There is so much going on in Cannes this week. Beginning today, The 76th annual festival gets underway, featuring the likes of Spike Lee, Brie Larson, Pedro Almodóvar, Michael Douglas and so many more. This also marks the 5th anniversary of the French Riviera Film Festival, a fabulous short film festival founded by Gotham Chatham and Nicole Muj. During the global celebration of film, Reel 360 News will spotlight some of the talented filmmakers, like Diana Madison, who have descended upon Cannes.
Diana Madison started her career as an intern for E! News and Entertainment Tonight.
When she could not get any on-camera opportunities, she launched the YouTube channel Hollyscoop, which became one of the biggest entertainment news channels in the world. After some time, one channel became four and Diana was able to sell her digital media studio to American media company Radio One/TV One.
After the sale, she decided to pursue her lifelong passion of acting. She has filmed several movies, including Mob Town, starring David Arquette and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, and I Love Us, starring Katie Cassidy.
In 2020, after executive producing the show Glam Masters for Lifetime alongside Kim Kardashian, Diana was inspired to launch her beauty brand, Diana Madison Beauty. Her “clean beauty” line is now sold at Neiman Marcus, Revolve, Anthropologie, and Naimie’s.
She currently is in pre-production on the film First Gen (Working Title) and has teamed up with Village Roadshow to executive produce a crime documentary.
What’s your origin story? How did you get into the film industry?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, in a tiny sector called Little Armenia. My parents were Armenian immigrants who had fled the Soviet Union and were political refugees. In my backyard was the Hollywood sign and I would dream of one day making it in Hollywood. However, there was no way my immigrant parents were going to let me pursue a career in Hollywood.
For my parents, it was either pursuing a career in law or medicine. I studied communications and political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. When I graduated I got a low-wage job working the news desk at Entertainment Tonight at Paramount Studios. I was then pursuing a career as an on-air talent. When I realized that they weren’t going to hire me as an on-air talent because I didn’t look like “middle America,” I walked out of the studio with my Rolodex and started a YouTube channel. The channel took off, launching my on-camera career.
I was able to create a digital media studio creating over 21 billion views a year, where I was hosting videos and producing 150 shows a week on Amazon Prime, Roku and YouTube. Right before the pandemic, I sold the YouTube channels to Radio One/TV One. It was then that I wanted to pursue making longer form content and pursuing my lifelong dream of acting. Currently, I am producing a documentary with Lionsgate and developing a movie titled First Gen, about being first generation Armenian American.
Who are your mentors?
My film mentor is actor, director and producer Danny A. Abeckaser. He cast me in two movies and always gives me opportunities. He recently gave me the opportunity to come in as a producer and actor for a movie that he is working on. He always gives me the best advice and has really pushed me to pursue acting.
When everyone laughed in my face about becoming an actor in my thirties with two kids, he gave me hope. When I told him I wanted to make a movie about my Armenian heritage, he told me to write my story. He was one of the first people who read my script and always gives me great advice.
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Breaking barriers any way that I can is an achievement. When Entertainment Tonight didn’t hire me as a host and I created an outlet for myself that then beat ET in numbers, it was a way to break barriers for me. When I sold my company and decided to act in my thirties with two kids and everyone laughed in my face and I still booked two movies, which was a big moment for me.
Right now, doing meetings with amazing people who are known in the industry for my movie First Gen is an accomplishment in itself. Being in Cannes and speaking on a panel about my work is an accomplishment. I look at all steps whether it is major or minor as an achievement as long as it takes me to my goals.
What drives you in your work?
My passion for telling people’s stories drives me. I love people and I especially love helping those who have no voice be heard. My purpose in this world is to amplify the stories that are not seen or heard.
What is the biggest challenge for you in your industry today?
The biggest challenge I face in the industry is people not taking me seriously and thinking they can try to take advantage of me because I am a woman. They see the hair and makeup and they think that they can take advantage.
Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour. Name a famous person you would like to attend each function with.
I would love to have coffee with Oprah and chat with her about how she was able to build her empire. If I could have lunch with anyone it would be my great grandparents and learn about all the sacrifices they endured being orphans in a foreign land after losing their parents in the Armenian Genocide.
If I could get drunk with anyone it would be Cher, she is my IDOL. I recently met her and she told me she was so happy to see another Armenian actress in the industry. “There aren’t that many of us in Hollywood,” she told me. She is someone who I want to work with on a project.
What do you hope to achieve during Cannes Film Festival this year?
My last trip to the Cannes Film Festival was five years ago. I was three months pregnant with my son Christian. I was inspired by the movies I saw and the people I met. I left Cannes motivated to pursue my childhood dreams of acting. This trip, I hope to be inspired by the films I see and the people I meet to keep on creating.
Tell us about your latest project.
I am currently in production for a crime documentary that I am working on about social justice reform with the prison systems in the USA. I am also in the development of a movie that I am working on about being a first-generation Armenian American. I am also producing and acting in an independent film titled Mob Cops.
How can we follow you on Social Media?
You can follow me on all socials @dianamadison
Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1