Dancer to Executive Producer with Diane Mizota | Ep #15
Diane Mizota began her career in Hollywood as a professional dancer, dancing for Prince, in commercials, and on the Academy Awards. She transitioned to acting and has been seen in countless roles on TV and on the big screen. Diane has also been a host of shows like Trading Spaces: Boys vs Girls, Access Hollywood, and more. Diane continues to work on-camera, but has also pivoted behind the camera as an Executive Producer running her own production company in Los Angeles. All of this while being a single mom! On this episode of Second Act Success, Diane discusses each level of her career, the ups and downs of Hollywood, and how she has sustained a 30+ year career in the entertainment industry. Listen to the conversation with Diane Mizota on the Second Act Success Podcast now!
CONNECT with Diane Mizota:
Instagram – @dianemizota
Zota Productions – https://zotaproductions.tv/
Profile of Success
BA in Communications Studies from UCLA
Dancer ⇒ Commercial Actress ⇒ TV and Film Actress ⇒ On-Camera Host ⇒ Executive Producer ⇒ Business Owner – Zota Productions Production Company
Personal Status: One child
Current Career Status: Executive Producer and Business Owner of Zota Productions Production Company and On-Camera Host
Future Plans: Continue working as an Executive Producer and grow her production company
Advice: “Just taking that first step is asking the question, like, ‘could I just?,’ Whatever that tiniest smallest step is, taking it and just make a beginning. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to figure it all out, but just make a beginning.”
01:43 – Introduction
02:18 – College and being a dancer
03:34 – First paid dancing job
04:47 – Dancing for Prince and in commercials, etc.
07:01 – Being a dancer and being in production are like working with big families
08:38 – Follow that tiny feeling of something that lights you up
09:41 – Getting into acting in commercials
10:47 – Discrimination in Hollywood casting when she started out
13:29 – Being an Asian woman in Hollywood
14:01 – Working as an On-Camera Host
14:35 – Working on Access Hollywood
15:08 – Working with brands
15:26 – Working with Ashton Kutcher for his Popchips campaign
17:17 – Deciding to open her own production company
20:40 – Working with woman as her clients
22:57 – Knowing so many areas of production both on-camera and behind the camera
25:59 – Producing for a big tech company
26:35 – Telling her agents she was taking a full time production job
31:54 – Managing production with her son
33:30 – Favorite aspect of the entertainment industry
34:09 – Making her Japanese-American family proud
35:40 – Hosting may fit her personality better than scripted roles
37:02 – Advice, follow your gut
39:31 – Would you recommend starting a second act to your friend?
40:26 – Maintaining working relationships in Hollywood
41:50 – Excited to help others who are on their way up
42:52 – Next chapter?
45:57 – Connect with Diane Mizota
Second Act Success Podcast
Season 1 -Episode #15 - Dancer to Executive Producer with Diane Mizota
Guest: Diane Mizota
Transcription (*created by Descript and may not be perfectly accurate)
[00:00:00] Shannon: From dancer to executive producer and so many roles along the way. Diane Mizota is about to share how she went from dancing with prince and acting on TV and in film to hosting shows and now operating her own production company.
Are you at a crossroads in your career or in life? Well, don't worry because life's next chapter is waiting. This is the Second Act Success Podcast. I am your host Shannon Russell.
I'm a television producer, turned boy mom, turned business owner, podcaster, and career coach. If you are looking to start a new career or begin a fresh chapter in life, then get ready to be inspired with stories of women who have done just that. We will share advice and offer steps you can take to help figure out what your true calling in life really is.
It is time to shine. So let's turn the page and get started.
Welcome to Second Act [00:01:00] Success.
Today's guest is Diane Mizota. I met Diane about 13 years ago or so when she was the host of a web show, I produced for Yahoo TV in Los Angeles. We spent a lot of time together on set and I quickly learned why she was everyone's favorite. From the crew to our guests. She was amazing on camera and off. I am lucky to call her friend and I can't wait for you to hear all that she has accomplished and continues to accomplish in her career. Let's meet Diane Mizota
Welcome, Diane. Thank you so much for being on the show with me.
[00:01:41] Diane: Thanks for having me,
[00:01:43] Shannon: Diane and I worked together in Los Angeles. She was the talent and I was a producer at Yahoo. That's where we first met. And it's been wonderful to stay friends with you on social media now that you're on the west coast and I'm on the east coast. I'm just so happy to catch up and hear about your [00:02:00] transitions from one part of the industry to another.
[00:02:02] Diane: I feel like I have, I've had many transits. I probably on like my 14th act and not just my second act, but you know, we can, we can just dive in wherever you want to go.
[00:02:13] Shannon: Well, let's start from the beginning. Let's start from, high school or college. Just take me back to the beginning.
