Patricia Riggen, a graduate of Columbia Film School, has had multiple and impressive milestones in her career. Before she even directed her first feature film, La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon), Riggen had accumulated many prestigious awards for her short films, including a Student Academy Award Gold Medal in 2003 for her narrative short, La Milpa, and the Short Filmmaking Award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 for her documentary short, Family Portrait.
Since becoming a feature film director, Riggen has added two more milestones. Her film La Misma Luna, which was made for under $2 million, was sold to Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Company for $5 million – a record at the Sundance Film Festival for a Spanish-language film. The film went on to make $23+ million worldwide. (Full disclosure, I am the writer of that film). And just last year, Riggen became the first and only female Mexican director to have a movie gross more than $70+ million worldwide: Miracles from Heaven, distributed by Columbia Pictures.
But what I find most impressive about Riggen’s career is the fact that in between those two films, she directed three additional films – a TV movie and two feature films: Lemonade Mouth (The Disney Channel), Girl in Progress (distributed by Pantelion Films), and The 33 (distributed by Warner Brothers). That’s an average of one film every two years.
I can’t think of another female director – in the United States, or in Mexico, who has accomplished such a feat. This is noteworthy, not only because she’s a woman filmmaker, but because she is also a woman of color.
So how has she done this? Obviously talent has played a major role in her success. But more importantly, Riggen has not boxed herself into any one genre, nor has she allowed anyone else in the industry to box her in.
In her 10-year career, Riggen has made independent films and studio films, Spanish-language films and English-language films, female-driven films, and male-driven films. She has made adult, kid, and family films. She’s directed dramas, comedies, a music-driven film, and a faith-based film. It is truly remarkable.
I was recently asked to give a quote to an organization that was doing a campaign for Women’s History Month. This is what I said:
“Everything I’ve accomplished has been as a result of never seeing my ethnicity or my gender as a hindrance, but rather an asset.”
Looking at Riggen’s career over the last decade, I have no doubt she feels the same way.
In this Trump-era, when many are trying to build walls and close off borders, a woman filmmaker – a Mexican – an immigrant, is doing just the opposite with her films. And lucky for us, she’s just getting started.
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Ligiah Villalobos is a TV and feature film writer. She is best known for her feature film, La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon). But if you’re a parent of a pre-school kid, you might have seen her name on the credits of the Nick Jr. hit series, Go, Diego! Go! where she served as the Head Writer for three seasons. You can follow her on Twitter at @JalapenoFilms.