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Interview with Patricia Riggen, director/co-writer of Under the Same Moon

Patricia Riggen directs Under the Same Moon a moving drama about Carlitos (Adrian Alonso), a young boy living in Mexico who boldly travels across the U.S. border to reunite with his mother, Rosario (Kate del Castillo) in Los Angeles. Along the way, he befriends another illegal immigrant, Enrique (Eugenio Derbez), who serves as his father figure. Patricia Riggen co-wrote the screenplay with Ligiah Villalobos. This marks Patricia's feature film directorial debut after previously directing a short drama, The Cornfield, and a short documentary, Family Portrait, which garnered her a Short Filmmaking Award at Sundance 2005. I had the privalege to interview her.

Fox Searchlight Pictures releases Under the Same Moon on March 19th, 2008.

NYC MOVIE GURU: How long did it take to shoot Under the Same Moon and what was the budget?

PR: The budget was $1.7 million. It was shot in 5 weeks, which is very little time. I shot most of the movie in Mexico, except one week in Los Angeles. There was a lot of precious time moving around.

NYC MOVIEGURU: Whatís the difference between directing short films and your first feature-length film?

PR: Basically, it was the same because it was an independent film, but just longer. I had to do a little exercise and keep my sanity because it had longer days. I did two half-hour shorts before, [which] I financed myself. Unfortunately, I had to produce [Under the Same Moon myself, which was very challenging, but at the same time it allowed me to have complete control over the project. I made every single decision that was made. That helped me make a better movie.

NYC MOVIEGURU: How did you find such a terrific cast?

PR: I have a very eclectic casting [process]. Theyíre not people you know here [in America], but in Mexico they mean a lot. I cast Eugenio Derbez for the first time in a dramatic role. Heís the most famous comedian in Mexico and has been for many years. Nobody believed that he could be a dramatic actor, which is a mistake because comedians make dramatic actors, too. Some of [my actors] arenít trained at all, so I really worked hard on making them in the same tone and part of the same universe.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What was it like directing child actor Adrian Alonso?

PR: Working with a child is a challenge, but Adrian [Alonso] is splendid. Heís completely professional, always on time, knows his lines and never fools around. Itís like working with an adult. At time same time, he has the spirit and purity of a child.

NYC MOVIE GURU: Why didnít you shoot with a digital camera?

PR: I would never shoot with a digital camera because I love film. Iím very lucky to have my husband as a cinematographer. Heís a very good cameraman. I was able to get him for no money and he got us free cameras. We got a [Digital Intermediate] and it looks great. It allowed us to shoot faster because we knew had little chance to fix things later time. All my criteria with organizing this production was: time for [Adrian Alonso] to do his performance. I sacrificed everything else just so that I could give the kid the time he needed.

NYC MOVIE GURU: What would you like audiences to take away from watching Under the Same Moon?

PR: I want to open some minds and make people feel a little bit warmer towards the people that are around them. Thereís another side to this story thatís very human and these people have their struggles, suffering and dreams.

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