[00:02:18] Diane: Sure. When I was in high school, I just loved dance. Like I just loved it to my core more than anything else. And I had one teacher, one teacher who I asked, you know, do you think I could do this professionally because I was ready to just go to college and like, okay, it's that? That's my hobby. That one teacher said, yeah. And then I was like, okay, here we go. I'm in. Went to UCLA and it's a great school, but I wanted to sort of get my degree and make my parents happy. And then I would take 15 to 20 dance classes a week on top [00:03:00] of my course load. And, uh, long story short I just loved it so much. I didn't care if I ever made any money. I didn't care if I lived in like a tiny studio apartment for the rest of my life. I just loved it. And it made me feel powerful and happy and, and, and confident. So, yeah, I was a professional dancer for gosh, probably. 10 years almost.
[00:03:29] Shannon: What was your first paid dancing job? Do you remember?
[00:03:32] Diane: Yes, I do. My first paying job was given to me by my friend, Robert, who actually, I got him on this tech company producing job with me. Now we've known each other for 30 years. He hired me to dance in this Vietnamese variety show called Paris By Night. It's like any Vietnamese friend of yours will know this show. It was basically like music videos for the Vietnamese American community. And so We would do all these dance numbers, and it was an [00:04:00] incredible training because they would do, a Samba and then they do a traditional Vietnamese dance. And then they do a hip hop number and then they, and then we just had every crazy prop and every crazy costume you could imagine. It was the best training ground that first job, they paid me $600 for three weeks of rehearsal and a show. And I had to drive to Orange County to rehearse in like a warehouse.
[00:04:28] Shannon: Oh,
[00:04:29] Diane: it was so, and I just remember thinking like, this is the sweetest money ever, because I got paid to dance and, you know, but that everybody has to start somewhere.
[00:04:39] Shannon: Absolutely. And then it just grew from there any other dancing stories that you want to share or different kinds of dancing roles that you had?
[00:04:47] Diane: I got to dance for Prince was pretty amazing. I got to dance on the Academy Awards and I got to, dance in the GAP commercial and a Friends episode and all kinds of movies and television [00:05:00] shows. It was such a fun experience. My like core group of friends now here in LA dancers, we just stuck together and I love that. Like I found my tribe of people and we've supported each other through all of life, which is such a gift, I guess that's the gift of staying in one place and living there for a really long time.
But during that time, you addition for commercials and people are like, oh, what about acting? And so then I kind of grew in that direction, I would still dance a little bit, but started to work a lot as a commercial actor. And I was like, oh my gosh, you can make, these residuals and you don't have to dance on wet concrete at 2:00 AM in a music video, this is amazing. So I started to, do that. , again, it's sort of like these people along the way, who kind of give you a little nudge, people who said, you know, maybe you should try hosting because it's a lot of the same muscles that make you successful as a [00:06:00] commercial actor, like you're comfortable in front of the camera. You can deliver copy. You are relatable and warm and like kind of, you know, not dour. I was never that kind of like dour, like serious actor. I'm a big goofball. Hosting just sort of became a natural fit for me. And it's where the work was flowing. Sometimes it's like, you can want something, but if, if it's not flowing for you in that area, then maybe kind of make a pivot and go and see where it is flowing. So that's very much what, what hosting was for me. I loved being part of a production Like actors, you come in for like one day and then you're done. You don't know anyone, you sit down for lunch and you're kind of like, I don't, what do I sit with? And the hosting I've found very much like getting to work with people, getting to build relationships with my producers and with, you know, the crew and stuff. And I found that really enjoyable.
[00:06:56] Shannon: It's more collaborative, right? You get to you're learning all different [00:07:00] sides of the production.
[00:07:01] Diane: Right. I feel like having a background as a dancer, like. Being an actor, you come on set, you go to your trailer, they bring you to work and then you go home. As dancers, when you're on set, you're always hanging out in a group you're like goofing off telling stories, eating craft service, like everybody's hanging. It's like a big family feeling. So when I started to do acting, I'm like, where is everybody hanging out? Like, oh, actors don't do that. If you're just sort of day playing here and there, you had a few days on a few shows. It's it's, it's not like that. So yeah, I really always loved collaboration and learning. As dancers, you have to understand camera movement, it's not just you doing your choreography. Sometimes you're dodging the steady cam operator and his focus puller as they're coming through a scene, or you have to understand multiple cameras are rolling and what, which angles do you play too? I think dancers are, are so well prepared [00:08:00] to jump into producing because we can see the big picture we can work as a team. We know it's not all about us. I think show people in general, get that. It's like, okay, we're putting on a show. It's like a lot of people have to contribute to making, to get this thing across the finish line
[00:08:18] Shannon: Right. And as a dancer, you're probably. Talking with the choreographer about the moves. You're not just like being told to do this exact thing. You're collaborating in that sense too, in the development of the dance?
