It was my pleasure to have a chat with producer, director, writer, choreographer and dancer – Diliana Gravina. Along with Christina Ochoa, she is one half of QE Productions – a small, but up and coming production company in LA and yours truly has had the delight of working with them.
With the gloom of an October evening outside my house, and no doubt the warm glow of an LA morning outside of hers, we had a great conversation over Skype. Although it was occasionally interrupted by my two young daughters desperate to see themselves on Skype.
I started where all good stories start, at the beginning. Diliana told me how QE Productions came about.
"It was Christina who started QE [Quantum Entanglement] Productions. She's an actress and a science communicator, which, naturally, inspired the company name. She wears a lot of hats just like all of us in entertainment do, but ultimately Christina wanted to take her career into her own hands by creating original content. One of her first projects was a short film called "Stay With Me". It’s the project that serendipitous-ly brought us together. I saw the film at a festival, where it received multiple awards, including “best actress”, and a month later, Christina walked into my office."
This is where I butted in and told Diliana that I had actually seen the film (which is very good by the way).
"What's funny is that I remember thinking "I really love this actress - there's something amazing about her” so imagine my enthusiasm when she started consulting at the company that I worked at – Framework, an entertainment marketing production company. We instantly became friends and joined forces under QE Productions. We were aligned on so many levels. Our taste, mission and creative approach regarding the type of content we wanted to produce were in sync.
When I joined, Christina already had a feature length documentary and a science TV show in development. Both projects went through various stages of transformation and through the process we learned a great amount about working together. We also realised that in order to maximise the quality and quantity of our work, we needed to team up with other talented people, whose abilities compliment ours. We needed writers - and that's when we met you! You are a really good fit, because you are creative, punctual, easy to work with, and so great at implementing suggestions. Teaming up with multiple writers gave us the bandwidth to develop a variety of projects, ranging from short form & podcasts, to features, TV shows and even designing apparel.
One of QE’s priorities is environment conservation. We team up with non-profit organisations in order to bring awareness to current environment issues and educate our community on the impact individuals have on the world. We recently visited Belize, and with the help of the city, tourism board organisations like Earth’s Oceans and Oceana, we were able to produce a PSA about the current condition of the Barrier Reef and ocean life there."
Not only is Diliana part of QE, but she does many other interesting and varied things within the media. So we headed down that avenue for a while.
"I worked for two production companies. I was Head of Production at Framework for a few years and the Executive Producer at Stadium, a boutique-advertising agency. I was in charge of finding new business, managing clients, and overseeing projects from concept to delivery. I did that for six and a half years, learned a ton, and met a lot of people. I continue to freelance produce, but right now I am personally developing my voice as a director.
Storytelling is really important to me. Storytelling is in everything, right? It could be a short film or a 60-second commercial, but because of short form and advertising, I have learned what is essential to tell a good story.
I’ve begun collaborating with two female singer/songwriters, recently. My husband is a composer, so I have a lot of musicians around me all the time. I also have a strong background in dance and choreography so my abstract, movement-inspired ideas appeal to music artists."
While we were on the subject of music, I remembered that Diliana is also in a band – I have no idea where she gets the time. I took a listen, and honestly, they are darn fine.
"Yes, true. Do I sound crazy yet? I’m in a band called Yony. We have an indie pop/rock sound, we like to dress up, goof around and have a really good time on stage. We have a show coming up before Halloween, but if you are not in Los Angels you can check us out on Spotify!"
On to the Exit 6 Film Festival – I go through what the festival is all about and how well received it’s been over the last two years. I explain that it’s going to be one of the biggest film festivals in Europe – I may have embellished somewhat. Anyway, I thought it would be good to hear Diliana’s thoughts on short film making and whether she thinks it's a good place to start out.
"Yes, short form is the perfect platform to experiment, sharpen your tools, and hone in on the essential elements of a good story. You figure out how to engage the audience and how to develop three-dimensional characters quickly. As a filmmaker it is easy to come up with excuses for why not to produce original ideas. The whole process is very complex and a huge money and time commitment. I've been guilty of making them too, but then every once in a while, clarity washes over me and I'll realise, "The people that are making it, are the people that are doing it". And that's the bottom-line – as a creative, you just can't wait for other people to validate you and give you an opportunity. It’s up to you to carve your own path to your dreams!"
We move on to the age old problem in the industry – the under-representation of women in the industry and we chat a little bit about whether the gap between male and female filmmakers is coming together especially in Hollywood.
"The exciting thing is that I do see a lot of female professionals rise up around me. I notice a lot of women starting to put themselves out there, and take charge of projects that they have never before been considered for. I have friends with creative ambitions who are stepping out of the shadows, writing and directing their own work, following their passion! It’s happening at all levels of the industry. There are still challenges women have to overcome. For example, Christina’s Sci-Fi TV show, Blood Drive, was actively looking for female directors, however having a hard time finding options in the grindhouse genre. I'm an optimist and believe it’s only a matter of time before social perceptions and the limitations we [women] put on ourselves meet in the middle, and we are unstoppable!"
On that optimistic note, we start to wrap up. We briefly talk about a writing project that Diliana is working on – which I can’t wait to read – and the types of films she would like to direct, which could be soon.
Who knows? Maybe next year, we’ll see one at the festival.
You can follow QE Productions on Twitter: @QEProductions
Keep up to date with QE Productions projects via their website.