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Inspiring Conversations with Diane Strand of JDS Video & Media Productions

Today we’d like to introduce you to Diane Strand.

Hi Diane, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
My journey to where I am today has been long. I went from working in production on A-list shows like General Hospital and Friends to launching Playhouse Disney for The Disney Channel to working in Universal Studios’ creative division and producing the first online streaming broadcast of the Democratic National Convention and the Grammys out of Staples Center in 2000, as well as the Oscar De La Hoya vs. Shane Mosley fight with HBO Pay-Per-View. Then, in 2003 I gave it all up to be an entrepreneur.

Taking the entrepreneurial leap and leaving behind my successful career in the entertainment industry was both scary and exciting. When you’re an entrepreneur, every day is something new, and while fear of the unknown is scary, what’s scarier is not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from.

I knew video production, and I knew how to tell a story. All I needed now was a story to tell. So, I set out into the unknown to build a successful business. My partner in life and business, Scott Strand, and I launched our first business, JDS Productions, in Escondido, where he was born and raised. We started with old-fashioned techniques of gaining business leads like knocking on doors, face-to-face networking, cold calling and word of mouth.

I got involved with the North County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) for five years, eventually serving as an executive board member. This experience gave me several business contacts, helping us build our client roster to include clientele like California State University of San Marcos, BERG Orthopedic, and Palomar College, where Scott had once attended.

Drawing on connections with high-caliber people supported our business and provided resources that helped it grow. So when we moved from North County San Diego to Temecula, the first organization I joined was the Southwest County EDC. I made myself accessible to their staff to help with their efforts, which fostered our relationships with other prominent stakeholders in Riverside County. Today I am the 1st vice president of the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Riverside County.

I will never forget the day I was sitting in an EDC meeting, and the senior vice president of Abbott Vascular pushed his business card to me from across the table. On the back of the card, it said, “We’re looking for some video production work. Give me a call tomorrow.” Abbott Vascular has now been a fantastic client of ours since 2011 and still going strong.

Our entire business success is built on relationships, which are essential as an entrepreneur. Joining organizations I’m passionate about brought important opportunities to our business. Many people along the way have helped create opportunities, partnered on a project, made an introduction, and became some of our most valued ideal clients by putting faith in us – based on relationships.

Being part of the EDC also led me to become an executive board member of Riverside County Workforce Development and the Southwest region Workforce Development chair, an appointment by Riverside County’s third district supervisor, Chuck Washington. The Workforce Development Board inspired my business ingenuity, motivating me to design a California State Apprenticeship and a Title 17 job training program for our nonprofit organization.

It’s hard to connect the dots looking forward and know exactly where you’re going. But looking back, it’s clear to see how my mission today is what it always was, even though it looked different each step along the way. I’m now the majority owner of JDS Video and Media Productions, Inc., a multi-award-winning video production company. I’m also the majority owner of JDS Actors Studio, where I have launched more than 100 acting careers, and I’m the founder of the award-winning nonprofit JDS Creative Academy.

Today’s mission focuses on providing video production training to individuals with autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities. In 2017 I was asked to meet a young man with special needs and consider letting him work at our video production company doing any entry-level position I had available. He would come with a job coach, and it wouldn’t cost me anything. Well, I met him, and of course, he was a fantastic individual who was passionate and knowledgeable about audio work and packed with a lot of undeveloped talent and raw skill, so I said yes!

Through that experience, we saw how, with a bit of guidance, accommodation and support, individuals with special needs could be trained to work in video production on TV shows, radio shows, and other fulfilling positions within the digital media industry. Shortly after, I started writing the program design for our video production job training day program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Though it took six months to get approved to provide the program as a vendor through Inland Regional Center, three years later, we now have individuals launching into the next phase— placement into paid internship opportunities in a career they’re passionate about. Our goal is to break down barriers for those with developmental disabilities and autism by giving them skills and support to find successful workforce opportunities in video, media and marketing.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I wouldn’t say the road has always been smooth; it’s definitely been a roller coaster ride– but I love the thrill of the ride. In the beginning, there were ups and downs, highs and lows, and it was always feast or famine because it was just Scott and I doing everything ourselves. Along the way, we were able to start hiring freelancers who then morphed into permalancers, and now we’ve grown into a team of 18 staff members whom we call our #jdsfamily. There were days when I didn’t know how the bills would be paid or how we would keep food on the table, but we took things one day at a time, one challenge at a time, and it kept getting easier. Eventually, the lows weren’t so low, and the highs weren’t so high, and we found sustainability and stability. Challenges still arise every day, and we try not to get overwhelmed by the small details and look at the big picture. I genuinely believe that my worst day as an entrepreneur does not beat my best day as an employee. While I had some great days and experiences as an employee that I truly value, as an entrepreneur, I’m carving my own path and chartering new territory. Every day I get up and do something I’ve never done before, and I’m thankful that I now have support, a team of staff, a board of directors and colleagues in my business community. When situations arise, I have a support system that stretches beyond just Scott and myself, and this is key because business is built on relationships.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Each of our businesses helps others and gives back to our community in some way, whether it’s the community we live in or the community belonging to the industry we work in. This is one of the many reasons our hashtag is #JDSFamily thrives.

