Diane Quon Intro
Is there something that's caused me to feel hopeful in this year at least. I mean I would have to say like the Black Lives Matter movement to see like conversations were happening in a bigger way versus in a story and then, you know by the next week it was gone. It gave me hope that maybe change can finally start happening.
Arielle: It's funny when you meet someone at a party and just connect soul to soul and then you read their bio and suddenly feel intimidated. Here's just an abridged version of the bio-Diane Quon shared with us when we asked her to be a guest on our podcast, Diane produce the Kartemquin Films Oscar an Emmy nominated Peabody and Sundance award winning film “Minding the Gap”. Additional documentaries she has produced include Finding Yingying and The Dilemma of Desire, and For the Left Hand will put her full bio and links to all her past and upcoming projects in the show notes page of this episode.
Diane is an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences member, a PGA member and serves on the Chicago International Film Festival Board. She is a recipient of the 2020 Cinereach Producer Award, and is a Sundance Creative Producing Fellow, an IFP Cannes Producer Fellow and a Film Independent Fellow. Hopefully in this conversation with Diane, you'll experience the person I felt so drawn to when I first met her, she is someone I feel like I could talk to you for hours, person who has been through personal tragedy and come out on the other side with purpose, they, and a will to help put art into the world that makes a difference.
I am so excited everybody to have Diane on here who is an incredible documentary producer, and just an amazing person, human being, and I got the privilege to meet her. We met at a party, a few years ago, when that happened.
Diane: Thank you. Thank you, Arielle.
Arielle: I am just thinking about the last time we met was right before COVID We had, we went for tea and then COVID hips, it was like a month or so before that, I think.
Diane: Yeah, I think so too. I can't even remember it's like such a blur, but you just take it for granted that you can get together.
Arielle: The year goes by, yeah, yeah, it is so different. But I guess I wanted to start this conversation by asking you about. I know you've had some major, you know, moments of transformation in your life so if you wanted to just jump into a couple of those moments that really put you on your path of purpose and like might have even seemed like tragedy or trauma but we’re, you found a way to make find gifts in them.
Diane: Yeah, I had started my career in LA, working in NBC, and at Paramount, and I ended up working there for over 17 years. At the same time, I had four kids four beautiful kids. And there came a point where I was starting to have heart problems and you know I was working a big job I had, I was vice president marketing so I was working long hours, but then also trying to be the best mom you can be today every soccer game being the team mom being the best mom. You're trying to do it all, and I think it was just my body saying, you know, you need some rest. And so, we, it seemed like it all made sense when my husband got an offer in Chicago, which is my hometown of all places, so we came back. And my job had been in marketing, and I remember thinking well maybe I can pursue my dream of producing, which was always something I always wanted to do was to make my own film and marketed a lot of great films marketed a lot of bad films and I'm thinking I would like to have some agency over, you know.
Arielle: That you're producing.
Diane: Yeah, yeah, that I feel proud of that, you know my kids could feel proud of. So, I was here, and then when my kids were old enough, I thought okay this is what I'm going to do it. And that was probably about, about 11 years ago. I son had just graduated college, my youngest was about to go into college, so it's like, Perfect timing. And then that I lost my son, which, Chris, which totally changed my life, as you can imagine, you know, our whole family's lives, and the idea of doing anything other than trying to get out of bed, and to help my daughters be handed out really was my priority and thinking of producing it kind of left my mind.
But, you know, slowly, maybe five years after I lost Chris, what am I good friends in LA invited me to Sundance, and she had gone before and she knew that that had been a dream of mine to produce and love them, so she was like, come with me. I'm like no, you know, in a bad way I felt like I deserve to have fun, either, you know like, it's not good to just move on. But I did go, and I felt like Chris was with me the whole time, and it was there at Sundance that I watched documentaries in a different light. I've watched documentaries before but more like in the educational setting, or you know at school I always cared about this, you know, like what is the venereal disease very educational. But Sundance, I realize you can learn about a whole other world, and you can learn about people, and you can come out of it being entertained by change, and somebody the docs I saw at Sundance.
And so that's when I went home and thought, well, I think I can do this maybe this is what I'll do is work on documentaries, and you know make meaningful content, and at the same time to honor, Chris, my son and my children, and luckily, I was able to do that [chuckle]
Arielle: A lot of people say, oh gosh, you know, I mean, there's one thing to think half of the battle in life is knowing what you want. Right, yeah, yeah, sometimes a lot of people can know what they want but getting there is a whole different journey. And so, that's beautiful to this idea that your son was with you I was just talking to somebody who had a big loss recently and it's, yeah, that feeling of presence within laughs right and feeling that connection that doesn't get doesn't go away. Yeah, yeah, it can, it obviously it's atrocious. But it can also be strengthened or I feel like for you it seems to have been something that also drove you on or like you know you would have to be strong in whatever way that form took for your other kids, for yourself, and then did it, was it kind of like a before and after as far as like now I'm going to pursue like life is short, I'm going to pursue my passions?
