Diana Golts (BA ’10) graduated from LA&PS and is currently a producer living in New York City since graduating with an MFA in film from Columbia University. She worked as producer on Chapa and Mal de Ojo, and as associate producer on The Last Defense, and Enemies: The President, Justice and the FBI and is currently working on the second season of Dirty Money on Netflix. We chatted with her about her experience as a student at York as well as her current work in film and television.
Q: What was your experience like at York?
A: It was great. I was part of the Communication Studies Students Association and I'm really grateful to have been involved in it. I started off as a member my freshman year and ended up becoming one of the co-presidents by the time I graduated. It helped me get involved in student life in a more direct way. It also helped me understand what I did and didn’t want to do. We would have many organized visits to different companies, which gave us the opportunity to meet people, discuss what’s really going on beyond the classroom, and really have those tangible experiences. I got the perfect mix of both worlds – theoretical and hands-on. I really learned about the power of media, propaganda and bias, and was able to critically assess my own work. You do need both critical thinking and hands-on skills and so being on the same campus as the Seneca College Journalism Broadcast program was great.
Q: You have quite an extensive list of productions and films, many of which are documentary series.
A: I trained in narrative filmmaking at Columbia. My thesis was the short film Mal de Ojo, and we ended up selling it to HBO afterwards, where it aired for two years. That was really exciting to scroll through their list of films and see my thesis film on HBO. My short film Chapa played in over 40 film festivals worldwide and that was exciting to get to attend festivals and see this film market. I then graduated with a Master of Fine Arts, and I had to again go back to the job market. Since then I’ve been working full time, both on my own projects work as well as for documentary companies like Jigsaw Productions.
Q: You have quite a few projects on the go. Is any of this overwhelming? Do you think you would be where you are at this point?
A: I’m definitely in a place I never thought I would be. I grew up on Bathurst and Steeles after immigrating to Canada from the former Soviet Union and I never thought I would leave Toronto. I definitely am still very surprised how I ended up where I am, but it's wonderful. I love my career. I get to research stories and talk to people for a living about what they do, their perspective, and try to package that into something interesting, and it's been really nice to work with a team of talented directors and collaborators.
“Every single show has its challenges, but in each one I get to learn about every system. This isn’t just about film or entertainment—this is about someone’s life.”
It’s so great to be part of the whole process. I’m involved from the very beginning of the project and the inception of an idea. It starts with me booking professionals and actors, poring over legal documents, researching criminal activities – it is all very interesting and all-consuming. In the ABC series The Last Defense, I spoke with public defenders to understand how the criminal justice system works. I really embed myself in the story, to understand every aspect and all the people involved. It’s very challenging, but also very rewarding, trying to convince people why they should participate in a television program, that it’s not sensationalism, and we’re trying to portray an accurate story. In an era of fake news accusations, this has gotten even harder.
Also, it’s just always been a dream of mine to be on set. It's a lot more work than I had thought initially. You spend months planning and only a few days filming, but they’re very long days. You get to work as a team, and you get to create. With these documentaries, it can get really hard. Every single show has its challenges, but with each one I get to learn about every facet of society. This isn’t just about film or entertainment—this is about people’s lives.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the future?
I definitely want to keep creating my own work. I would love to create a feature that makes it to the Oscars, or a TV series that wins an Emmy. I really just want to be in this world of television and film both documentary and narrative, and just keep creating.
A: What would you say to film students who may want to get into a similar career?
I would say that they should just make their own thing, and never forget that drive. You can find friends and people that you click with and then take a weekend and just make your own short film and it doesn't matter if it's great or not. But just the act of doing it and being creative is very important. I'm writing all the time on the side while I'm working just to keep those creative juices flowing. You don't need all the money and all the equipment. Don’t let anything stop you. York is big, and you can dream even bigger, even if it doesn’t seem possible, because I never thought it was possible. But we are from this great city, and this great country, and there is a lot of opportunity because of that.