Industry Pro: Television Executive and Executive Producer Deb Spera
Today’s Inside Scoop subject has a well-earned reputation for being a passionate and straight-shooting executive & executive producer dedicated to protecting the creative process in order to get the best end-product out of it. We were thrilled when Deb agreed to give us a little insight into how she got to where she is and how she stays sane with such a busy life. (Hint: It isn’t easy!)
Current positions: President of The Mark Gordon Television Company; Executive Producer of: “Criminal Minds,” “Army Wives,” and “Reaper.”
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
College degree: BA from Western Kentucky University, major in Theatre, minor in journalism.
Internship: Apprentice at The Actors Theatre Of Louisville.
First job in entertainment industry: Assistant to Steve Reuther and Arnon Milchan at New Regency Productions.
Big break: Landing an executive position at Showtime Networks.
Eureka moment: I was working on a couple of movies in my early years at Showtime and I talked too much. I needed to listen more, pick my battles more carefully, and better articulate the pros and cons of projects.
Career path: I started as an actor, trained with Bill Esper, worked Regional Theatre and Off Broadway. I was developing a craft, but hated the lifestyle. I was an avid reader, always have been, so story has always fascinated me. After producing my first few pieces of theatre, I realized that it was something I was good at. I understood craft, story, and people, how to choose and motivate a team. I finally found something where I could use both my heart and my head. So I dove in. Got an assistant job within two weeks. I was 29 years old. I took a writing workshop at UCLA and produced a short film, then associate produced a feature, then wrote a (very, very bad) feature script. I parked my butt in an editing room, I looked at budgets and how much stuff cost. I wanted to learn it all. I am still learning. Showtime provided the first real opportunity for me to learn, and the magnitude of the slate coupled with the faith of the leadership allowed me to work on 30 movies and minis before I left there and to develop far more than that. Being with writers that much and sculpting and crafting the work was instrumental in my development as a producer.
Worst day in the business: The day I got fired from Showtime.
Best day in the business: The day I got fired from Showtime.
Best thing about your current job: Getting to constantly hone your skills as a film maker. In the same way Regional Theatre provides an opportunity to the actor to grow with the number of plays and roles he or she can experience in a season, so series television does for the producer. You are always developing, shooting, editing. It is a gold mine of an education. Additionally, I work with people who are passionate about the work. When one is passionate about the work, there are fewer politics to deal with and it’s fun. I want to live my life with people who care and are excited by the work, excited to tell authentic stories. Everyone has a story, its what I love about this business….telling those stories.
Worst thing about your current job: Is there never feels like there is any real downtime. There is always more to do, more to accomplish. The worst thing about my current job is my frequent inability to balance my work and home life, and still find the time to take care of myself. There was a time where I did yoga four times a week and did not imagine my life without it. Now I cannot imagine having the time to do yoga that often. Really it is just a never ending cycle and that is the best and worst part of my job.
Brush with greatness: Was giving birth. Sorry, that’s the greatest moment ever. No celebrity, no magic hour shot, no super hot director or writer can begin to compare.
Secret of your success/advice to the newbie: Simple, hard work, and continually educating myself on different effective ways to tell a story is the only way I know how to do my job. Also, recognizing when you are running on fumes and having the good sense to take a break and take care of yourself. Otherwise you are just chasing the next fad. Listen to your voice, listen to what moves you, and go from there.
Next move: Is as of yet unplanned. I have to get kids raised and off to college. There are three of them so it will be a while!
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