Beaton studied mass media and communications at UC Berkeley, and simultaneously began working in the entertainment industry. She served as program director for the Mill Valley (CA) Film Festival, and later produced the road show of performance artists Penn & Teller. Beaton first worked for a Hollywood entity when she joined one of Paramount's regional sales offices. The experience there helped her gain the training to represent Gregory Nava's "El Norte" (1983) in the USA for which she also secured distribution rights and supervised the marketing campaign. Her work led to a job at Island Alive as vice president of marketing and distribution where she was responsible for the acquisition, marketing and distribution of such independent films as "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and "The Trip to Bountiful" (both 1985) and "Mona Lisa" (1986). She was also involved and instrumental in the acquisition of Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It" (1986) and Percy Adlon's "Bagdad Cafe," Tim Hunter's "River's Edge" and Nikita Mikhalkov's "Dark Eyes" (all 1987). Beaton was promoted to senior vice president of production and development for Island Pictures in 1987 but resigned the following year when Island ceased all production activities. She went on to become an independent producer and consultant working for both Miramax and Island Pictures. By 1997, Beaton had numerous projects in tandem with Carl Franklin in various stages of development.