Shonda Rhimes on How to Create Stories (and Products) People Want

Hollywood and Silicon Valley seem so different, but are more alike than we think. What challenges do tech startup founders and other creative founders — like showrunners and executive producers — similarly face? Both have to deeply understand and respect their audiences; learn how to scale themselves beyond one person; and even figure out how and when to use data… or follow their intuitions.

In the end, it’s all about creating a story (product!) that sticks.

In this conversation with Andreessen Horowitz cofounder and general partner Marc Andreessen, Shonda Rhimes — executive producer, writer, creator of hit 100+ episode shows hows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and founder of the media company Shondaland — shares the mindsets that drive her to pitch ideas, think about new mediums, and what happens when make believe veers too close to reality.

Rhimes is the recipient of several industry awards and accolades, including a Golden Globe for Outstanding Television Drama, the Peabody Award, Time 100 most influential people, Fortune’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business”, and lifetime achievement awards from the Directors Guild of America, the Writers Guild of America, and the Producers Guild of America. She has been inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Broadcasting Hall of Fame and to the Television Academy of Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. She is also the creative director of Dove’s #RealBeauty campaign and authored NYT bestseller Year of Yes.

The conversation originally took place at our most recent annual innovation Summit — which features a16z speakers and invited experts from various organizations discussing innovation at companies large and small, as well as tech trends spanning bio, consumer, crypto, fintech, and more.

highlights

On the transition from movies to television [3:24] 

How Shonda scaled herself as a creative  [6:33]

What Shonda looks for in an employee [10:00]

Why developing internal talent is vital [11:02]

When she knowsto know when a show works [13:25]

Discussion on what data is useful in the creative process [16:13]

The creative differences between TV & Film [16:5?]

Creating for your audience [19:40]

Social media’s impact on show engagement [24:06]

Making whatever makes you happy [28:23]

The future of Shondaland [32:11]