Academy Foundation

Academy Foundation Success Stories

Three winners of the Television Academy Foundation’s College Television Awards reflect on their thriving careers.

Libby Slate
  • Patricia Riggen

  • Natasha Chen  

  • David Greenspan

DAVID GREENSPAN

Second-place winner, 2001, drama category, for Bean Cake, USC

Two months after the CTAs, Greenspan's Bean Cake took the Palme d'Or for best short film at the Cannes Film Festival. But when the young director subsequently received a call from a manager, it wasn't because of the Cannes prize.

Having seen his name listed as a winner of the College Television Awards, she had requested and viewed a copy of his film. "I got my first manager because of the College Television Awards," says Greenspan, now an editor on ABC's Grey's Anatomy firehouse spinoff, Station 19.

"She was my rep for many years and assisted me on the feature I directed. She provided me with a lot of support."

When that film, 51-50 Mall Cop, didn't sell as hoped, Greenspan started looking for steady work as an editor. After a year in reality television, he was hired in 2006 by a former USC classmate, Susan Vaill, as an assistant editor on Grey's Anatomy's second season. He was promoted to editor in the fourth season, staying through the 12th. He's also edited episodes of How to Get Away with Murder, Scandal and Empire.

In 2013, Greenspan asked for — and received — the chance to direct the first of several episodes of Grey's. He'd been inspired by the success of the show's former editor, Edward Ornelas, who also had asked to direct (as it happens, Ornelas is a former Academy Foundation college intern). Says Greenspan: "He taught me a lot about being an editor and a director."

NATASHA CHEN

First-place winner, 2007, magazine category, for Impact, USC

After accepting her honor at the CTA ceremony, Chen looked around the room and thought, "This is a very good start. What is everybody going to do next?"

In Chen's case, she earned a master's degree in broadcast journalism from USC the following year. She then became a reporter and weekend/fill-in anchor for stations serving central Texas, followed by Memphis, and then spent four years as a reporter for KIRO in Seattle. There, she won a 2015 Northwest Emmy Award for team coverage.

Since September 2017, Chen has been a national correspondent for CNN's Newsource, based in Washington, D.C. The service provides news stories to about 1,000 subscribers, local stations throughout the U.S. and internationally, including KTLA in Los Angeles.

"I pitch news stories and cover breaking news," Chen says. "It could be weather, such as something hurricane-related, or Capitol Hill, or the Oscars." She keeps a bag packed, ready to jump on a plane on three hours' notice if necessary. Depending on the coverage, she may be required to be available to a local station for periods of six to 12 hours.

Chen continues to use her CTA–winning long-form skills in her on-air reporting. "I focus on storytelling, with character development, and building sequences and using bookends to a piece," she says. "The College Television Award was the first important award I received. It was a big deal. I realized I had more to aspire to."

PATRICIA RIGGEN

First-place winner, 2004, drama category, La Milpa (The Cornfield), Columbia University

In the years since her CTA win, Riggen hasn't stopped accruing credits. She directed a well-received Disney Channel film, Lemonade Mouth, and spent 10 years directing feature films, including Under the Same Moon, Girl in Progress, The 33 and Miracles from Heaven. Now she's back in TV.

"I told my agent, 'I think TV is doing really great stuff,'" says Riggen, a native of Mexico whose CTA-winning short, La Milpa, won numerous other honors, including a Student Academy Award from the Motion Picture Academy. "I signed with a television agent within my agency, and literally a few days later I was on a plane heading to Morocco for Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan."

Directing three episodes of the Amazon Prime series kept Riggen in Marrakesh, Montreal and Paris for a total of five months. Once home, she quickly picked up three pilot-directing jobs. One, Proven Innocent, went to series and premiered on Fox in February. She has heard good testing reports about another, Surveillance for CBS.

"It's been very rewarding and so exciting," Riggen says. "It's a testament of how open television is to female directors." Riggen recalls the CTA ceremony as "a great night. This was my first short film, and the award helped me gain confidence."

She has decided that she will also produce subsequent television projects. "The College Television Award was for producing, not directing," she reflects. "I'm realizing after 15 years that it's also important to stay involved as a producer ."


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 2, 2019