Meet Diane Foster of WallyBird Productions
I grew up the youngest of six children in New Jersey. When I was eight years old, I won the “Little Miss Union” talent contest dancing to Whitney Houstons “I wanna Dance with somebody”, and my journey into entertainment began. At 12, I was acting in plays at Burnet Middle School. I played Snoopy “Your a good man Charlie Brown” and Doris in “Fame. I was also dancing outside of school and around that time started to train professionally in New York City. My senior year of High School, I won the Rising Star Award for Best Actress in New Jersey, given by the world-renowned PaperMill Playhouse for my role as Princess Winifred in the musical “Once Upon A Mattress”. It was a sweet victory against my biggest rival, Anne Hathaway, who was nominated for the same role the same year. It was in that moment that I chose to fully pursue acting as a career. My first big gig was Law and Order: SVU, a few Mike’s Hard Lemonade commercials, and 2 roles in the off- Broadway play “Six Goumbas and a Wannabe”. I even played young Liza Minnelli in an off broadway workshop “Hat’s off to Liza”. After that, I left NY to Los Angeles, to chase my dreams.
Upon arriving in LA and not knowing anyone, I took dance classes and was hired on the spot for the original “PussyCat Dolls”, a burlesque review, at The Roxy in Hollywood. We performed to sold out celebrity audiences and it starred Carmen Electra, Christina Applegate, Gwen Stefani, Charlize Theron, Christina Aguilera, Brittany Murphy, Dita Von Teese, and me! I was one of the 12 original girls to do all the burlesque and Fosse style choreography. I also was in a Paulina Rubio video as a dancer. These were my first jobs in LA and I was immediately thrust into the world of celebrities. My first acting gig was a role in the indie film, “Descendant” starring Katherine Heigl and Jeremy London.
After the Pussycat Dolls shows, I began my foray into producing. I produced the documentary, “Dying For Meth” that followed a young girl who survived an explosion while cooking meth in a van, burning over sixty percent of her body. For three years, we followed her and her family’s addiction while watching her struggle to care for her five year old son and thirteen year old sister. We received the Prism Award in Beverly Hills for outstanding work in documentary and public service. This led me to star and produce in my first narrative feature “Iowa,” a Tribeca Film Festival Official Selection. My first day on set, I found out I was pregnant with my son, Golden, and only twenty-two months later had my daughter, Ivy. It was, and still is the greatest achievement of my life getting to be their mother.
After “Iowa” dominated independent cinemas in NY, LA, and Chicago, we received a call from Jeff Cuban, owner of Landmark Theaters chain. He suggested that with the success of “Iowa” and it’s edgy, gory, and very intense subject matter, that we make a horror film. We began producing the slasher/horror film, “The Orphan Killer” that I starred in, creating a cult following of over 500,000 fans on Facebook. It became an instant cult classic with over 3 million illegal downloads of the film worldwide. We even sold the mask of “The Orphan Killer” in Sears and Walmart!
“The Orphan Killer” had us traveling to Europe, Spain and Italy to premiere at festivals to sold out audiences. The crowds would stomp, scream and chant at the screen as if they were attending a heavy metal rock show! When we returned, to get in shape, I began boxing at Glendale Fighting Club. It was there that I trained alongside Ronda Rousey, who would years later enter the UFC. We became fast friends as the only females in an Armenian male gym. During this time, I started working on the sequel “Bound X Blood: The Orphan Killer 2”. Submerged in the world of MMA and boxing, we were determined to include that as a part of the sequel securing Ronda and “The Four Horsewomen” as supporting actors along with many other well-known wrestlers and UFC fighters. During filming, my marriage of 17 years began to fall apart. It was the beginning of a tumultuous roller coaster ride of divorce, incarceration, and nearly fatal car accident.
At the time, the only focus I had was survival in a now single mother world and starting my life over. I was in therapy for my PTSD and healing the years of physical, mental, psychological, and verbal abuse I went through in my marriage. It was in therapy that getting back to my roots became so important. My therapist asked me “besides having your children when were you your happiest?” My answer was: when I was 18 years old, doing shows, taking extensive acting, singing, & dancing classes, and had just won the Rising Star Award! My therapist suggested going back to acting class and mentioned the school Beverly Hills Playhouse (BHP). I googled it and signed up a week later.
Through BHP, I have met a huge community of like-minded people whom I’ve created long-lasting friendships and many great projects with, including three short films and a feature. Most recently I starred in rock legend Glenn Danzig’s music video for “Last Ride” and his directorial debut feature, “Verotika”. Everything was right in my world again and then it stopped at an extreme halt with the tragic accidental death of my only brother, Walter in 2017.