Our actor’s studio, JDS Actors Studio, has launched more than 100 rewarding acting careers into the entertainment industry for youth, teens, and adults. Scott, an experienced actor who once won the Aubrey Award for Best Actor in San Diego, is passionate about teaching the craft of acting to others. I use my business experience to coach actors on how to get paid for their acting, from marketing your personal brand to understanding the components of the entertainment industry, including working with managers, agents, casting websites, tracking auditions and reaching casting directors. Scott and I recently packaged up our wisdom and advice into an insider’s handbook for every seasoned auditioning actor and those who are just getting started and not sure what to do. The book is titled Show Business: Breaking into the Industry as an Actor – he’s the show, and I’m the business. This book offers insights typically reserved for our Industry Masterclass. We’re carving pathways to success by sharing this information, and getting these valuable insights into the hands of talented individuals who don’t necessarily have access to acting classes or coaches but can obtain a copy of our book will help them get started.

Our other line of business, JDS Video & Media Productions, Inc., helps many large, medium, and small local businesses and organizations tell their story visually through a wide range of high-quality video production and multimedia services. Our in-house creative and technical crew provides dynamic and captivating video content that inspires viewers and highlights organizations, people, products, and documentary stories. In addition, we provide solutions for events, corporate communications and marketing.

While Scott is my partner in life and business, I am the majority owner of JDS Inc. and the executive director and board president of our nonprofit, JDS Creative Academy. I’m proud that JDS Creative Academy is primarily staffed with women, which helps increase diversity in a typically male-dominated industry. Employing and supporting women in our local community also gives them a chance to work in the industry they’re passionate about.

JDS Creative Academy promotes the arts and benefits those in the arts in many ways. JDS Creative Academy is the host of DigiFest Temecula, the city’s biggest film and digital media festival. Since 2017, DigiFest Temecula has offered a place where students, amateurs and seasoned professionals can network, learn from and support one another. We feature high-level mainstream industry speakers who share their stories, perspectives and wisdom. DigiFest Temecula also features workshops hosted by professionals to help attendees sharpen their skills. Attracting a crowd from San Diego, Riverside, Los Angeles and beyond, Digifest Temecula is shining a spotlight on the artistic community and talent rooted in our local area.

Our news and information program, Spirit of Innovation, is the first local news and information outlet exclusively for Riverside County. Before its launch, Riverside County was a media desert that received its news from places like Los Angeles, more than 90 miles away. We’re bringing local news stories tailored to Riverside County residents for the first time, and we’re doing it with a news team consisting of adults with disabilities who wouldn’t normally get to step behind or in front of a camera to share the news.

We are most proud of the work we are doing to break down barriers. We’re breaking down barriers for women to be employed fairly in entertainment and media. We’re breaking down barriers to employment for adults with special needs wanting to work in digital media and marketing. We’re breaking down barriers for aspiring artists who just need a leg up to get started, whether it’s improving skills, finding a venue to gain exposure, or learning how to go out and get the exposure yourself. Scott and I are proud to dedicate our life’s work to using our experiences and passion to eliminate barriers and help others live out the lives they want.

What matters most to you? Why?
What matters most to me is making a difference in people’s lives through my work. I live by the acronym H.O.P.E. representing “Help One Person Each day,” and I make that my daily intention. I want to inspire a movement to increase inclusivity in the workplace by showing the world how, with support and training, individuals with special needs can learn transferable skills and work in their desired industry. I want to make it possible for more people to do the work they’re passionate about and get paid for it, regardless of age, gender, disability or anything else. I’m making it easier for college students and recent graduates to break into the media and entertainment industry so they don’t have to start with getting someone’s coffee. I want to normalize not always being perfect because being imperfect shouldn’t prevent you from living the life you want. People’s mess can be their message, and putting your message out there shows the world that we are all humans, just trying to live our best lives.

Our kids’ initials are JDS, and they are our inspiration. Filling their lives with the arts, creativity, hard work, and passion while growing up around the studio has been our own brand of magic and success. Watching them perform in plays and musicals and work behind-the-scenes in lighting and sound, building sets and props, and even bringing their friends to expose them to the benefits of acting and the arts has been rewarding. Their lives will be filled with creativity, collaboration, and leadership skills that will fulfill a lifetime of dreams– this is why we do this, and we are so very grateful.

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