Diane: Actually, I think I always wanted to pursue my passion, but you know just be. It's such grief. It's just hard to think beyond just day to day, getting through the days and like I said, helping my family, but it was, I think watching those documentaries, which at Sundance and having that opportunity is see like, here's a way to do something I had always wanted to do, and gave me a clear vision like maybe this is the way to do it because I had thought about producing fiction and fiction, it's a whole other ball of wax because you need to create a script and you need to find funding here, if we can find the right story and the right director, we can just go right into it and start filming, and then find funding at the same time but it doesn't stop us from moving forward. So, gave me, but, but having said that, to your point, I do. Try not to take time for granted. You know I do it, it's always in the back of my mind that life is short, and you can't count on, oh you know we'll just do this in five years, you just don't know.
Arielle: Absolutely it's, you know I read an essay in high school. It was by Montaigne some old European philosopher, was called To Study Philosophy is to Learn to Die. And I remember we read that senior year and it stuck with me and I feel like I've lived my whole life with sort of death on my shoulders who says I can just set awareness of the finiteness and our mortality and using that as a way for you to propel me forward and not take it for granted. So, I was so grateful that you were able to come to my last, my last virtual screening of my next film Belonging in the USA: The Story Antonio and Alicia, I was going to say thank you for being [ Diane] Yeah. Yeah. [Arielle] thank you and it's still in process we are adding a couple of tweaks and changes. But I was, you know, I know we talked about this a little. I'm sure in person but when you hear that phrase, the concept of the series Belonging in the USA, what does that evoke for you?
Diane: Well, it's funny that you're bringing it up, bringing that up, especially now, one of my new one of the new films I'm working on. We're, it's about an all-female newsroom. And one of the things they want to do is they just launched last year and one of the things is they want to tell stories that aren't usually told in the legacy newsroom that you know the big newsrooms. And when I was saying, wow, why was important to me is because I feel like the story about harassment of Asians, and that's finally being heard of a bit now, but I, I have witnessed it. Unfortunately, you know, for all my life. And when I tell my friends who aren't Asian about some of the bullying, and the just bad harassment. I've had people are surprised you know like, I can't believe that what happened, but it's has been happening, and even more so now. And usually, the words they say is go home, where you belong. So, it's funny that you're saying, asking about belonging. I was born and raised here in the United States and Chicago. And yet, just because of the way I look. You know, you're still, you're still being, I'm still being questioned whether I belong here.
Arielle: Being “othered” on appearance. right, and it's me that's the whole point that's, this is exactly the point of what I'm trying to bring to light, because I feel like, you know, if you haven't been in any sort of category of Other or haven't noticed that there are just a lot, I mean it's just gonna say it's mostly white people have this experience, although I would say that if you're in any sort of very insular community this can happen. [Diane]Yes. [Arielle] You're not having contact with other people, quote unquote, but the pain, whether it happens one time or whether it happens every day. It is so help it's just like you're saying you are we were born. We're based here, be told to go, you know, and that is an Asian, particularly as with aging discrimination has been a thing in our country since its insistence Asian people were here, right, yeah.
Diane: Yes, obviously, back in the 1930s versus, there was this exclusion at first Chinese, it's the Chinese were the only race that's ever been banned from coming over to United States. And so, so there's the history of it, and yet it I know for many folks, it's, it's surprising. But what's, you know, obviously, I've been growing up with it, and it just saddens me to see that even, you know, here it is 25 years later, and my daughters are still hearing that, you know you. We hope that there's change and progress, and it feels sad to try to feel like I must explain why I belong, that made that's what I had to justify it. Yeah, and tied to feel like, no, I did this I did this, why do I have to prove why I'm American. And so, so, I think your idea of doing a series about belonging is so critical because we can't talk enough about it and so hopefully, we do make that progress.
Arielle: So, I'm curious knowing about. I didn't know that, but that was the only know that the chip [inaudible] the Chinese excuse I knew about the ties, but I didn't really realize that was the only sort of ban.
Diane: There were words said that you can't come to the United States.
Arielle: Then the Muslim ban happened was that a similar, I mean, how did that feel I guess and what it [inaudible]?
Diane: Yeah no, it feels, It felt dangerous you know, I, it just, when you start off with a small, kind of, decree, it's, it's easy to become bigger, and, like, I think, at that time they even talked about, this is even the Muslim This is about the borders in Mexico, there was comments about there's camps like the Japanese camps, it worked then and so maybe we could do it now I'm going what? It worked. [Arielle] What do you mean by worked? [Diane] we weren't yeah, he was terrific, and we didn't want to repeat, and I think people forget whatever new or never. Never know yeah and then another film I'm working about is a book based on two young people, a Chinese boy he falls in love with a Japanese girl just before she goes into the camps. And a big part of that was I thought that what I would love the idea of two leads who are Asian, who did a bit of film, which doesn't happen as often as I would love. And, but also it was a way to talk about the camps in a way that isn't, you know, preachy or anything it's within that story is a love story. But when I was telling people about love, so many young people would say, I didn't even know the camps happens or they couldn't believe it. No, that couldn't have happened. That can't happen here. And unfortunately, it did, and we don't want it to happen again.