[00:08:29] Diane: Sometimes. Yeah. It depends on the choreographer. Some choreographers are just like do it this way and that, you know, and then others are like, Hey, make it your own. So yeah, there is creative collaboration. And that comradery, you and I, before you started recording, we're talking about our kids and like what lights them up. And I, I told my son he's into volleyball and I'm like, , you know, that feeling you get when you guys, uh, work together as a team and you just won your game and you're you had that feeling. I [00:09:00] said, remember that feeling and chase that feeling because that's better than like any, substance or all kinds of other things that you could get into. Just remember what that feels like and chase that feeling. I look at my career that I've gone through so many different aspects. It's always been sort of like that feeling that passion of like, oh, I feel like I'm contributing something. I feel like I'm. You know, talented and I have something to offer. That's a really, that's a great feeling to tap into as sort of a north star. When you, when you're contemplating transition.
[00:09:40] Shannon: Excellent advice,
[00:09:41] Diane: I did some dance commercial. And I think friends were like, oh yeah, take a commercial workshop, get a commercial agent, start auditioning for stuff. Back then, so much of commercial work was just a look. If you could drink a cup of coffee and smile, you're hired, if you had the right look. When you're young, that's sort of the thing that you [00:10:00] get is like laughing and eating a burger, but it was a great education. And then I remember. I was waiting tables and, an acting teacher came in and they were like? you have such a great look like you should definitely be an actor. And they gave me their card and they probably did that. Like, I don't know, 50 times a day, I have no idea, but I just thought you think I should be an actor? And I ended up taking a course at their school and then getting a theatrical agent. Who's still my agent to this day and, auditioning for, for television and movies and all of that stuff, which to be quite honest, always felt stressful to me. Like it didn't flow in the same way that commercials did
you know, when you're young and you're auditioning for things and they say open to all ethnicities. you go in and there's like a black girl and there's, a black guy and there's, maybe a Latino woman and you, and then you see who they [00:11:00] cast and they cast like a white person as the white person's best friend. Like, I didn't recognize it at the time. Like just how much structural racism there was just, if you even looked back at an old TV episodes, they definitely weren't as diverse as they are now.
[00:11:19] Shannon: We're rewatching The Office
[00:11:21] Diane: So am I.
[00:11:22] Shannon: But are you really? , those first couple of episodes are so not, would never have made it to air now and I have my ten-year-old watching it and when he sees it and he's like, that's not right. And I'm like, oh, I know,
I just saw an article. about the Austin Powers that you were in and how, that just wasn't the best of representation at the time. And, it was an interesting article about that.
[00:11:45] Diane: At that time representation, it just wasn't as in the forefront, as it is now. And I look back at my younger self and how much I sort of internalized. the norms of this business at that [00:12:00] time, it was almost like self-limiting. There were so few people that look like me as series regulars, movie stars, in any capacity. It's hard to be it if you can't see it. I can like recognize that now, there's some sadness for when I was younger to be like, wow, you know, you were really trying to you're pounding the pavement just as much as that person over there, but your opportunities were maybe a fraction that being said, I didn't feel as limited in commercials because commercials at that time they were more diverse. Whether it was tokenism or not. It just, there was definitely more work. And as a host, I felt like my background sort of was, a net positive because then once they did start wanting diversity and people saw me more as a person and my personality than just my ethnicity. And I think in acting they'd be like, oh, well she's [00:13:00] an Asian woman. I think as a host, there was a little more leeway of like, oh, she's really funny. And she's great with kids. And she's an Asian woman. Like that's sort of how it, how it felt.
[00:13:10] Shannon: I can see that too. It's more of like, if this is scripted, this is the type of character. Whereas if you're a host it's the person, it's the personality. You probably booked most of your hosting jobs because of your personality and, and how wonderful you are on camera and how wonderful you are with the crew. It's not about your background.
[00:13:29] Diane: That's where I look back on, on the scripted side of things, they had such a limited view of Asian people at the time. Like you weren't from here. It's like, no, I was born in the valley. I've lived in California, my whole life, but they were just weren't any roles for people that looked like me. And I'm like, I don't always wanna play an immigrant. I don't always want to play, a sex worker who's trapped in a shipping container being saved by Law and Order SVU. Like that's not at all, anything I can relate to in my [00:14:00] experience. So yeah, hosting and the unscripted space, I felt like enabled me to, to be myself, to bring my perspective to things and my personality. And the work just kept coming, which was awesome. And I hosted shows about video games and about overweight pets and about kids decorating. Like I was the host of Trading Spaces: Boys vs Girls. And some kids will still email me like, oh my gosh, I remember that. So like back when those decorating shows were all the rage, it was huge
[00:14:35] Shannon: What about your partnership with, was it Rue La La that, that was how you got on Access Hollywood, right.
