In "Holler," a teenager named Ruth is accepted into college...but getting there is a whole other journey, one Riegel knows all too well.
"I definitely doubted myself. I mean, I was a teenager," said Riegel. "When the teacher tells her she shouldn't really go to college, that it's not for her and really discourages that, I mean, that scene happened to me just like that."
In real life, Riegel joined the Army and eventually made it into UCLA's master of fine arts writing program.
In the film, with a mother behind bars, two siblings fight just to survive, working in a scrap yard by day...and stealing metal by night.
"I worked in a movie theatre when I was a teenager. I went to, you know, the library when I wanted to get into world cinema and discover things outside the box. I rented movies constantly. I used the paychecks from working in a movie theatre to rent those movies," said Riegel.
When it came to titling her own movie, she says "Holler" has two meaning: a back yard or hollow...and...
"I think of 'Holler' as Ruth and all young women from that region's rally cry. That's what the film is. And it's mine."
"Holler" opens Friday in theatres, on digital and on demand.