Arielle: No, it continues to win so I'm making my third film and the series is about family, the mother was born at Manzanar in the car surgeon camps and I am. My first two films, I guess I just have to say I've knew a lot more I've been spending and spent maybe 20 years researching Argentina before I made that film and I had grown up knowing, Michael D who's a Black Panther so I knew more about that but this third film this one about Japanese incarceration and the legacy of that I am. I'm so ignorant. I mean I'm, I've read the hotel on the corner of bittersweet and I get, and I've watched a lot of documentaries and what I love your film that you're great at, wherever you shared that with me just all the material I've read books, but there's so it's like wow it's gonna take me so long to at all possibly absorb the impact of that and what happened and how just how it's been so whitewashed how it's just been, yeah Lord and I mean I just read this book by a coffee table book by Richard Callahan and I'm gonna forget the coauthor.
They came for us when they came for us, I think it's what it's called. Yeah. And, you know, the government document and what they did because obviously there was a sense of, they didn't think they were doing anything wrong. Right, yeah, hired photographers to take pictures of what they did. Now obviously there were limits to that too but still it just shows a lot about the mentality that prevails today to have sort of might over rights, right, you know, who were okay dehumanizing, these people because they look different or, you know, it's just that sort of idea of alien and all fundamentally, I think something I have a problem with so.
Diane: Yeah, I mean, I'm so glad you're doing all that research, I said the book hotel I've been working on it now over four years and I'm still learning, it's, it's, it's a lot to like you said comprehend and learn the advantage of what up today even.
Arielle: I just realized I'm like I can't do this justice, if I don't know more and I'm gonna make the right to make this film the best possible film I want to be really well informed, because I have, I don't know how your creative process but for me sometimes I kind of want to isolate from too much information outside so I don't let it tinge l us the story but I'm almost done filming. So now it's more about the postproduction process and I'm like, well for that to tell the story with what we had, I want to make sure I'm got this backstory really.
Diane: Yeah, to be as authentic as possible, and I think that's, that's smart.
Arielle: So, I'm curious for you. Was there were when you were growing up, did you feel the greatest sense of belonging, as a kid?
Diane: Well, I have to say I had a great childhood. I grew up in Andersonville, before it became hip like this great neighborhood where all the kids on the block would play together and I would have to say, I feel like I was so lucky to have so many friends, even. And I felt like I had such a great family and mom, and dad is just love this so much. Even though my mom and dad work 24/7, at their Chinese restaurant, you know, it's like a Monday to Sunday seven days a week, they were at the restaurant. And yet they always made me feel like I had a family who loves me and care for me and everything they were doing was for me and my brother and sister for a better life for us. I guess that's nothing like that to make you feel like you belong. I mean I had a great family, and I like I said a great childhood, and I really love my school and we, we, it was a mixture of all different races, and I don't think I ever thought about being Chinese is to tell you the truth, it was such a blend of folks. It was only when I think it was about eight years old when I had my first incident where an older man. That was a first time they talk, go home where you belong.
Arielle: Where you're like walking down the street and someone doesn't need to tell you
Diane: I know I was okay that sounds bad, but I was at the vending machine, and the candy wasn't coming out, so I was getting it going like, it goes. Just go back where you belong. Go back where this was made, the vending machine was both, I guess, thinking, made in Japan, or made in China or whatever. So, like just standing around what, what does he mean go. But if those were. So those incidents happen, but in general I feel like that my school was just like a great blend all of us were very middle class or I thought accepting of everyone in general.
Arielle: When that happened with that man did you take that home and tell your parents since you was there?
Diane: I think I did tell my mom and dad, but, you know, it sounds like. Like my mom and dad are strong and especially my mom and they, they don't back down, just like, I don't usually either. Even if I know like I can get my butt kicked. You know, but I think in general, I think that Asian culture we're taught to like not to fight back or don’t say too much. And so, you know, they would tell me it's wrong, but not necessarily like, you know, he should fight back or anything, it's just, unfortunately, it's wrong, and you're going to get that as you grow up. So, in terms of belonging, I felt like I always belonged, I think the hardest, was the first time I didn't feel like that, other than these comments, was when I went to college, Wisconsin, where, you know, in the 1000’s maybe there was six Asian. That was the first time if it looked different than as well and I feel like I mean I don't know.
Arielle: This is kind of a tangent, but I'm like, I think about those that stereotype or stereotypical sort of good immigrant groups quote unquote right or like the, the immigrants that we want and the ones we don't and so I feel like in stereotype fashion a lot of times Asian people get lumped in and I also think the term Asian is kind of strange honestly because Asia is so huge and encompasses so many different countries and cultures and languages and right, it's kind of ignorant I feel like that we even do that loving Yeah, yeah, but we do. So was there, like when you were in this environment finally where you were maybe one of the only ways out of that. How did that feel and what is kind of your handling?
