Breaking Barriers as a
Storyteller : Dania Denise Mallette

-Written by Juhee Bashir

Introduction

Dania Denise Mallette is an indie filmmaker, actor, model, mentor, coach, and entrepreneur based in the Bay Area. She has been self-employed since the economic recession of 2008. Mallette is a creative, multi-talented individual who has learned to brand herself based on the skills she has learned in her past positions as a corporate employee. During Mallette’s college career, she realized the importance of time management when she took on a full workload each semester. She took advantage of every resource provided to her by San Francisco State University. During college, Mallette was studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree in BECA with a major in radio TV and a minor in journalism. She was a staff writer for SFSU’s Xpress magazine.

Career Life

Mallette’s first ever company, DDM Productions, was launched in the heart of the Great Recession of 2008. She had been laid off from her Silicon Valley job as a search engine marketing administrator. As an illustrator for children’s books and murals, she explored work as a freelancer. Mallette launched her website which led to her learning how to market herself online. As a result of this, she gained a lot of traction and started receiving clients daily. This experience ended up segueing into her ongoing business, called “Chalk Chica”, as a chalk muralist. 

She received an interview from Zynga which led to a position in which she worked as a chalk artist creating work for their quarterly meetings, company meetings, and product launches. She fell in love with chalk art and realized that it was her niche, and Mallette from this point on made a conscious effort to chase after her newfound passion. There was a demand for chalk art in the Bay Area and not many chalk artists knew how to market themselves. She traveled from New York to Texas and Southern California for her work. However, the pandemic temporarily shut down her business as she faced event cancellations. These setbacks steered Mallette back to her original intent of owning her own production company.

Anything but “Run of the Mill”

As a founder of her own production company, Runaway Mill Productions, Mallette has learned to be her own advocate by being confident in her abilities. She emphasizes the nuances of being creative along with having business sense. Her work was filled with professionalism, fun, and passion. As a writer, Mallette has stories and characters that she wanted to share with a bigger audience. She wanted to make a living out of her work and the pandemic allowed her to do just that. Mallette did not want to work for anything that was “run of the mill”, she wanted to partner up with other storytellers to create different stories and characters.

Before starting her own production company, Mallette began screenwriting as a bit intimidated due to the difference in  pevious endeavors. As an actor she read scripts all the time, but now she learned to identify the techniques of screenwriters based on real screenplays. She launched her first passion film named “You Were Just Here”, a love letter to her father who she had lost in 2019 to pancreatic cancer.

As a storyteller, she had many ideas to express the trauma that she had faced. As she was going through his old items, she found a train itinerary of a trip that he always wanted to take and thought to herself, “what if I took this train trip and documented it?” With the help of her cinematographer, Mallette was able to create the documentary and have it available for the public.

Life as a Model

In 2015, Dania was crowned as Miss Petite USA in a Florida beauty pageant. It was an incredible journey that also served as an opportunity for her to identify many business opportunities. Mallette admired how beauty pageants highlighted the concept of female empowerment and had a major public speaking component. She also loved the community service, sisterhood, and family aspect of pageants. According to Dania, championing other people’s success took nothing away from her own success, which serves as a key reason behind her love of coaching. Women in pageantry learn public speaking, while also practicing and honing their interviewing and presentation skills and learning how to brand themselves. As a model consultant, pageantry has given her the ability to repay her experiences and efforts to other women while being an exciting chapter of their life. Mallette also founded the California Petite Pageant.

Achievement

A particular moment that stood out for Mallette was when she watched the assembly edit of her film, “You Were Just Here”. The experience was her first-time editing, writing, producing, and directing. She recalls the moments watching the trailer for her independent film as surreal, seeing the results of her hard work had her near tears.

An achievement that she is most proud of is using her voice to help benefit other people. It’s important to experience trials and tribulations because that is how we grow and become stronger. Takeaways are very important in life allowing us to learn and give back our knowledge to encourage the right people when in need.

Biggest Challenge

A challenge Mallette has faced is not having enough hours of the day. Mallette’s accelerated work ethic allows her to excel in specific areas rather than be mediocre in all areas. She is juggling life like an independent contractor; surviving and having a lifestyle that she can afford.

Motivation to Become an Entrepreneur

“It’s better to be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” – Judy Garland

She respects authority but is not a fan of work environments and societal expectations. She does not live by people’s rules where she does not have a say. She did not want to fall into the system and routine of corporate America. She was not meant to be in an office which is what motivated her to become an entrepreneur. One thing she wished she had known as an entrepreneur was to start sooner. She was inspired to begin her indie film production company because she was tired of other people letting her down and not being considerate of her time. She needed the hustle to be harder, the challenges to be greater, and the rewards to be bigger. She had more autonomy and ownership when it came to her own business.  

Piece of Advice

Know your brand. We take it from the context of marketing because the accountability is on us. You will not get as far as you want if you don’t learn to be uncomfortable with certain situations. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and be open to collaboration. Champion yourself, know how to network and be ready to step out of your comfort zone.