Nicole Riegel is the director and writer of the film “Holler.” It’s a story set in a Rust Belt Ohio town that follows teenager Ruth as she spends her days collecting cans and scrap metal with her brother, trying to put together enough cash to avoid being evicted as she is torn between loyalty to her town, her family, and the dream of a college education. Riegel drew inspiration for this film came from growing up in Jackson, Ohio. She wanted to showcase young women from where she grew up seeking higher education. She shares that she grew up watching people on screen from Appalachia almost portrayed as jokes, as hillbillies, as ignorant, always men, never with a sense of humor or warmth or intelligence.
I grew up wanting to get out of Jackson, only to – as a grown woman, I sort of had to, you know, return to this place in order to have a future. So when I was a teenager, I wanted to be a film director. I wanted to write and direct my films. And I applied to art schools, and I was accepted. And I didn’t go because it felt like a betrayal to leave my family behind and my community, and no one in my family had ever gone to college at that point.
Instead she joined the Army National Guard because everyone in her family and her community joined the military. She was at Fort Jackson, S.C., being trained on the M16A2. At the end of her military years, she came back to Ohio and enrolled in a film class at Wright State University. There she was introduced to the documentarians Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar, and her world was opened up to incredible world of film. She then moved to Los Angeles a few years later to attend UCLA for graduate film school. In 202 the Palm Springs International Film Festival named Riegel their “Directors to Watch.”