Diane: I think, in many, I felt many different things like. So, in the beginning it was strange because I got a lot of comments like, oh, it must be hard to adjust to the cold because everyone is so many assumed I was for a while, you know, somewhere war. And I'm like, it’s not that different than Chicago Wisconsin but, so I had to get used to like those kind of comments questions and comments, not necessarily trying to be mean by just assumptions, assumptions, or ignorance, you know more or that you just assume that this is the way not to be mean. And so, I had to get used to that, and, and not take it personally necessarily but just saying like, Okay, this is my weak way to teach people. But then on the other hand, I did get comments too, especially from people in the town, telling me to go backward when I would walk. So that was hard, and again I'm just one of those feisty people who are used about like what do you mean I belong here as much as you, but it's then I came to a point I forgot who told me this is when you get so upset, because it would make me upset for days and weeks, you're letting them win. That's what they want to do is to just eat very, they probably after they said that they don't think about it again. But meanwhile, for me I'm being tortured and feelings, so not belonging and feeling so angry, and feeling so much like I have no strike there, you know just was like having that emotional wind knocked out of me like, yeah.
Arielle: Those things happen.
Arielle: Yeah, I've only I mean, as you know, I obviously most people assume that I'm just some weird lady, but I mean I was raised Jewish which I don't focus on and I'm not necessarily been a practicing Jew, but I did have some moments of anti-semitism traveling, and it was so the first time it happened it was, I mean it was devastating.
He was a friend of me.
We were both Jewish, he was a European Jews from here we were traveling in Italy and it was just the most devastating feeling and it was like the first time where I'm I was 18 and I was like, oh, like my whole life I've been sheltered I guess I grew up with enough Jews around me with disorder, there was enough Jews around but it wasn't such a big thing right and I felt like my grandparents and my great grandmother were always talking about anti-semitism and I was kind of like, oh gosh what they're just focused on that and it's not really a thing any more than it happened and I was like, oh my god, I mean I cried for days.
Diane: Yeah, it's exactly that it's that word is, is how I felt devastated, you know, when every time that would happen, I just, it would just bring me down so much. Actually, I would say it's so after college I went to USC for grad school thinking I'm gonna go to LA where there's so many Asians and such a melting pot that surely, you're not going to come across, racism, and within the first week, I was walking on the beach with my some of my new friends and someone carved out in the sand. I hate to say this word shakes. And that was specific the first week and that's when I, again, I'm like devastated like, oh, you can't run away from it, it's, it's just, unfortunately there. And so that's when I came to the realization like. So how am I going to deal with it and learn that since I can't run away from it and how can I not let it consume me, either to the not let them win that they allow me to feel smaller than I am.
Arielle: And that's, I mean, in some ways that's like that sort of question I started with it's like taking those tragedies or awful moments or like the things that could just flatten you and using instead, to make it movie, like drive me forward. Right, right, right. And so, I mean I'm just curious, did you grow up speaking Chinese by the way.
Diane: No, unfortunately. I regret it now definitely, I mean I've regretted for a long time, but I'm not magic. I think I spoke a little bit of Chinese, growing up, before I went to school you know five years old, but once I got into school, I never spoke Chinese and my father he had come, when he was young, and so he spoke English to me mostly. And my mom, who came here when she was 19 when she married my dad. She spoke to me in Chinese, but she understood enough English that I can speak back to her in English, I, you know, to be honest I kind of didn't want to speak Chinese is back to the feeling of I don't want to think of yourself as other you know I'm in America, I want to speak English. So, when my son was, I think was junior year of college, He went to Beijing to study for a year, a semester, and his good friend. Then who was white, also went then spoke perfect Mandarin, my son was like him. So, when they got to China, people would keep going up the Chris and Chris is like pointing the bed like he's the one he's the one you need to talk to my friends.
Diane: Yeah, but what was great. I'll never forget his being there for that half a year, he had to take classes where they only would speak Chinese and so he picked up a lot of Chinese, and when he came home, my mom was so happy that she had someone who could speak Chinese with her, and I was so proud of them.
Arielle: Where these days do you find your greatest sense of belonging, where do you feel really?
Diane: I still feel it with my family, you know, I can't say enough how much my, my three daughters in this pursuit of making film, and my husband, they've been so supportive of me all always like my biggest cheerleaders, they are always there for me. And when I'm, and now have a Danny's part of the family, where, when I was, my family, it's, it's the best. And then, now this community of filmmakers, I have to say, I feel so grateful I've been doing this now. Since 2015 started producing 2016 So it's been just over, like five years, and the community of filmmakers, just have been so kind to me and have helped me in so many ways. And really, I think it's a feeling that whoever I need to go to I feel like I can reach out and they're willing to help. Versus, either they get when I was in LA, you know that you always get worn its cutthroat and watch your back and all that.
Arielle: I never felt that way, here in Chicago and in documentaries. I feel like there's a generosity of spirit.
Diane: Yeah. And so along with being able to trust her with their story is so true and so often people choose these stories to tell, even knowing they're not going to make tons of money isn't any money at all, because they're so passionate about a lot about the topics and feeling that these stories need to be told.
