Hugo Awards to honor Backyard Productions

Twenty years ago this fall, Roy Skillicorn, who was at the peak of his career as a top print and motion rep, and his friend, director Blair Stribley, whose young commercial company had recently dissolved, were at Skillicorn’s home talking about the production company they planned to start.

“What should we call it?” they pondered as they sat and sipped lemonade in Skillcorn’s backyard.

And Backyard Productions it was.

Flash forward to April 22, 2009. Now an acclaimed and successful commercial production companies, Backyard of Venice, Calif., will receive the prestigious Commitment to Excellent in Television Award from the Hugo Awards at the Cultural Center.

“Since we got our start in Chicago, we’re especially flattered and proud to be recognized with this honor,” says Skillicorn, who continues to live in Chicago and works out of a sales office in Old Orchard.

Co-founder Stribley resides in L.A., as he has for past 15 years since Backyard opened an office there, and manages 15 employees who work out of a 10,000-sq. ft. space in an old cigarette and candy distribution building, amid the conclave of L.A. branches of Chicago companies.

Backyard has an international roster of directors who have produced award-winning commercials for Wieden + Kennedy, BBDO/NY, Leo Burnett, BBH/Shanghai and Lowe, London and brands such as Stella Artois, M&M’s, ESPN, MTV, Home Depot and Travelocity, to name a few.

Directorial talent includes Luis Carone, Ericson Core, Jesper Ericstam, John Immesoete, Jeffrey Karoff, Shyam Madiraju, Nick Piper, Rob Pritts, Don Rase, Rob Sanders, Kevin Smith, Aaron Stoller and Chace Strickland.

When Skillicorn and Stribley teamed up in 1989, Skillicorn was one of the youngest and hottest sales reps at the peak of his career. He had been selling for ace print shooters Tony D’Orio when he added spot houses Pixar (then a TV animation company), HKM and Colossal Pictures.

Stribley had been a partner in a small local TV spot house that quickly climbed to agency popularity, and dived as fast when their hot director departed for L.A., never to be heard from again.