[00:14:41] Diane: Yeah. There was a girl who had the. job. It was a branded segment on access Hollywood and she was going on her honeymoon or something. So I ended up auditioning and then I ended up with that job for five years, which is so crazy when you think about it. I would host a weekly segment [00:15:00] on Access Hollywood for, Rue LA LA, and just got to talk about products and show. It felt like shopping with a friend. It was super fun. I think that that also just helped informed my brand storytelling as a host. How do you make these products feel relatable to an audience? How do you tell the story of how they might be useful or make someone's life better or. Or they're just fun.
[00:15:26] Shannon: And you have to branding like you were doing branding at Yahoo. I, you were doing branding when you worked with Ashton
[00:15:32] Diane: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, I forgot that that came about when we were at Yahoo, you got to, witness that I'll just tell a really quick version was that I was hosting with you at Yahoo and, Popchips had reached out to me and wanted to send me some free chips and long story short, they were, they were looking for people to create content for this campaign they were doing. And you had to get people to vote for you on social and make a video. I ended up [00:16:00] winning and working with that company for two years. And that's really the seed that made me see, oh, brands need content. And they may not want to hire a whole agency and production company, but they might just want to hire like a lean and mean little production company that can just make fun stuff. I could definitely do that. So that was a real turning point in my career. I would say that it was a transition of seeing myself as just a host talent as to see myself as a creator and someone who could actually make stuff like a producer. So, yeah. you just never know. I didn't know, like a random email from someone who had seen me on a Yahoo show would lead to a divergence in my career path.
[00:16:50] Shannon: You could have just deleted that email, but the fact that you read it and you're like, sure, I'll try to do
[00:16:55] Diane: Yeah. I think I did ignore the first one. And then they came back again and I was [00:17:00] like, oh, this. poor intern had to like, send me an internet, host another set of Popchips. But then I looked And it, was coming from like the CEO and I'm like, what? So yeah. that's where I've learned time and time again, as a freelancer, you just don't know what's coming around the corner
I saw that and thought, well, the first step was just asking the question, like, could I make a video for a brand. I don't know, let me try. I didn't know how to edit. And I didn't really even know how to shoot, but I, I had just been on so many sets, been around so many directors and producers and cinematographers, and, didn't really know at all I was doing, but just sort of asked the question, like, let me just see if I could make something and taught myself how to edit from YouTube videos.
And then sort of the things just fell into [00:18:00] place to start learning. I used my contacts that I had cultivated. And I think relationships, as you said, have been super pivotal in my career, but I had gone and gotten to this kind of circle of bloggers and they worked with brands. So I had no brand contacts, but I said, Hey, pitch your brand a video. And I can make something and, charge them. I think I charge $1,500 for a video, which was like really cheap. But at the time I could pay a camera, man. I could edit it. And I looked at it as, oh, they're going to pay me to learn this new skill. So it didn't feel as risky because I wasn't really quitting my day job, which was freelancing as an actor and a host, I got that little feeling those butterflies. I think I can do this. I think that, that this could work and, it just sort of very [00:19:00] slowly one step at a time, one learning at a time, I was able to get more clients and position myself as a, boutique production company.
[00:19:12] Shannon: you decide, okay, I'm going to start this production company, Zota productions. Right? Now you have to get an LLC and you have to start doing all the accounting side. There's so much more to opening a business. What was that like to learn?
[00:19:25] Diane: It was intimidating. All of it is intimidating as talent to. think of of, oh my gosh, I have to have insurance and I have to hire people and pay payroll taxes. And what is that? And accounting is completely different. It's an intimidating process, but again, it's sort of like, okay, what can I do today? Today I can just do a little research, find out what the next step is. I'm definitely the type of person that wants to know it all and get it all finished all at [00:20:00] once. And I think as a business owner, yeah. I think a lot of women feel this and especially moms too. And our time is so limited. I think I just had to let it unfold at its own pace. And I also didn't have a lot of urgency and this company has to work. It was sort of like, yeah, I'm going to do this on this side for awhile and keep my day job.
The first year that my production company made more than my on-camera stuff, I was like, That happened. I did that. I had, you know, all of these contractors and it made me so happy to send out their 10 99. Cause I'm like, wow, I employed a lot of people this year. That felt incredible.
What I found through my relationships and what I loved was that my company, my clients were women owned or women run businesses. And so for the first, I don't know, 6, 7, 8 years, all of my clients were women and it just felt so collaborative. Everyone was [00:21:00] very kind and, you know, it was, it was amazing. So then I thought, well, this is a great lane to be in because at the end of the day, you're making content for brands, but I love helping women build their businesses. I will always be down for that, I relate to that as a, as a small business owner myself, I know that I didn't do it alone. I know that so many people reached out and said, Hey, what can I do to help you? Can I teach you how to, how to make audio transitions and editing. So like, I'll be on jobs as a host and I'd go over to the editor and be like, Hey, you can't, what can you show me? and they'd show me things or I'd talk to my DP. He's like, bring your camera on this shoot. I'll teach you all of the camera settings and that's incredible. I can operate as a one-woman band from shooting and editing and producing and content creation, all of that. But now I'm in a position where I can, I can hire people and, deliver a [00:22:00] fuller portfolio of deliverables to my clients and, and really help them with, content that, has a human touch to it. And I think that that comes from my background as an actor as well. It's just making things feel authentic and relatable and not too selly. even though I've worked in commercials for gosh, almost 30 years, like it's never about selling it's about storytelling. That's what I feel like my strength has been in working in this space. And that excites me getting to tell people's stories. I'm getting to tell companies stories like those are, those are fun for me.
