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Shondaland’s Betsy Beers on How She Learned Development on Film Side First

Betsy Beers has more than a full plate as a partner in Shondaland, churning out a slate of TV’s top dramas, from “Grey’s Anatomy” to “Scandal” to a constant churn of new pilots in development. But the actress-turned-executive got her start in the business on the film side, first as a script reader and then as “manager of development” for Gary David Goldberg’s Ubu Prods.

How did you get the job?

The only job I had before that one was as a reader at United Artists. That was my first job as an executive. I didn’t have any experience, so they didn’t know what to call me. I believe the title was made up. The wonderful Ruth Vitale created the job for me when she [arrived] from UA. She’d always said to me, “If I ever get a job, I will take you with me.” Sure enough, she called me, and Gary David Goldberg couldn’t have been nicer about it. I was besides myself. Not only was I on the Paramount lot, but I had my own office — and it was my first time ever being acknowledged in the trades. I had made it.

What was the job like?

It was development boot camp. Gary David Goldberg had a film deal at Paramount. They gave us this discretionary fund we could develop projects from. Ruth and I found writers we really wanted to work with. We would either option the script or find an idea we wanted to work with them on. I learned development in the trenches. I had an amazing time learning how to put screenplays together. It was a great education that Paramount graciously paid for.

What did you learn that still serves you today?

I learned in terms of development that the writers’ voice is key. I learned how important it was to find material and ideas and subjects that really spoke to the writer. On my first job, I’d read scripts and I’d acted, so I’d been around theater people. It was a very different experience to be sitting in a room and understand how writers’ minds work, and what you can do to help them create the best product possible.

It’s funny that you started out working for a TV mogul and ended up in TV after all.

I still love film. But I certainly found that I’ve done better in television. My secret was that I’ve always loved TV even when I was working in movies. I always kept track of TV, but I kept that to myself. The ability to develop and make TV was a dream come true.

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