Wally, as we affectionately called him, was fifty-four years old and a father of four. He worked his whole life at the Sunoco gas station in Short Hills, NJ that he would eventually own. He was an avid softball player and bar fly and simply put, everyone loved my brother. Over 1,000 people attended his wake, some complete strangers who he had helped during his life came to offer their condolences and praise what an amazing man and friend he was to so many. I was angry and depressed and upset that this world took him away from us with no notice or reason. His death has had the biggest impact on my life. Since we were kids, my mother would always say, “family is first and most important”. My five siblings are my best friends and we lost a son, husband, father, brother, and friend. During this time, as I struggled to get back to my own reality, I was working odd jobs to support my life and two children on my own and continued getting producing jobs.
For many years, I wanted to start my own production company so my projects could have a banner and team of people behind them. I thought long and hard about what the name would be and in one moment it hit me like a rocket, a childhood name we called my late beloved brother, “WallyBird”. Walter was tall and lanky, with a giant smile and an infectious laugh. To honor my brother’s life that was cut too short, WallyBird Productions was born. Since 2018, WallyBird Productions has produced a two act play, three short films, a web series pilot, and an award-winning documentary. We are currently working on two features, a web series, a guitar education series, several music videos, and a short film.
The biggest challenges have been overcoming the personal losses of my life and trying to stand out in a male-dominated world. As a female producer, but as a female period, the struggles to have our voices heard and seen is an uphill battle. It’s very important for my children and especially my teenage daughter and the next generation of women to keep pushing for gender equality and equality in all aspects. Recently, I was so taken with the film “Queen and Slim” written by Lena Waithe. I posted my feelings about how incredibly well done the film was on my Instagram and said this: “It is so important for the conscious collective of us all to support storytelling this masterfully done. I took my daughter and she so intelligently said that she needs to congratulate Lena Waithe and will watch whatever she makes. Ivy is the next generation of truth seekers, movers and shakers, peaceful warriors and young activists and already understands at 14 years old the value in the voices that are not afraid to tell the stories that need to be told. Congratulations and thank you to the team that created this film frame by frame, as I was intoxicated by it, inspired by it, and feel determined to make change by it”. That is exactly how I feel about the struggles and challenges that we face to get stories heard and shift what has been not represented for historically far too long. I am determined to change the mindset and work towards having whole teams and crews of badass females, non-represented, racially diverse, and gender fluid creatives working in front and behind the camera.
WallyBird Productions is a production company committed to producing projects with diverse talent, gender equality, and creating the teams responsible for films that push the envelope with high entertainment value and substance. We set ourselves apart for being a company of inclusion and representing stories and people that are often overlooked.
I am the founder and CEO and am lead producer on the projects WallyBird is working on. We have so many exciting things ahead and are always looking to collaborate. We pride ourselves on producing all types of media, in all genres, all over the world. Knowing that I can run my own company after such a long partnership before, especially when at first it was really scary, has been an incredibly moment for me. Taking full ownership of my talent and believing I could do it has been the biggest game changer and makes me proud of the person and creator I have become.
The most proud moment for WallyBird Productions, so far, has been receiving a 15K grant that went directly to the Immigration Center for Women and Children, from the documentary we made about their incredible work. The documentary titled, “I Am America” was produced by myself, WallyBird Productions, Nikki Harlow with Overnight Medley Productions, and directed by my longtime friend, Emily Karlsson. It was created for the XX Fund and Women Excel Project and made possible by Suzanne Lerner, Creative Visions Foundation, and the Liberty Hill Foundation. I am excited and grateful for all I have accomplished so far and hopeful for many collaborations ahead for myself and WallyBird Productions.
Success to me is living your best life. Everyones idea of that word is different. For me, success is having no one to answer to for the decisions I make in my life. That doesn’t mean that I don’t collaborate because I in fact do very often and is actually a huge part of what my job and the entertainment business is. You must play well with others! However, what I don’t have to do anymore is be afraid of the decisions I make or feel unclear about what I want to do with my life. For so many years, I didn’t have control of my own life because I allowed someone else to make those decisions for me. When I became self reliant, focusing on what makes me happy, what feels right, and knowing it in my gut, it has changed my life for the better. Focusing on that has been the defining moment of me finding success. Success within myself. I received some really good advice from a stranger once. I was in Little Tokyo in Downtown LA and this man was playing a concoction of seven different instruments. He took a break and was standing by his homemade one man band. I told him how talented I thought he was and after a bit of a chat he said, “You must remember something always. Everyone is so focused on the mountain they are climbing and getting to the top. What they don’t do often enough and what I highly encourage, is to turn around and look down to the bottom of the mountain and see how far you’ve come”. That bit of advice has never left my mind or heart. Looking at my own mountain and how far I have come, that is success.