Tender but tough: the unstoppable Patricia Riggen.

Author:Jordan, Judi


Guadalajaran director Patricia Riggen comes out swinging with her extraordinary 5th film, The 33. The highly anticipated action/drama movie tells the true story of the 33 miners who were trapped in August 2010 for 69 days in the San Jose Mine in the Atacama Desert, 28 miles north of Copiapo, Chile.

Veteran producer Mike Medavoy had secured the story rights for his Phoenix Pictures and was looking for a director who could tell the layered, emotional story. After a long meeting where Patricia presented her take on the story, and how she would shoot it, the miners' version was entrusted to Riggen.

For the next three years, she guarded the project with her customary passion, integrity and will of iron, shepherding the script through numerous drafts and several sets of hands, including Patricia's own. It was by no means a smooth path for the award-winning director.

She met "resistance at every step of the way" and credits much of the pushback as a result of her being a woman in the overwhelmingly male-dominant career as a director. She's no 'newbie.'

Riggen, 45, has been working at her craft since 1997. Her five feature films include Under the Same Moon (2007, independent film) Revolucion (2010, feature film a collaboration with 9 directors) Lemonade Mouth (2011, TV film) Girl in Progress (2012, feature film) The 33 (2015, feature film) and Miracles from Heaven (2016, feature film).

Certainly, at 25 million, this was the largest budget she's worked with, but for the size of the project and the caliber of the cast, it was a challenge.

The 33 chronicles dual struggles; the one above ground of the men's families hoping to see them rescued, and the grueling miracle of the 33 Chilean miners' survival 2,100 feet below the earth. The collapse of the San Jose Mine kept the world in suspense for 69 days, but Riggen's quest lasted three years.

A highly challenging ordeal that tested her endurance at every step of the way, Riggen's massive commitment took her to hell and back. This straight shooter speaks her mind and sticks to her artistic principles with conviction, and she doesn't take the easy road when the hard road makes a better film.

Riggen is a grateful realist. She has accomplished a feat of filmmaking that few directors, female or male, can lay claim to.

Her movie opens 'wide' across America, on 2,500 screens November 13th, and she is energized but calm. Her sweet face is alight with accomplishment, but wary of what lies around the corner.

"I'm always prepared."

Representing part of the 1% of all directors working in Hollywood as a Latin female, she's no novice. Her previous films like Luna have garnered awards, and Riggen's natural modesty and gentle humor are tempered with pride in her achievement and a hyper-awareness of expectations. Riggen is a realist who would love to be free to dream again, and to create, but the hard-ball politics and rough business of being a female director robs her of the spontaneity and the freedom she thrives on.

It's a trade off.

Every step of the process has been challenging, but Riggen is both grateful for her situation, full of humor, and outspoken about the obstacles she faces as a woman in an obstinately, overwhelmingly male profession.

Frustrated by a lack of fairness in industry hiring practices, which leads to a lack of opportunities for all Latinas behind the camera, Riggen hopes to be an agent of change as her work is seen, and her words are heard. She's encouraged by the recent activity in Hollywood among women directors to hold the studios accountable for fair hiring practices, but until things change, she keeps her eyes open for projects that are worth fighting for.

With the star-packed cast of The 33 and her next film...

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