Arielle: Storytelling is powerful. Have you read My Grandmother's Hands by Resmaa Menakem yet? [Diane] No [Arielle] it's a beautiful book about healing racial trauma is focusing particularly on white, black and police bodies but it really is, can be, I think applicable in any, any of us. But in that he was talking about sort of the communal. The first the human need for belonging, and just part of that being necessarily community so we do need is, on some level, something we need internally just the function that then that happens only with other people. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so yeah, we must find our tribes, and it doesn't mean I think that it's not the same as like tribalism that it has that negative connotation of separatists, right, right, it's like the tribes that can converge to.
Diane: And yeah, that's it I feel like we keep growing, you know as new filmmakers come in, we just, you know, reach out or arms in cases, growing.
Arielle: You've had amazing success for a short time, like a golden touch.
Diane: I feel very lucky that way too, and that, you know so many people helped me along the way. Yeah, it's just been great, and I've been able to work with so many great people.
Arielle: Someone asked me a good question that is a theme of all my films. And it just is something that I'm curious about in general and I love to hear people. What is freedom? How do you define freedom?
Diane: To me it's to be able to live your life the way you want to, which means doing what, you know, if you don't hurt anyone else. Follow your passion, speaking, and say how you feel. Yeah, just living the life in the way you want to versus being put in categories or being told what you can do or can't do. But always, for me at least, with knowledge that whatever I do, I don't want to hurt others, you know, it's like with some respect for others. So, I want to be able to do what I want to do, but not at the expense of others if it's going to hurt anyone.
Arielle: Well, I think that’s it. I think that's the difference I think we can infuse freedom and license right like doesn't mean. Do whatever you want. No matter what, there's right there's a responsibility that goes with it. Right, so where and when do you feel the freest or have you felt the most put in your life.
Diane: I can't even pinpoint it but different times when all my family was together, my kids, you know like on vacation, and just enjoy each other, to me that's so great. Just sitting with friends, outdoors and having a nice dinner today it's like so free like you can just enjoy the moment.
Arielle: I probably will say dining as the most beautiful smile on her face, imagining this, and is it funny those things like that just having a simple meal with that's become so precious now.
Diane: Yeah, I have to say well, this summer, during the pandemic. When my kids came home. The three girls and Danny, we had dinner outside on the patio to make sure it's outside it's social justice and we invited one of one family to come over and we sat through the whole night outside, just enjoying the food and outdoors, and each other's company. That to me was one of my favorites, and it was in the middle of the fence, but that was one of my favorite things.
Arielle: This whole last five years, even, you know, I would agree. I mean I feel like we had some beautiful moments like that that summer to dads that were just like, oh, yes, because there's something about a pandemic that makes it so that you just don't take anything for granted. Granted, especially that connection, time, and your relationships and just being able to laugh with people it's like, it's everything.
Diane: Yeah, all those things were so memorable, like being able to laugh, or either just eating or without a mask, without being someone I hadn't we hadn't seen all, you know since the pandemic, and so if you do appreciate those times and to me that felt so free, like, even though I can’t still go anywhere else, just to be in that backyard.
Arielle: It was like, so great for and you had been similar leaders more than me I would have been traveling way too much but I think you've had just such that you were on such a jet setting path of so much business and travel and, yeah, then everything stopped. So, I mean, was there freedom in that anyway even though it was probably devastating at the same time.
Diane: Well, the interesting thing is I don't really like to travel. So, it's kind of my anatomy plane, and especially after losing my son, I'm more of a homebody. So, I literally always just had my suitcase out, and would wash it and enjoy that game. So it was kind of nice that in that way, But the part I did love to travel, I know I bring this up all the time I got to see my, my girls all the time they're all three in San Francisco, and sometimes they would meet me if I was having a screening somewhere else they would meet me so we saw each other so often, so that was, that was the toughest part about not being able to travel that was the longest period where I didn't see them.
Arielle: What is power like true power, and how would you define that?
Diane: Being able to have things happen, or make things happen in a way where it's beyond. It's not because of me. It's because of something else that I'm able to make it happen. I guess, for instance, like be able to call some people now that I couldn't pay for my day the gap happened before the Academy Award, which a lot open so many doors. Now I can and I sit there is a kind of power to because now I can call him, but it has nothing to do with me. Yeah, but you want to use it in the best way possible. I don't know.
Arielle: Yeah, so is that are you kind of saying that it's like a sort of bigger hand and like a momentum like something pushing you forward or something that like a confidence.
Diane: You know, things that have been are now available to me that I didn't have before, which again is not necessarily because I'm smarter or richer or anything, but I now have that ability to us that that has been given to me.
Arielle: That's interesting in the sense to have like who, like what the power structures of our society has been traditionally. And maybe feeling in power, especially as a woman in the film industry, I mean I just think that people still don't realize how few women. And then, I don't know how many you know Chinese American women are like just you get into these categories that we don't want to be defined by but are ways that we are defined by the outside and then it gets to be smaller and smaller percentages.
