Today we’d like to introduce you to Diana Romero.
Diana, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
On Valentine’s Day 2003 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. This major plot twist in my life forced me to look at myself, my circumstances, my dreams of becoming a filmmaker (I had just gotten my BA in film) and my wish to move back to Los Angeles. So I made some major life changes: I got out of a bad relationship, applied to and was accepted at AFI.
I got my MA in 2007. I won a lot of awards for a short film I wrote and produced. The film screened all over the world. I worked in production and in international distribution. Until about 2007, my symptoms had been at bay and I didn’t have any physical issues due to MS. One day in 2007, I was jogging on a treadmill and one leg gave out. I fell off the treadmill. I had a couple more falls, which worried me, but my legs remained, for the most part, stable.
In 2010, I had a relapse and I couldn’t lift my right leg. That led to having to walk with a cane. Slowly over the years, my mobility has worsened and I now need a mobility aid to get around. For long distances I use a wheelchair. Plot twist #2! This time, I was again forced to look at my circumstances. I knew I would probably never be hired as a production coordinator on set – mostly because many sets are inaccessible. I asked myself what I could I do in the industry without the use of my legs. I have always written and I used to act. So I set out to get an agent, and got one that represents actors with disabilities. I decided to do stand-up comedy and I’ve been booked consistently at Flappers in Burbank. I decided I wanted to follow through with writing, so I wrote a pilot for a TV show that has been picked up by a prominent producer.
So here I am today. It hasn’t been easy though, and I did go through a major depression, but in 2018 I decided to take my wheelchair and travel for 6 weeks in South America alone. That changed my entire world. The fact that I’ve stuck with my dreams for this long makes me grateful. I am equally grateful for having the ability to “re-invent” myself within a very tough industry. Most recently I was elected to represent California in the Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant this coming summer. All in all, this has been quite the journey.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road at all. When I finally got to the point that I absolutely needed a wheelchair, my world changed immensely. I had gone through a rough depression due to my decaying mobility. I refused to accept that this was going to be my new normal. With the wheelchair, I went from hardly being able to get around to finding my independence again. A lot of doors have opened up for me and I feel like I’ve been given a 2nd chance at life, only this time with a wheelchair. Learning to navigate the wheelchair has taken some practice and has made me a lot more aware of the difficulties people with disabilities face in the world.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
For many years I have worked as a line producer, so I do script breakdowns, budgets and schedules. I can coordinate any kind of shoot. I am an award-winning producer and I am a writer, currently working on a TV pilot, my works have been published and I am currently writing a book. I work with writers doing script coverage, script coaching, notes, sensitivity reading (reviewing scripts that include characters with disabilities for correct portrayals). I act and do stand-up comedy. I am also a speaker, and am for hire to talk to students, organizations, schools, etc. about disabilities and inclusion. I also want to consult producers on creating accessible sets so they can hire filmmakers with disabilities.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Well, this is definitely the city people want to be in if they are writers, actors, filmmakers, etc. But the more time you put in it, the more you gain. Is it a rough industry for people with disabilities? Absolutely, but Hollywood is currently focusing a lot more on inclusivity and I believe more and more doors are opening for people with disabilities in the film/tv industry. As for someone starting out, I would suggest starting out elsewhere and once you’ve achieved a following or created a product (made a movie, written a script, etc.), then come to Los Angeles. Los Angeles could improve in the horrifically ridiculously expensive rental properties. This is an expensive city so don’t come out here empty-handed or broke and without some kind of experience. There are many scammers out here, especially if they smell desperation and naiveté.
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