Jessica Skippon obituary

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My mother, Jessica Skippon, who has died aged 81, was a video producer and director who put her heart and soul into her London neighbourhood of Covent Garden over four decades.

An American by birth, she and her husband, Tom, had moved to the UK in 1978 to establish Skippon Video Associates, one of the UK’s first video production companies. Based in Covent Garden, its output ranged from corporate training and European parliament information bulletins to documentary series such as the American TV series Civilization and the Jews and shooting for a live Pink Floyd – The Wall video at Earls Court.

However, Jessica was proudest of her involvement in programmes designed to protect women and children, including Kids Can Say No! (1985), an educational film for children on how to avoid situations where they might be taken advantage of sexually, and Aftermath (1994), a short film for use by counsellors and social workers with survivors of rape.

When her video production work began to wind down in the late 1990s, she became active in her local community, founding the Covent Garden Housing Co-op in 1995 and chairing it until 2013. From 2007 onwards she also spent some time as an administrator at the local Seven Dials Housing Co-op.

She also arranged sewing and English classes for Bangladeshi women and organised popular day trips for their families, helping her neighbour Shahina Khatun to raise funding for various other related projects.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jessica was the daughter of Jean Desmond, a beauty queen and lingerie industry model, and Charles Skippon Jr, a printer. After attending Hempstead, Woodmere and Levittown Memorial schools in New York she left in 1957 for stage school, after which she became a secretary and administrator in the film and television industry, including, from 1963 to 1965, as television coordinator at the Directors Guild of America, where she met Tom Cook, who worked for CBS. They were married in 1966.

Jessica Skippon in 1971

From 1965 to 1969 she worked as a production coordinator/secretary on various films, including Wait Until Dark (1967), featuring Audrey Hepburn, and The Odd Couple (1969), starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. At auditions for The Graduate (1967), a young Dustin Hoffman entertained the room by picking Jessica out to help him with an improvisatory routine.

In 1969 she and Tom moved to Australia, and for a time she largely concentrated on looking after their children, Nina, me, Adam and J’aimee. In 1973 the family moved to New Zealand, where Jessica went back to film-related work as a production manager at Peach Wemyss films (1974-76) before going freelance as a producer and director, during which time she taught video editing skills to women at the Auckland Women’s Video Collective, which she had helped to set up.

After the move to London, in her spare time she loved to do genealogical research and, having started on her own ancestry as a hobby in the 80s, in the new century she took on occasional commissions from clients to trace their family trees.

Adam died in 1995 and Tom died in 2016. Jessica is survived by her three daughters and six grandchildren.