Diane: Yeah, definitely. It is empowering once, certain things happen and so again it's not because I became any smarter or yourself it's just yeah, it's just that because of circumstances. Now I'm allowed to be able to talk to certain people that I couldn't speak to the form.
Arielle: There's so much to about because the way our society works and how, how we quantify.
Diane: Yeah. Yeah, and I hope, with the additional empowerment, I can continue to do that.
Arielle: I'm sure you will have such a big heart. So, what about because of, because I don't know if you know this about me but I just Mr. Rogers was such a huge impact on my life, and the sort of sense of neighbors Beyond Borders beyond neighborhoods, all of that. So how do you conceptualize neighbors or neighborly you said you grew up in a neighborhood with lots of kids outside and sort of feeling belonging. What do you do in sort of the ideal and the practical everyday how does it How does neighbors fit into your world?
Diane: I didn't grow with Mr. Rogers, not that I mean he was around, it's just something I didn't watch, and then I watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor the documentary that I highly recommend. Stop through. I did too. I mean, I was just like, nah, like, and he touched me in so many ways and how he treats children, especially with so much respect and care and love, and love. Yes, like, just wanted to help these kids I mean it just was amazing to me after seeing that. I felt bad that I didn't watch it.
Arielle: I've been watching it lately, by the way just like sometimes I'll just put it on, and I feel like he was speaking to those kids. Yeah, but also now as an adult, I'm like he's also speaking to their parents.
Diane: Oh yeah, right. When I was watching the documentary. I thought that a lot like these messages are for adults, in many ways and it's great if the kids get it, but in many ways it's, it's more apt for adults but. So, for neighbors, I live in a great neighborhood. And my neighbor next door, she is the ultimate neighbor data. And I'll have to bring that I bring that down, because, you know, we've been through a lot together.
She has six boys, and I had my four kids, and they just grew up together because so much of it overlaps. And she helped me through with Chris you know she was there from the second she heard. So, your neighbors are important to me that live right here next to me. But then, I feel like neighbors are just friends that I feel like I can always count on and Marcia who brought me to Sunday nights, I found her. I call her as if she saw next door.
When or texture when we're watching the news and going crazy about what's happening with the lovers, or to talk to her about it, you know, a new film that we both want to watch, and, and talk about. Sure. I think neighbors are, to me, those folks who can turn to, whether they're right next door, or she lives in LA or far away.
Arielle: I know you're working on, I looked at your films, you know your files like oh my gosh they're doing so many things but whatever you're doing. I thought I was busy. What are in all the work you're doing all the films you're making and producing what, how do you see them being a part of this, what I'm hoping is this paradigm shift from us and moving to just.
Diane: That's, that's such a great question and one of the films that it's coming out this Spring is about Wu Han. And I think the, the, it's all there a day and it's falling by families, and characters, it's not about like what's happening in the hospital right now and the statistics and all that, it's really to show that these are the families going through it, the first community going through the pandemic, and how is that so unlike the way we had to deal with it here, so that the hope is to show that in the end we're all in this battle together We're all the same and so many ways. So that is the shared humanity. The shared humanity of fighting this pandemic that nobody wants.
Nobody wanted to put upon anybody, but we're all hopefully to be here together to fight it, what in a way we can. So that, that film is coming out. And then, another film coming out this spring is or this summer, early summer is Gordon Quinn, the founder Cortez and Leslie center, who's this is her first film directing about a Left-handed Pianist. So, he was paralyzed on the right side so you can only play with his left hand, and now he, and he didn't get discovered so he's 78 years old, by Howard Reich, who is my co producer, and he's here in Chicago. And I think for there we want to again so that you, you belong. It doesn't hear heated. He doesn't focus on his disability, he focuses on his love for music, and that again is something we so many of us share, and how we can use that to overcome the terrible things in life like you, we started with, for him, he had a tragedy that he brought music, because his strength, as he said music saved him. And then the team new films that are in production was here in Chicago, about a father son relationship.
And the fathers in prison. He's been there for 13 years, and his son is now 22, and they're trying to, he's still in prison, they're trying to rebuild their relationship. And we were when we were showing our EP some of the footage, we realize he's going through so much. The sun but not unlike so many kids, you know, across the country. And so hopefully just like mine in a gap where hopefully that will allow other teenagers to talk about their feelings, or young people, especially young men, to talk about their feelings and father son relationships. And then, like I mentioned, the 19th news team that we're following this new newsroom, I really hope to show that there's so many stories not being told, and how by telling them, it will just be better for everybody, you know, not just the communities for telling the topics telling the story about but for that it just makes a better community for everyone.
Arielle: There's so many things but the focus like what we focus on right what we pay attention to the stories we tell the ways we tell them that all matters and I feel like you're part of the vanguard of bringing out more stories that haven't been told in new ways, you have such a, such a grounding calming, but also inspiring presence that shows, I'm sure you're helping all these filmmakers, you know, we, because it takes a lot I mean anyone listening doesn't know how long. Documentaries take a long time to be out and their dad always or often moneymakers people don't.
