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Nancy Savoca

Nancy Savoca

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: July 23, 1959 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Bronx, New York, USA Profession: director, screenwriter, assistant editor, script reader, assistant auditor, production coordinator, storyboard artist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

The daughter of Sicilian and Argentine immigrants, writer-director Nancy Savoca graduated from the film school at New York University where she received the Haig P. Manoogian Award for overall excellence for her short films "Renata" and "Bad Timing". Her earliest professional experience came as an assistant auditor on two Jonathan Demme-directed pictures ("Something Wild" 1986, "Married to the Mob" 1988) and as a production assistant to John Sayles ("Brother From Another Planet" 1984). Sayles, in turn, provided funding for her feature directing and co-screenwriting debut, "True Love" (1989), an incisive comedy about Italian-American courtship and marriage rituals in the Bronx. Hailed by both Janet Maslin and Vincent Canby of THE NEW YORK TIMES as one of the best films of the year, "True Love" subsequently was purchased and released by MGM-UA and its accompanying soundtrack on RCA records boasted two Top 40 hits on the BILLBOARD charts. Its success enabled Savoca to make her only Hollywood film to date, "Dogfight" (1991), although she has taken all her projects to the studios first before going the independent route. Filmed for $8 million (eight times the budget of "True Love"), "Dogfight" told the...

The daughter of Sicilian and Argentine immigrants, writer-director Nancy Savoca graduated from the film school at New York University where she received the Haig P. Manoogian Award for overall excellence for her short films "Renata" and "Bad Timing". Her earliest professional experience came as an assistant auditor on two Jonathan Demme-directed pictures ("Something Wild" 1986, "Married to the Mob" 1988) and as a production assistant to John Sayles ("Brother From Another Planet" 1984). Sayles, in turn, provided funding for her feature directing and co-screenwriting debut, "True Love" (1989), an incisive comedy about Italian-American courtship and marriage rituals in the Bronx. Hailed by both Janet Maslin and Vincent Canby of THE NEW YORK TIMES as one of the best films of the year, "True Love" subsequently was purchased and released by MGM-UA and its accompanying soundtrack on RCA records boasted two Top 40 hits on the BILLBOARD charts. Its success enabled Savoca to make her only Hollywood film to date, "Dogfight" (1991), although she has taken all her projects to the studios first before going the independent route. Filmed for $8 million (eight times the budget of "True Love"), "Dogfight" told the story of a young Vietnam-bound soldier (River Phoenix) and the wallflower waitress (Lili Taylor) whom he takes to a mean-spirited contest for the ugliest date. The film received favorable reviews but a poor box-office reception but further demonstrated the director's flair and facility with actors.

Savoca returned to the compromise world of independents with "Household Saints" (1993), a bittersweet tale of three generations of Italian-American women which received glowing reviews in many quarters and a healthy (if modest) box office. Featuring stellar work from Taylor (as a religious fanatic), Tracey Ullman and Vincent D'Onofrio (as Taylor's mismatched parents) and veteran Judith Malina as D'Onofrio's mother, this adaptation of Francine Prose's novel proved a strong depiction of Italian-Americans in NYC. Like many an indie, the project faced monetary problems; Savoca has said: "I can tell you this: that we could not have made 'Household Saints' for a dollar less than we did. We shaved the budget and shaved the budget and finally we went back to the investors and we said: 'If we make this budget any smaller you're gonna get a movie that's unreleasable.'"

Although she had contributed a short film for the syndicated children's series "The Great Spacecoaster" in the early 80s, Savoca spent her time during her third and fourth features really getting her feet wet in TV, directing a 1995 episode of "Murder One" (ABC) for Steven Bochco and the unsold ABC series pilot "Dark Eyes" (1995), starring Kelly McGillis as a female cop assigned to a special task force. She also directed the "1952" and "1974" segments (and wrote all three) of "If These Walls Could Talk" (1997), HBO's tripartite movie focusing on the issue of reproductive choices. Borrowing from her own experiences as a mother of three, Savoca then tackled the legend of the modern-day superwoman in "The 24 Hour Woman" (1999), revealing with great humanity how everything comes with a price. Starring Rosie Perez as a TV producer whose pregnancy, birth and child-raising become the focus of her quirky talk show, the film rang true to the merciless gauntlet endured by working mothers, and though some found the tone wearying, others appreciated its Darwinian message about motherhood and delighted in its send-up of daytime TV.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  Dirt (2003)
3.
  24 Hour Woman, The (1998) Director
4.
  Household Saints (1993) Director
5.
  Dogfight (1991) Director
6.
  True Love (1989) Director
7.
  Bad Timing (1982) Director
8.
  Renata (1982) Director
9.
  Dirt (2003)
10.
  Dark Eyes (1995) Director

