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‘Elvis’ and ‘Wednesday’ Producer Gail Berman Reflects on Going From Broadway to Film and Back Again: ‘I’m Your Pivot Girl’

Gail Berman’s four-decade-plus career has taken her from Broadway to the big screen and back again, with stints as a studio chief and a new media entrepreneur in between.

“I’m your pivot girl,” says Berman, who last year received nominations for both a best picture Oscar (“Elvis”) and a comedy series Emmy (Netflix’s “Wednesday”). “Every five years, I have to do something else. It’s just my nature.”

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Berman scored her first producing credit at the age of 23 when she and her former U. of Maryland classmate Susan R. Rose brought to Broadway a production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” After a decade-long run in the theater biz, burned out on raising money, she took a job as an associate producer for HBO’s new sister outlet, the Comedy Channel.

“I’d never worked in television ever, not even really thought about it much,” says Berman. “But the opportunity came to me, and I decided to take it, and it really changed the course of my life.”

It was around this time Berman first met the man her PGA honor was named after, legendary producer Norman Lear (best known for groundbreaking TV series such as “All in the Family”), who died in December at the age of 101.

“We just got to revel in his storytelling, which was amazing,” says Berman, who met Lear through his daughter Maggie, a co-worker at the Comedy Channel.

When Berman’s husband, writer-producer Bill Masters (“Caroline in the City”), scored a two-picture deal with Disney, the couple moved to Los Angeles and she launched her career as a Hollywood exec, with stints at Dolly Parton’s Sandollar Prods., Fox Broadcasting, Paramount Pictures, BermanBraun and the Jackal Group. Along the way, she exec produced the series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and helped shepherd long-running shows such as “Malcolm in the Middle” and “American Idol.”

Berman’s current Jackal Group slate includes a stage adaptation of the 2010 feature “Black Swan” that she hopes to take to Broadway.

“The development process is slow and raising money is still raising money, but if you become cynical about any of this, it really isn’t good for you or the product,” says Berman. “You have to enter it with a certain amount of wonder, excitement and gratitude.”

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