[00:22:40] Shannon: You're just being as creative as you were being on camera, hosting or creative as you were dancing, it's kind of like the same creative muscle and you've have experienced being on camera. So if you're sitting there holding the camera now, shooting someone else I feel like you're so educated on all the aspects of production
[00:22:57] Diane: It really is a differentiating factor [00:23:00] because I've been through so many aspects of production that's what I do feel like is my special sauce is getting people who aren't comfortable in front of camera to. deliver great, authentic and, and relaxed performances the creative muscle that I've found so fulfilling to flex in production was as an actor or as a host, like I'm one tiny part of a production. Like I would never get to go into an edit and say like, no, I think it should be like this or like that, I'd come in after the script was written after, shots are blocked after sets are designed and I come in and deliver my copies. So I found it really fulfilling as a producer and as an owner of a production company to, to tell a story from beginning all the way, till the end it's also a lot of work. Don't get me wrong. Sometimes I miss the days just going in as a talent to be like, boom, boom, boom done. I'm out. I go [00:24:00] home. But, I think looking back, I realized I was learning all of these different aspects of production at a very low risk way. Like I couldn't afford to hire an editor. So I would tell my clients, okay, I'll edit it. And then when I could hire an editor, our workup better when I can hire great DPs, our work got better it's great. It's a great living. And I have a lot of free time to spend with my son. I make a good living, I had done some freelance producing, like remote producing during pandemic and, um, a friend of mine actually asked me, do you want to contract with our company for nine months? We have someone who's going on maternity leave. And I was like, I've never really had a full time job. What would that be like? And, that felt almost risky because I thought, if I'm a [00:25:00] full-time for this company, will I lose all of my freelance connections? You know, will I be able to go back to that? I don't know. But I think in transition, there always is a leap of faith where you have to just trust that it's all gonna work out one way or another. that sort of the attitude I took
[00:25:22] Shannon: that must've been funny. Cause then your production company became your focus and your on camera work was like your side hustle.
[00:25:29] Diane: There was a time where it. reached that sort of 50 50 point, and then I'm like, oh my gosh, like, do I invest more here? And it's tough. The hardest part about that is as talent, you are at the mercy of deadlines to turn your auditions in. They will say, oh, you're on hold for these five days, but they won't tell you until the night before if you're booked or not. And so it's very hard to, juggle that with also like a production timeline for my own clients.
Currently [00:26:00] I'm producing for a big tech company. They put on live events all across the world, and I'm part of the team that helps bring those events to life in the room, through live presentations or video. And that's where I, I feel really excited about they do really beautiful video storytelling, about customer stories or about things the company is doing. I've always sort of leaned towards the branded storytelling as opposed to scripted creatives, I find this as a very fun sandbox to play in. I like it it's, it feels comfortable
when I told my agents, that I'm taking this opportunity to produce for 10 months, I thought they'd be like, what are you doing now? And they were all like, this sounds like an amazing opportunity for you. And I just was like, wow. because I think in any profession, when you reach a point where you're kind of doing the same thing year after year, [00:27:00] and, and that's sort of where I reached with commercials, it's like, okay, I'd audition for commercials. I know what that's like, I'd audition to play hosts or reporters and television shows. I know what that's like. And maybe some hosting industrial corporate hosting stuff would come up. I know what that life is. Like. It's a very good life. and I've been grateful for that, but I don't know what, what this is like. So, you know, I talked to a lot of friends when, when this opportunity for full-time work came up and they were just like, you should do it. And I'm like, you know what? I can do it for 10 months and see, and look at it as what can I learn from this experience? I've been working in my little production bubble I can learn, but I think my learning will be that much more accelerated working as part of a bigger organization, a big team. With huge budgets, I'm going to learn [00:28:00] so much and maybe I'll bring it back to my production company or maybe I'll join the circus and be a full-time employee who knows. I don't have to make that decision right now.
I also recognize I bring a ton of experience to this role because. When you have transitioned in different ways, right. And have many different skillsets, you bring a lot to the table. I have a deep understanding of production workflow all the way from, an actor's position to like the final edit. And That's what I'm getting to do in this job is so much of many different things and just part of a team, but working with from all the way from like conception through post-production. And yeah, it's fun.
