Billy Sheahan, one of the most cherished and talented members of the Chicago film and arts community, has passed away.
A Chicago area native and Purdue graduate, Sheahan entered the city’s post-production industry as an editor at Swell in 1989. Almost immediately, he established a reputation for creativity and kindness that would grow throughout his career.
“The minute you met him, he was like ‘tell me about yourself,’” recalls Bob Ackerman, a partner at The Colonie who worked on and off with Sheahan for nearly two decades, beginning with his years at Swell. “What he cared about was the thing that you found interesting.”
In addition to his knack for editing film, Sheahan had a technical side that often helped make his work a cut above the rest.
“He knew the ins and outs of all the software and he would always know some way to achieve something,” Ackerman continues. “The other day, somebody asked if I could do something to liven up a piece, and I was like, ‘oh yeah, I’ll do one of those Billy things.’”
In 2004, Sheahan began a four-year stint at Avenue Edit, where he first made the acquaintance of Mary Caddy, who would remain a professional associate and personal friend for years and also become a partner at The Colonie.
“What was not to like about Billy?” she asks. “He was always so joyous and happy to do anything for work or a friend. He was always up for a challenge and looking at things in a new way.”
While cutting dozens if not hundreds of national spots over this time, Billy began to pursue a passion for fine art photography. His remarkable talent for combing light and shadow, especially with the human form, has since produced a collection of breathtaking black and whites.
He became the first artist to be honored with a showing at The Colonie, where he spent four years from 2008 to 2012, the whole time continuing to spread his signature good will.
“He genuinely cared about everybody,” says partner Brian Sepanik. “He would help people all the time with no agenda, no ego, just because it was the right thing to do. That obviously led to great collaboration.”
His generosity was not limited to clients or senior level associates. According to Amanda Corbett Jacobs — who worked with Sheahan at The Colonie when she was “young and new to the industry” — he had a genuine ability to “always made you feel like a priority.”
“His daily greeting was the same big smile and genuine pause for an answer,” she explains. “Billy was quick to teach, listen and offer advice/mentorship. I valued him greatly, not only as a co-worker, but as a friend.”
In 2016, Sheahan went to Los Angeles to become a fulltime shooter and director. His portfolio, including images captured from many of his sojourns throughout the United States and Europe, can be viewed on his website.
Although he will always be highly regarded for his professional abilities, there is one particular thing about Sheahan’s personality that seems to have made the greatest impact on those who knew him.
“I loved Billy’s laugh,” says Brian Sepanik. “He had the best laugh of anyone I know, a really deep belly laugh. When you heard him laugh across the facility, you smiled.”
“He laughed a lot,” adds Ackerman. “You’d be sitting in a room 400 feet away and hear him fill the entire lobby.”
Those are just a few of the friends who remember Billy Sheahan. Upon learning of the news, dozens more shared their memories of him on Facebook. Below is a small dose of the giant impact he made on the world.
“Shocked and beyond saddened just now to learn of the passing of my former Avenue Edit co-worker (who I first met at Swell), sweet friend, insanely talented film editor and photographer Billy Sheahan. My God, what an incredibly sad day. His warmth, kindness and laughter was infectious. He was one of the finest film editors I’ve ever met. And he was pure GOLD.”
“Sad news. He was a great guy and talented editor.”
“Good Guy, Excellent Editor!”
“Oh no! So sad! Billy was awesome.”
“So very sorry to hear this. Billy was a rare kind. Such a good person. My deepest condolences.”
“Oh, that laugh…”
“One of the kindest souls, and arguably the best laugh ever, RIP Billy, you’re one of the best!”
“Wow! Gonna miss you dropping by the office & the warmth that was always beaming from you.”
“When I got my first internship in the film business it was at Swell Pictures. Billy Sheahan’s room was met with the biggest smile and a sincere greeting – and I mean big, bright, glowing; he genuinely gave you a gift for greeting every time. He was a busy editor – what a gracious gesture the way he’d take a little time to be genuine, to be kind, funny, and to treat an intern like he was part of the team. I’m just learning of your passing, and I want to say thanks. Thank you for always being a bright, kind soul. I wish you well on your journey.”
“Just heard that dear friend and colleague Billy Sheahan passed away. He was a great editor, photographer and one of those guys that, no matter what had a smile and a great joke. I am heartbroken. He will truly be missed.”
“I knew him from all the way back at Alpha Channel! That’s terrible news! He was literally one of the first guys I met doing photography F/X for advertising, or anything, really. How does that even happen?”
Contact editor daniel patton at firstname.lastname@example.org.