Diane Foster; From Life Challenges, to Career Success- The Story of a Warrior Woman
Diane’s life changed completely when she decided to rebuild after the defeats she had gone through. After losing her brother, and facing divorce, she decided to start her own company, which today is a name of success. Since her childhood, she has had a passion for acting, which over the years turned her into a profession, to move on to directing. Today as a professional and as a successful entrepreneur she shares with us some tips on how to overcome difficult challenges in business, but also in our lives.
Diane, as an entrepreneur, when did you realise that it was time to embark on this journey of creating WallyBird Productions?
I had always wanted to start my own production house after all the years I had been a freelance producer. I had gotten a divorce and was restarting my life over again after I had been married for 17 years. My whole life changed in what seemed an instant, and I had to get my footing as I created my own path independently. I was finding out who I was for the first time since I was 21 years old and it was scary, but I was determined to make my life what I always dreamed it could be. For me, it was really about and still is, self empowerment to create my own company. As I was grieving my divorce and the life I had always known, in 2018 my older and only brother passed away suddenly and tragically. It was an extremely difficult time and I am still coping with losing him. It was later that year that I founded WallyBird Productions as an honor to him. His childhood nickname was WallyBird and I knew it was the name that I wanted to stand beside. My brother was a big supporter of mine from the time I was a child seeing the plays I was in at school and bragging to all his friends. It was a way that I could connect with him in my grieving of his life that had been cut so short. He was a son, a father, a cousin, a husband, a friend to so many and my beloved brother. I am proud of the company that I created in his name and what our mission is from day one. I had seen through the years how very few female producers, directors, and crew there were and how the crews in general were not diverse at all. I wanted the sets I am on and stories I am telling to reflect the world we live in and that world is filled with different genders and people of all backgrounds and color. I am committed to that mission of putting people in those positions who have not historically had the chance. Representation matters and this is my chance to change the world through cinema which is my ultimate passion and what I am meant to do.
What were the first barriers you encountered?
Time and funding! When you are first starting out, there is never enough money and not enough time in a day. I still face those hurdles but slowly and surely making a dent in getting more hands to help and dollars to create. There was a time when I had to be more assertive especially in mostly male led crews but I have never allowed me being female to be a thing that keeps me from being at the table. I have a voice and I will use it.
Where did your journey into acting and directing begin?
I have always acted since I was in middle school. My first foray into it was playing Raggedy Andy at the world renowned PaperMill Playhouse in their children’s program. Ironically, 8 years later, I won Best Actress in the state of New Jersey for my high school production of “Once Upon A Mattress” in the role of Princess Winifred given by the Papermill Playhouse, against Anne Hathaway no less, who was nominated for the same role and same play that year. It was a full circle moment from my beginnings there and when I knew I had to pursue it as a career. Directing came much later and my first job in production was as Producer of the 2005 Tribeca film festival official selection “IOWA” at the ripe age of 25. It was an incredible experience and taught me the ins and outs of Producing pretty immediately. I have not stopped producing since then. My first directing gig was a short film and then music videos. I now have several under my belt and will direct my first feature this summer.
What has been the best lesson you have learned in the industry?
Never let it get to you. The industry is by and large a very interesting, sometimes weird, sometimes shitty, sometimes wonderful place and you have to keep believing in yourself and your abilities above all else. Be reasonable about getting a project made, but be unapologetic about what you want and making it happen. No one will do it for you. Your career is truly in your hands. Relationships are super important and necessary. Keep them good and be a good person without allowing yourself to get walked all over. Do it because you really love it and never let anyone tell you can’t and believe it. Know that you are worthy and deserving of anything you desire. And get a hobby outside of it. Having a full life with friends, family, and loved ones makes life beautiful. Enjoy every moment.
How do you balance being a mom and acting and running a company?
It’s not easy by any means and I have to be a constant scheduler. I am at my best when my life is organized and I know what my day looks like. Usually Sundays are my total chill day and I don’t look at work unless I’m on set shooting. My children have grown up on sets because they had filmmaker parents so they are accustomed to a few hectic weeks and then a lull. They are also teens now, so they don’t want much to do with me anyhow! In all honesty though, learning to shut it off at the end of the day is important and taking time to spend together is special and necessary. As they have gotten older things have shifted and I am able to do more in terms of projects because my role in their life is less hands on as when they were little. Women in business who are Moms are superheroes and we really can do it all! It is just about having great time management and being ok saying No to things. I want to be a great Mom first, and then run a business. I can and am doing both, but always my favorite and best role is Mom.