[00:28:49] Shannon: That actually is kind of perfect timing because if this didn't, if this opportunity didn't come to you, when it did, you'd be back out there trying to network and trying to ramp up your company [00:29:00] again. And it's, it's like a different beast now, since COVID where people aren't out in networking as much. I'm not in Los Angeles right now, but I've heard from a lot of friends that it's a slow time still.
[00:29:11] Diane: Right. Productions are happening, but they're the ones they're the big budgets, right. That have the, all the support for COVID testing and COVID coordination and all of those things that you need to have in place that a small production like myself, I did produce some in COVID and luckily my client was a COVID testing company, so we were able to test. It just adds a whole layer of complexity and project management that that's not what excites me. So I felt like the timing of it was really, perfect timing to try something else and to learn. And again, remain open. I didn't know, I'd be doing this. A year ago. And I certainly don't know what I might be doing a year from now, but I think [00:30:00] when I look back on my, 30 year career, I think I always was taken care of. It didn't feel like it, there were times where I was like, oh my gosh, I was so full of fear, but I look back and I'm like, it all worked out. And at this point now I'm like, this is going to work out too. Who knows what it's going to be, but it, it's probably going to be better than what I think it's going to be. So if I just remain open to what might present itself to me, then I think that. I'll just keep growing and learning and, and I'll be taken care of. I'm a hard worker. I have a lot to offer. I don't think that I'll be, you know, out on the street.
[00:30:41] Shannon: And you have your company. So if this position doesn't open, you still have your company that you can make and continue to build, however you'd like it. You can always go back to hosting or commercials or dance again, the world's really is open to you.
[00:30:55] Diane: I do think that as I've gotten older and all the things that come [00:31:00] along with getting older and, there are times where I'm like, I don't know if I can, if I can do this. I don't know if I can, leave this one life, I know and jump over here. What if I fail? What if I don't get any work all those things become much more real.
[00:31:16] Shannon: Now that your son is a little bit older. Since when I knew him, he was just a little, little boy,
[00:31:21] Diane: was so little.
[00:31:22] Shannon: Remember when he came on set with us that one day?
[00:31:24] Diane: I know I still have that picture. And he was like, just barely up to my waist. And now he's taller than me. He's like, it's
[00:31:31] Shannon: And I was pregnant and now my son is 10. It's just crazy. But now that your son is older, you can actually kind of make decisions that are more for you and what you want to do, because he's not this little guy that you have to pick up from daycare and try to balance everything. So you must be able to take away. Like sigh of relief and kind of focus on you a little bit more than maybe in the past. Right?
[00:31:54] Diane: Definitely definitely. And one huge factor in all this is [00:32:00] that he can walk to his school. When he's in sports season, he walks to school, he goes to practice. He comes home. He leave the house at 8:00 AM and he'd come home at like 7:00 PM. And I thought if I was freelancing and seeing like, I'd be watching a lot of Netflix
[00:32:15] Shannon: Yeah.
[00:32:16] Diane: you know, As a single parent and he's my only child that's I was like, Wow. the parenting is different now. It's no longer, so much boots on the ground. So this job has come in such a perfect time I worked during the day, maybe like get some time in to go to the gym and then come back and work a little bit. And then he comes home and the work-life balance is really nice.
[00:32:41] Shannon: And like you said, you're learning on the job too. And if you still get to travel and kind of produce live events,
[00:32:46] Diane: it's great. That's something after remind myself of, of like, okay, they're paying me to learn. And I don't have to know everything all at once. There was quite a bit of ramp up into learning the whole [00:33:00] corporate ecosystem I remember the day that I actually first felt like I was able to contribute at this job and it wasn't just like asking a million questions. I just try to, to stay grounded in gratitude and that I get to learn, I have steady work. My son's doing well. I get to be home a lot with him. At this phase of life that. That feels like a luxury to not have to hustle and audition.
[00:33:30] Shannon: What is your favorite aspect of the entertainment industry? You've done movies. You've done commercials. You've been in television dance now production. Do you have a favorite?
[00:33:41] Diane: That's so hard because there's so many, I have so many great memories and crazy stories, But I think my favorite time in my career was, was being a dancer because it just felt like I was running away with the circus and I could not believe I was making a living. Someone was paying me to [00:34:00] dance. Like what I loved more than anything in the world, someone was going to pay me to do that. I've already won. I don't care if it's $200 a week. I was just so thrilled. That time in my life where I felt like doing it because also coming from a Japanese American family and, you know, my cousins are all, you know, In corporate jobs or accountants or lawyers, and nobody was a dancer. My aunt was a commercial artist. She was an amazing illustrator. And so getting to see that was inspiring, but it, I think that feeling of like, I'm gonna kind of step outside of the lane here and do something different than what I think my family expects from me. I mean, my parents have been really supportive and they've surprised me. You know, you hear stories about typical Asian parents wanting you to be a lawyer or a doctor or anything like that. But my parents always [00:35:00] just said, we want you to be happy. And I was like, okay, I'm going to dance. And I'm sure that night they were like, whoa, did we do.