CAST: (feature film)

VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in the Bronx
:
Worked as a script reader for a small film distribution company
1984:
Worked with husband as volunteer on production of John Sayles' "The Brother From Another Planet"; Sayles would later invest money in her feature directing debut
1985:
Shot a nine-minute trailer for "True Love"
1986:
Worked as assistant auditor on Jonathan Demme's "Something Wild"
1988:
Hired by Demme for "Married to the Mob," this time credited as production auditor assistant
1989:
Directed and co-wrote first feature "True Love"
1991:
Helmed second film "Dogfight," a period romance starring Lili Taylor and River Phoenix
1993:
Reteamed with Lili Taylor for "Household Saints"; co-wrote screenplay and directed
1995:
TV directing debut, the ABC special "Dark Eyes"
1995:
Helmed an episode of the ABC legal drama "Murder One"
1997:
Directed the "1952" and "1974" segments of "If These Walls Could Talk," the HBO movie dealing with women's reproductive rights, which became the then-highest rated original movie in network's history; scripted all three segments
1998:
Feted as a "New York trailblazer" at the New York Women's Film Festival
:
Honored by the Los Angeles chapter of the advocacy organization Women in Film & Television (WIFT)
1999:
Returned to features as co-writer and director of "The 24 Hour Woman"; film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival
2002:
Helmed the comedic documentary "Reno: Rebel Without a Pause"; also executive produced
2003:
Directed and co-wrote comedy-drama "Dirt"
2011:
Returned to films as director and co-writer of the drama "Union Square"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Queens College: Flushing , New York -
New York University: New York , New York - 1982

Notes

"I'm not a real man expert, I think women can get together and talk about what goes on . . . I don't know what happens--men either know less about what goes on, or they're confused." --Savoca on her ability to understand women and not men, from PREMIERE, October 1993.

"I'm better as a director [than a writer], 'cause it's easier for me to get my ideas across to the people I'm working with than to write them down." --Savoca to INTERVIEW, September 1993.

"Whenever you meet independent filmmakers you're always asking 'Who financed your movie'?" --Savoca in FILMMAKER, Autumn 1993.

On why she turned down the chance to direct "Wayne's World": "I wasn't hip enough to get it. You just can't take on anything. You've really got to love what you're doing. I could convince myself that I really like the project, that I could do big-budget things and actually do a little inroading on the woman director thing, but the problem is I've also got to convince a cast of actors that I love being there.

"I've got enough energy in me to argue with executives over all the changes I want. There's so much that goes into making a movie, and it's almost a two-year process, so I have to really in some way believe that I'm doing the greatest movie on Earth--which I've always felt every time I've gone out and made my movies. Whether other people agree or not, I feel like I'm doing something great. And that's why I get up in the morning. But it's different if you take something for a paycheck." --From THE WASHINGTON POST, February 28, 1999

About how her collaboration with husband Richard Guay works: "The easy answer is to say that I am the creative one who works with actors, and he is the producer trying to figure out how to get the money. Except that we have this writer thing. In the writing phase, it is up for grabs creatively, but once we get into production, we pretty much respect each other's territory.

"And also, since he's so different from me, I get another point of view that I trust ... His approach is like the polar opposite of how I would approach it, and sometimes therein lies the answer. If things are getting convoluted, I go to him because he is a clear thinker. I could take a scene on for 80 pages and never be able to get out of it. Rich will say, 'The scene ends here.' In 'Household Saints', the novel was something like 235 pages, and the script was longer, and he just came in and cut it." --From Filmmaker, February-April 1999.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Richard Guay. Producer, screenwriter, assistant director. Married c. 1981; father of Savoca's children; met when he was an accounting student working at the neighborhood Italian deli near her home; co-wrote "True Love" (1982), "Household Saints" (1993) and "The 24 Hour Woman" (1999).

Family close complete family listing

father:
Carlo Savoca. Born in Sicily, Italy.
mother:
Maria Elvira Savoca. Born in Argentina.
son:
Kenneth Guay. Born in January 1989 while "True Love" was enjoying its Sundance success; named after producer Kenneth Utt (a producing associate of family friend Jonathan Demme).
son:
Bobby Guay. Born c. 1987.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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