Yeah, he was a drunk he murders for the money I mean, it tells people, don't give up your day job, I mean like, Yeah, I mean if you must have more passion and perseverance to do this work than anything. And then if you get lucky and get in the right situations you know you can have maybe that what comes from that is then the ability to tell more stories right what seems like what's happening to you.
Diane: Yeah, exactly, you know, there were many years where I wasn't in. Unfortunately, I wasn't dirty in any money while we're making it, but then now that a couple have sold and could can be paid, it just, to me, allows me to balance so I can then work on some other films that doesn't necessarily have funding yet, but hopefully one day,
Arielle: Well, so that, yeah, this cycle can continue. Independent film still does exist.
Diane: Yeah. Yeah, and I see so many great stories and films out there, it's just amazing. It's just amazing. I'm really, and a lot it was in the Chicago community, proud like what you're doing. I mean really is a party we met, that so many great filmmakers were at that party.
Arielle: It's such a great, I mean I missed that this year a lot just not because that was a place, I feel like it can also be as a document I felt like there can kind of be a lonely road or maybe the way I'm doing it. I mean I hate my community there's not necessarily a built-in thing because you can get. You're so busy doing the work and getting and being focused on that, that it is important to find other people that you can. Yeah, talk to and share your progress and your stumbling blocks and all that. I've met amazing people.
Diane: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, and I feel lucky to and so many, the directors I work with to really because documentaries take so long, it's so important that you work with people that we really like, we really like it because like you said to it's so lonely sometimes.
Arielle: Sometimes it's just the two of you or the three of you or me myself and I
Diane: We are the director, producer, editor, yeah.
Arielle: So, what are your, what are some of your daily practices that you do to keep yourself motivated centered inspired, you know aligned with your values, amidst all the business.
Diane: I'm a strong Christian, and that's how I got through losing my son, and to be able to just at least keep moving forward. So, every morning I start with my devotions and, yeah, it's just reading the Bible, and then I have to say I'm a workaholic, so most of the days then working but there's a couple things. I'm lucky I was part of the Sundance, create a producing fellowship and one of the things they allowed was to give us time with a life coach, and she Debbie Downer has been so great.
And I hope we're, we just stay friends after our sessions are over, but it's been so grounding for her to remind me of like how to handle situations so that it doesn't overtake me that I remember like what's important in life, and not to go there before you need to, which I am a worrier and I have to learn to like, know when to not worry because it's just life is too short, you know, so she's been great with so much you can control with so much you can control, including like the racism. There's so much I can control so do what I can to find it, but don't let it overtake me to the point where I can't do the good things to fight it, if you know what I mean. And then my daughter asked as a Christmas present for her husband. One of those rigging. I don't know what you call it, it's not the Tibetan yeah it is.
Arielle: Grounded theory. If you're having like a stressful worry moment.
Diane: Just go for it, I'll just do it. it's gonna like this, it's like a reset. Yeah, yeah, just as like stop and take a deep breath. Those are my little tricks, and then spend whenever I can save any time to like, spend some time with my family. It always puts me back in my place like what matters.
Arielle: What you said about the life coach so I would say I used to be a workaholic. I feel like I'm not anymore, for better or worse, because I'm sure I got more done better. But I don't think I'd be a mom if it wasn't for my, my business and a business coach but basically at the beginning, she said. My first assignment my first assignment was write down a list of 100 things you like to do. And so, I wrote that list and the next week she was like, Okay, next assignment, take two days off in a row, do those things. That's so great, that was so hard at first it was like, what I can't take sooner if I take two days off in a row if I have a normal weekend, even if it's Monday, Tuesday, whatever, what's gonna happen to my business is gonna fall apart or I'm not gonna get anything, you know, was it was so fun. First, but it gave me the space to create more of the life I wanted. Yeah, and more room and to find my editor which was amazing and get prepped I feel like I qualified creditor all the time with that I became a mom because she told me to slow down. Yeah, I don't know if I could have had the space in my life for, and I always wanted to be a mom. So, it's, it's important.
Diane: Yeah, that's great. Yeah, you're so right. You need to like almost, step back, to get more.
Arielle: You must make room for it. Yeah, but you want. I also am not a Christian I don't identify as any religion, but I also start my day was writing, basically I write I begin and end my day with gratitude of some kind, sort of a morning is kind of more prayer like and asking for things but in the form of Thank you. Yeah, maybe that's a little bit like Santa Claus because I'm like, Thanks for giving me this project. Yeah, it's, it's connection to something bigger than myself which Yeah, I know there's I know anything I've achieved is because of that just because of me. It's because of something greater than me and the other people in my life, helped.
So I'm excited but this is kind of a similar question but not exactly I mean, what are the things, especially during this COVID time that have given you the most, hope, and has lifted your spirit and has kept you going besides the daily things to serve as a bigger overall things because this has been a year, not just with COVID But we've had all of the rebellion we've had all of the horrible massacre of black people and other people and so much racism and it just can feel so overwhelming. Yeah, so what, what, how you keep yourself.
Hopeful if you are hopeful.
You seem hopeful.