[00:35:08] Shannon: The fact that you could make a living from it shows something too, not everyone can.
[00:35:13] Diane: Absolutely. I wasn't calling them and asking for money. I waited tables. they saw that I was like making it work. When I started doing commercials and they'd see me on TV and know, okay, Diane's making residuals because we see her, this commercial. I think that really did take the edge off for them.
[00:35:32] Shannon: Is it fair to say that you prefer hosting over acting because it comes a little bit more natural and you get to put your personality into it
[00:35:40] Diane: Yeah. I think it just fit me better. There are those people who are like, have to act, and I remember Charlise Theron and had a quote that she's like, don't do this profession. If there's anything else you can do, because it's so full of rejection and hardship. And it's really brutal. And I remember thinking like, well, there's lots of other things I should do. Maybe I shouldn't [00:36:00] be in the actor, I didn't have that fire in my belly for it the way I did for dance. And I knew that. And so I think hosting it flowed. It was more fun for me and I wasn't stressed. I didn't have knots in my stomach before an audition and I felt more confident and capable. It ended up being just such a blessing that those, those jobs came my way, because I see now that as a host, I had much more, leeway to learn other parts of producing and to work closely with producers like you and other friends of mine who've shown me the ropes. And I sort of learned by watching a lot of times. That has definitely paved the path for, for where I am now as a producer and a business owner.
[00:36:45] Shannon: The freelance world that you and I are both very much used to. Nothing's ever permanent. And I think for a lot of our listeners who aren't used to this kind of lifestyle that we are kind of going from one job to the other, what kind of advice from your side, would you give someone who just [00:37:00] knows they need to make that change, but it just seems so scary?
[00:37:02] Diane: Follow your gut and if your gut is saying, Hey, let me try this out on the weekends. Or maybe try to make a little bit of time and just see if I can get. You know, make this, or sell this or whatever. I love. There's another podcast that I always am inspired by. And it's How I Built This. It's an NPR podcast about people and building their businesses. I'm so inspired by that because a lot of times it just starts with like, Hey, we thought this is a good idea. And there's crazy ups and downs. I think just taking that first step is asking the question, like, could I just, whatever that tiniest smallest step is taking it, just make a beginning and you don't have to be [00:38:00] perfect and you don't have to figure it all out, but just make a beginning. That's a great start. And then who knows where it will lead. So just asking that question and, and being open to whatever might come, because it might not be what the business you think it's going to be. I've been in a risk, risky profession for a very long time, but it does get easier. The more you try to take those little steps And it feels scary and it feels terrifying. That part gets easier if you just keep, keep making the leap.
[00:38:37] Shannon: And like you said, that was the question you asked yourself, could I do this? And I love that. That was the same advice you're giving.
[00:38:44] Diane: Yeah, that's just been, my experience was starting with that question and then taking little tiny steps and then, and then I actually made something and I'm like, whoa, I made something. I think people might need [00:39:00] this. And then it got really exciting to see, okay, how far, what would be the next bigger step I could take?
[00:39:09] Shannon: Name one thing that these different chapters in your life have taught you.
[00:39:13] Diane: one thing these different chapters of my life I've taught me has is that I'm, I'm not just one thing. then I'm flexible and I'm adaptable. And sometimes the unknown is much better than anything I could have imagined.
[00:39:31] Shannon: Would you recommend taking a leap into a big life change to your best?
[00:39:35] Diane: I'm a Virgo. And I don't know if I'm an advocate of a big leap. If it were my best friend, I would say that same thing, like dip a toe in, see how it feels, then maybe dip two toes in, see how that feels. And then, you know, when you're ready for a leap and you feel supported and safe leap away. So I dunno if I'm a big leap advocate. I'm more of a like[00:40:00] baby steps. Add up.
[00:40:02] Shannon: I'm obsessed with threads, that kind of thread, our first act, second act all of our acts together. I wonder what you think your thread is from dancing until now talking with you, I'm thinking it's your personality and your people skills you are such a personable person. On-camera personality now produce, you know, that's just kinda my take on it. What's yours?
[00:40:26] Diane: I think that that's definitely been a huge part of my career and a through line because I like people, working collaboratively and I have an agent who she is my hosting agent, and she'd say, Diane, people work with you and then they call back five years later and they want to work with you again. I was like, that doesn't happen with other clients. And she's like, no. , that made me feel really great because I do put a lot of value on my relationships. When we're working on a [00:41:00] show or we're on location it takes me back to those early dancing days where you just really, I just, I'm just naturally curious about people. That's the fun of working in these, in these groups on all of these different projects. Being just a good person and rooting and for other people and just how you show up and for people in this world, people do notice in my career, I've had relationships with agents and producers and people who've hired me and I've hired them and we refer each other and we've come up together over years and years and years. And that is incredibly valuable, especially in a crazy business like entertainment.
