The number of women working in the film industry reached a historic high in 2019, but men still outnumber women four to one in key roles.
Women made up 20% of behind-the-scenes roles on the top 100 domestic grossing films of 2019, a sharp uptick from 16% in 2018, a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego University revealed. However, when it comes to key jobs like director and cinematographer, men continue to dominate.
We had the opportunity to interview Diane Foster, a multi-hyphenate award-winning American actress-singer-dancer-producer based in Los Angeles. In 2018, Diane launched her own production company, WallyBird Productions, to create and produce all forms and genres of media with an emphasis on diversity and gender equality.
Tell us in your own words about yourself:
I am Diane Foster and the founder of the worldwide entertainment company, WallyBird Productions. Our mission is in fostering diversity and equality in front and behind the camera. I am diligently cultivating a brand that will stand out in the film industry and proudly showcase the voices of storytellers historically not given a chance. I am very grateful for the experiences I have had, good and bad, for all of them have led me here, to a place of understanding, patience and self-healing. I am just getting started on the Bloom of my life.
What would be your advice to female film directors who want to succeed in the film business?
I highly recommend choosing a script that can highlight your abilities as a storyteller.
Having a supportive team around you is going to make the process so much better and make sure that you are always going with your gut especially in terms of what you envision the story and visuals to be. You are the leader of that story and it will require from you, all of your heart and soul. Keep a cool head and a warm heart always. I would also say to not let anyone tell you can’t do anything you want to do. Fully believe in yourself. No one else can live out your dreams for you and life is not guaranteed or owed to you, so be grateful and work smarter not harder. If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen! If not you, then Who?
What have you personally noticed that has changed in the movie industry over the past decade?
I think there is a shift that is happening in Hollywood specifically for Women and Women of Color especially after the Me Too movement and also in many being outspoken in highlighting the disparity in hiring practices. There is truly so much more work to do to have a more equal space for all, but the conversations are finally starting to happen. We have to keep breaking the down barriers and keep holding people accountable for their actions and words. They are powerful so we should all use them wisely for fairness and
justice for all. We need to get more women and have more diversity on sets in front and behind the camera and that is exactly what I have set out to do.
Would you say a base in Los Angeles fulfills a lifelong dream?
Although I love my city and moved here to Los Angeles 19 years ago, I don’t believe it’s the only place to make your dreams come true. With the advent of the internet and social media, it’s easier now more than ever to build relationships and network. That is what will make the difference in your success. Building true and lasting relationships is the key and that is really a factor with any business, but especially show business. A lot of things come into a creative environment and you have to be able to be trusted and professional. I would say that doing the inner self work is the answer to actually fulfilling your lifelong dreams whatever they may be. A geographic change will not make things better in your life if you are not ok first. Do the work and keep good relationships. You
will be a better creator and person for it! Now with all that being said, I firmly DO believe that if you want to do this long term, then a move to Los Angeles is a smart and necessary one. The reasons are that the majority of the entertainment business is here. That will give you the opportunities to collaborate which is extremely important and all about the relationships I spoke about. As a whole, moving to LA will definitely show anyone hiring or collaborating with you that you are serious about having a career and truly dedicated to your craft. Making the commitment in the long term will be the best decision you make!
Given the attention on diversity in the film industry, what has your experience been as a female producer? Has been a woman made it more challenging to be a success?
It has come with a fair amount of challenges to be a female producer, but it’s also been very fulfilling. I have the ability to hire more women and have sets that are more diverse and look like the world we live in which has been my mission since starting WallyBird
Productions in 2018. I think it’s fair to say that being a woman in the world makes it more challenging period. We have had to fight for every right we have and continue to fight for a seat at the table. I envision and am working diligently towards the days when the word “female” before anything or “women having to make history” will be the standard. As a matter of fact, there needs to be more attention in diversity and gender equality not only in the film industry but our world. We need to continue to lift each other up as women, in support of diversity and gender differences and celebrate our uniqueness and differences, and when given the opportunities, show and share the way. We are truly stronger together.
Will you continue to pursue your own projects as a director? What sorts of stories do you want to tell?
Yes absolutely! I plan on directing more and have lots of stories to tell. One in particular, is my own journey that has been a long, and sometimes very painful experience towards self healing and love. I believe my story needs to be told and could help others who may have been held and forced down, so that now they can see their own sparkle and divine worthiness. I also have many projects from the voices of diverse storytellers I want to put a spotlight on. I firmly believe that representation matters and we need to be responsible as creators to show the world as it truly looks and empower others.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
So much has happened over the last five years that in that amount of time again, I see myself and WallyBird Productions doing even bigger projects and even many more projects a year.
I see WallyBird as a film studio that is inclusive to all filmmakers and their stories and that we are known worldwide as a champion of diversity and inclusion. I see myself able to truly hand stitch every project because we have a full staff committed to our mission and to create entertainment that is engaging, fun, teachable, long lasting, classic,
What is the future of film?
The future of film is Female! My commitment with WallyBird Productions has been, is, and always will be about diversity and gender equality in front and behind the camera. It is an artists duty to reflect the times we live in and to also shift the narrative, learn from history, and do better to give more opportunities and voices to all those who historically have not. It is imperative to me that we all do our part not only in cinema but in every business to think and really consider where and what you put your time, effort and money into. The world must be a more equal playing field for all that exist.
Can you say something about the collaborative nature of filmmaking?
It truly takes a village to make a film. There are so many moving parts and no one can truly do it on their own. The best part of collaborating is that everyone is there, hopefully, for the same purpose, which is to make the best product and tell stories that can change the world for the better. Every job on a set is essential to the success of how the set runs. It’s so important to have like minded people involved on a particular project so things can move more seamlessly. There will no doubt be hurdles, and spending the time creating a team that can function and move well together is key.
Is digital technology an opportunity or a threat?
Technology is an asset and opportunity for growth. Our world has changed for the better because of it and used for good, allows us to see places and how people live that we may never get to see. The digital world is a very real one. Of course like anything, proceeding with caution and a level head is a good idea but I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon and truly can be utilized for lasting and necessary change.
Who are your favorite directors?
I love Ava Duvernay and would love to work with her. She is so inspiring to me and an amazing storyteller. I also love the work of Melina Matsoukas and Lena Waithe and I would love to work with and learn from them both. I am so inspired by strong female storytellers in cinema and they provide not only amazing entertainment but are
changing the world. I will also create those opportunities and do the same. Follow along with me and let’s make the world a more kind and equal place for us all!