Diane: Oh gosh, that was a hard one because I do feel hopeful but I'm not quite sure what it is that's making me feel hopeful, when you think about like all these things that happened this year like I did lose my father this year I mean there's so many things, but I know what keeps me hopeful because I am.
Arielle: You can see it I can feel it in your energy, maybe that's why I was drawn to when I met you too because I think maybe that's what you're introduced to us because we have a similar sort of optimism, no matter even if it's, I think of it as like a little bit of the best kind of foolishness. Yeah. Are you a fool but you know what I'm saying? Yeah, for yeah like okay, things just seem terrible, but I really feel like it's gonna get better.
Diane: I always try to feel that way. So, I'm not sure if there's something that's caused me to feel hopeful in this year at least. I mean I would have to say like the Black Lives Matter movement to see like conversations were happening in a bigger way versus in a story and then by the next week it was gone. It gave me hope that maybe change can finally start happening so that did give me hope, the election, I mean, I don't know who we're supposed to talk about. But you turn the tide turn turns and the day they announced that finally that they can announce that President Biden is the winner, and other news he saw the people celebrate that day I felt so hopeful like. Finally, I can breathe like this weight was off my shoulder and people came through, like seeing my muscle my three daughters, there, they were much more active than me they wrote all those letters you know to tell people to vote, and called people, and I heard that about so many young people that gave me hope that they use are going to are going to hopefully like change. Things that haven’t happened in in my lifetime yeah, I feel old.
Arielle: Yes, and it's, I'm so sorry to hear about your father first, I feel that yes, there's something, sometimes things have to get maybe really low like we have to hit a rock bottom, which I feel, and hope that we just did that in the past four years, like I hope that was our bottom.
Diane: I hope so too. And then everything is going, you know, up from here.
Arielle: I always say, and I mean I always say if I were to meet, you know, the former president I would thank him because it was because of his small mindedness and hate. What he promoted that I was inspired to do everything I've done in the past four years because it just couldn't believe that that was, I didn't want to live in that world and I didn't want to have that country and I just know, like.
Diane: Yeah, I'm accepted.
Arielle: I feel grateful anyway for that horrible time because it woke me up. Yeah, it made me more active than I had been right. So, is that you know duels, it's not dualism because it's not this or that it's like this this whole gray area and I feel like that's where stories come into where we must tell the full human picture of things.
Diane: Yeah, I'll never forget when four years ago, during the election, the so many other Kartemquin community came together and we were all crying, just so much sadness and anger and fear for the future. And I remember us talking saying about how it is more important now is not to give up and to tell the stories, because now more than ever, we must be sure that you know the ROG side doesn't become overwhelming that these stories come out and you're so right. I don't know if I could say thank you.
Arielle: I mean guys I don't know guys I've never had that situation, but I like to think that I would, I would do that.
Diane: Knowing you, I know you. You are so gracious and kind.
Arielle: You would do I remember better or worse. Well, I feel like part of my role, especially as an interviewer in my documentaries is to hold space for whoever I'm with and so often I've been across from people I have very different beliefs or stories than I can, so I'm not going to get anywhere judging them.
Diane: Yeah, yeah. So, you're a good listener.
Arielle: And yeah, I want to, I love to ask this question because I think it's important to also share what we're reading. So, what are you, are you a reader, do you like to read, or do I act?
Diane: I do love to read but I have, I haven't read a book in it, probably at least a half a year.
Arielle: So what was the last either what are your top three books that you love at all time that we can put in our we have a list a resource guide and we love to add these to that, and also put them in the show notes so what are like the books that most influenced you. If you can say that, or just the last two books you love.
Diane: To read and love. Like, one of my all-time favorites is the hotel on quarter, a bitter and sweet and that's why I really did want to make a film. Yeah, it's, it's just, I guess fortunately and unfortunately, it resonates even now, because it talks about being other and identity here in America, to everything you're talking about belonging. And it's, but at the heart of it is a beautiful love story and I'm a sucker for love stories.
Arielle: So that book I think I told you this, but My Grandmother’s Hands, when that came out, she just kept telling me to read that book just kept on, I just didn't read it, and then when I met you know so don't be universal. But one of the things that I don't, I think, I didn't know, and I assume a lot of people listening might not know is that during that time, when the Japanese removal happened. Anyone who is not Japanese, especially kids, their parents would put a pair or, or some sort of identifying thing to say that they were not Japanese or that they were Chinese, so that they wouldn't get taken also. And that's just, I mean I get chills thinking about that. Yeah, it's so sad. It's so sad and it's not I mean, we think about the yellow stars and the Holocaust with Jews, right.
Yeah, I mean it's, it's a weird because it's kind of the opposite, right, right, right, I'm not this thing right but it's still that identification with someone who's being traumatized, we derive the same trauma and you're saying, I'm not part of that. Yeah, when we distance ourselves which is so dehumanizing. Yeah, yeah. No, that's true. So, I'm gonna, we'll add all your links to the show notes and being here it was such a great year. Wow.
Diane: Thank you for inviting me and thank you for doing what you're doing, it's important.