[00:41:42] Shannon: It's all in who, you know, and that's where it gets you to the next spot. And right now, if you had a crew up tomorrow, you could do it in two seconds. I'm sure.
[00:41:50] Diane: And the other great thing about that is in addition to all the wonderful people, I know what excites me the most about where I am now is like [00:42:00] opening the door and then holding it open for the people that are. coming in after me, like getting to hire, you know, a more diverse crew. Like as you know, most crews are typically like 95% white male.
[00:42:17] Shannon: Yes they
[00:42:18] Diane: that's just wanting to work with people, you know, And trust and all of that. Well, that leads to a very, Tight-knit small community. And so what I want to do as a business owner and as a producer is to widen that door for anybody who wants to come in and learn and grow and bring their perspectives. How can I make this better for the people coming up after me?
[00:42:43] Shannon: You can hire more women, you can hire more diverse crews and talent and, and direct it yourself the way you want it.
[00:42:50] Diane: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:42:52] Shannon: What does the next chapter look like for you?
[00:42:54] Diane: I don't know. I hope that I, my next chapter, I get to do [00:43:00] more direct storytelling through video. I feel like my future lies in being a director. It's kind of even scary to say it out loud, right. Because I think sometimes my dreams for myself have been, have been small or limited by what I perceive other people think of me. But I think sort of just owning it and saying like, I'd like to direct, I'd like to direct content for brands. That's sort of what I've been building up for. And if it happens for this big company, If it ha if not, you know what, I could go to any number of companies and say, I would love to direct branded content because we're at a point in time where I do think my perspective would be valued. And I do think that, diversity's being noticed. I do remember I was dating a few years ago and I had a date with this one guy and I was telling him what I did. And he said to me, he goes, you're a director. [00:44:00] Why don't you just say it? And I was like, I just, that feels scary. I don't know. Like I, I had my own limiting belief on that. And I left that date. It didn't work out. It was a perfectly lovely man, but I thought, wow, what a gift? The like total stranger was able to look at me and I said, here's what I do. And he said, you're a director. He's like, what are you doing? Like get out there. You're in demand right now. Sometimes advice can come from. It's random places, but it's it's if you're listening, then it can be really valuable.
[00:44:31] Shannon: That really is great. And you are a director. You are, that's what you're doing. Producing and directing are so closely aligned.
[00:44:37] Diane: So yeah, when I look back on my career through commercials and then working with Ashton Kutcher and Popchips, and then working at Yahoo, we were branded shows. We were telling stories about parenting or pop culture fitness, but we were sponsored. That sort have been my lane and the, the connecting through line and, pro [00:45:00] tip it's pays much better than trying to like make a short film.
[00:45:05] Shannon: Good to know. Yeah. It, and it led you to a great place where you kind of hold the reigns. You hold all the control about your future now.
[00:45:15] Diane: That is true. That as a small business owner, you can work as hard as you want. I now recognize I have this whole tool set that I can employ other people that I can be employed by corporations that, I have a lot to offer. And I think that as we get older and as women society, doesn't always encourage that philosophy with us, that as we get older, we have more to offer, but we do so much more, all the skillsets we've had to employ in all facets of our life for so many years. Like I do feel like the best is yet to come.
[00:45:57] Shannon: Where can our audience connect with you?
[00:45:59] Diane: [00:46:00] Diane Mizota on Instagram is probably the easiest way to get in touch with me. You know, if you want to send me a message on Instagram, it's open. If you have any questions, if you want to any. Connections. I'm very much someone who I love to support other women. So don't be shy if you want to reach out.
[00:46:21] Shannon: I can't thank you enough for doing this. I appreciate
[00:46:23] Diane: gosh, my pleasure.
[00:46:25] Shannon: I'll talk to you soon, Diane. Thank you.
[00:46:27] Diane: care. You're welcome.
[00:46:28] Shannon: You can connect with Diane on Instagram at @DianeMiz ota, D I a N E M I Z O T a. You can also check out the projects she and her production company have been working on at Zota productions, that's zotaproductions.tv.
One takeaway from this interview with Diane is that baby steps and being open to new opportunities is key. Diane asked herself the question. Could I do that? She decided to try. [00:47:00] And she discovered that yes, she can. Never underestimate what you can do. And always allow yourself the chance to try. I'll catch you next time for a new episode of the Second Act Success Podcast. See you then.
Thank you for joining us. I hope you found some gems of inspiration and some takeaways to help you on your path to Second Act Success. To view show notes from this episode, recommend to guests with a great story, and learn more about us. Visit secondactsuccess.co. Before you go, don't forget to subscribe to the podcast. So you don't miss a single episode. Reviews only take a few moments and they really do mean so much. Thank you again for listening. I am Shannon Russell, and this is Second Act Success.
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