside and ask them to watch while I sprinkled little bits of paper down a corridor. Sure enough, Skip would come by. Most people would just walk past but Skip had to pick up each and every piece. We’d hide around the corner, watching and laughing. He was fastidious, a detail-oriented guy, a neat freak. But that also made him great at what he did--as an executive producer, at the helm of a production company. He didn’t miss anything. He paid attention to all the details. It’s also what made him safe and detailed as a master pilot of planes, jets and helicopters. He achieved the highest rank of airline transport pilot. As a person, they don’t make them any finer. Skip had an uncanny ability to resonate as a caring, giving, loving human to everyone.”
John Marshall, a partner at production house GMS (the “M” in GMS which stood for Giddens Marshall Short), first crossed paths with Short at The Film Consortium. When that shop went under, Marshall recalled Short approaching him and director Jim Giddens about launching their own production company. Marshall related that Short was 10 years older than him, more accomplished, yet was willing and generous enough to make him an equal partner in the venture. “Skip believed in me more than my father did,” shared Marshall. “He helped people realize their potential. He nurtured so many careers. He was a driving force in the community. We were partners for 14 years and there was never a decision that wasn’t unanimous among all three partners. It was a dream relationship.”
“A great catalyst”
Lance O’Connor, now owner/executive producer of Minted Content, goes back 28 years with Short, starting with the GMS days, through to Flying Tiger and Aero Film. O’ Connor was partnered in the latter company. O’Connor came out to the U.S. from London, initially to do a feature, which turned out to be a far from idyllic experience. He connected with Short at GMS who sent him back to London for two jobs at Pinewood Studios--Coca-Cola and Aflac Insurance--as a replacement producer. When O’Connor returned stateside, Short told him he was well suited for commercials and he’d teach him to transition to the ad discipline.
“Skip was a great catalyst, able to help people have confidence in themselves,” assessed O’Connor. “He was an optimist, a great connector of people. He started the careers of so many directors, cinematographers, people who wanted to make a change. He was never scared of change. He didn’t like change in his life. He liked it to run methodically. But he embraced change to help people advance to something better, whether it be from production manager to producer or a young cinematographer becoming a director.”
Speaking of change, O’Connor noted that Short was forever revising directors’ reels, constantly looking to give them an edge in landing work that would allow their careers to progress. “Skip would relentlessly work on all the work. Like a pilot, he felt if you’re doing nothing, then you’re doing something wrong,” said O’Connor. “He would look at directors’ reels all the time.” Short’s assessments of talent were both on artistic visual filmmaking grounds as well as quite pragmatic considerations. The latter, conjectured O’Connor, was from Short’s work as an accountant, which was his early career profession.
Jeff Devlin, an industry vet on the production house and agency sides of the business--who is now chairman of U.S. government practice at WPP--enjoyed a long ride with Short at The Film Consortium, GMS, Flying Tiger and Aero Film. “He was a brother to me,” Devlin said of Short. “He was extraordinarily capable but mild mannered. He encouraged me to be a pilot like he was. He encouraged me to get my license. He gave people a great sense of confidence--that applied to everyone he worked with. He would make a production a successful, memorable experience, dealing with any issue that arose. Skip had great leadership skills, the ability to be cool, calm and collected against all odds.”
O’Connor noted that Short had a penchant for visual storytelling, the prime niche he carved out for his companies. Both Devlin and O’Connor remembered in particular a stretch of many years producing commercials for the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy. “It was very pride-filled military affairs work that had a sense of purpose,” said Devlin.
Short regularly held court at The Palm restaurant, at its original location on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, and then at its subsequent Beverly Hills roost. The restaurant was remembered by some as more than just a social gathering place. Rich Carter, now a founding partner in production house brother, recollected coming out from the Midwest to transition from the agency to the production house arena. “I called on a few executive producers, met Skip and he knew some people whom I had worked with in Chicago. He offered to put me on his next job as a PA, and got me started. I remember him coming to The Palm with me and some clients. He put a big lobster in front of me and that’s when I decided I wanted to become an EP like him,” quipped Carter. “But seriously, I wanted to be like him, I admired him. He approached the business and life with kindness and generosity. His companies always had a sense of family. He was a good man--serious about the business but didn’t take himself too seriously. He was a role model.”
O’Connor and Arlidge also recalled Short being a creature of habit, piloting a flight from Santa Monica Airport, where Aero Film was located, to Camarillo Airport, every Wednesday and Friday to have lunch with friends and colleagues from a cross-section of the aviation, advertising and entertainment worlds. Like The Palm, it was his place to socialize, keep in touch and catch up with different people.
Ron Hoffman, a veteran rep who currently handles such clients as Believe Media, knew Short for some 30 years. They first worked together at Wakeford/Orloff, Short as a bidder and Hoffman as a props assistant. Later Hoffman repped his bread-and-butter market of Detroit as well as the West Coast for Flying Tiger and Aero Film. “Skip was the best boss you could ever have. He would help you when you needed it while allowing you to do what he hired you to do. I never heard him say a bad thing about anyone. And we did some great work together. Automotive business has been my prime focus. We launched the Miata for Mazda with Ken Arlidge, out of Doner in Southfield (Mich.). Skip found a way to make everybody work well together. Whenever things got crazy, he was the calming effect for all of us. He was always the light in the room.”
Short is survived by a daughter, and an ex-wife with whom he maintained a deep friendship.
A private memorial gathering for Short was being planned at press time. Arlidge noted that Short will make one last helicopter ride, his ashes to be released over the Pacific Ocean.