Family & Companions
Though some filmmakers would rather make movies about space travel or serial killers, writer-director Nicole Holofcener instead chose to draw from her own life to create more personal films inhabited by realistic characters - a practice that often led to accusations of narcissism from film critics. Much like her influences Woody Allen and Albert Brooks, Holofcener used her own life experiences and possible real-life individuals as sources of inspiration, melding life and art often to the point of being indistinguishable. But such questions and criticisms were never much of a concern to Holofcener, who emerged from the Sundance Film Festival in 1996 with rave reviews for her feature debut, "Walking & Talking" - a slice-of-life drama that firmly established her autobiographical style and propelled her into one of independent film's more talked about directors.
Born March 22, 1960 into an artistic family, the future filmmaker drew inspiration from those around her, including her mother, Carol, who was a set decorator and her father, Lawrence, who was a veteran stage actor and Broadway lyricist. In her preteen years, her parents divorced, forcing her mother to move Holofcener and her older sister, Suzanne, from their hometown New York City to Los Angeles, where she attended high school. Her mother then married producer Charles Jaffe of Woody Allen fame who brought Holofcener onto the Allen film "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" (1982) as a production assistant. She later worked on "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1987) as an apprentice editor. After attending art school and realizing everyone was better than her, Holofcener went to San Francisco State University, before transferring to New York University to attend film school. NYU failed to teach Holofcener what she needed to learn, so she switched to Columbia University where she finally began to think of herself as a real filmmaker.
At Columbia, Holofcener directed a few short films, including "It's Richard I Love," a comedy that played at festivals and aired on PBS's "American Playhouse," and "Angry," a five-minute comedy about Holofcener breaking up with her mother that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. Her inclusion at Sundance led to an invitation to participate in a workshop which she used to further develop her script for "Walking and Talking." Later championed by independent producers Ted Hope and James Schamus, the minimalist romantic comedy starred a then unknown Catherine Keener as a Manhattan woman struggling to find a romantic connection while being envious of her best friend (Anne Heche) who readies for her upcoming wedding. But instead of using typical genre conventions - melodrama, snappy banter, much-too-stylish clothing - Holofcener made a film drawn from real life and populated with characters the audience could relate to in their own lives. "Walking and Talking" emerged from the 1996 Sundance Film Festival with a strong degree of buzz and was theatrically released later that year, earning its modest $1 million budget back at the box office.
Though Holofcener wanted to continue making independent films, she ventured into the occasional television directing gig. After helming episodes of the short-lived medical drama, "L.A. Doctors" (CBS, 1998-99), she commanded the set on HBO's "Sex and the City" (1998-2004) during its first season. In between directing gigs, she was one of several scribes to working on Garry Shandling's futuristic sex comedy, "What Planet Are You From?" (2000). She then stepped behind the camera on "Cold Feet" (NBC, 1999-2001), "Gilmore Girls" (The WB, 2000-07) and "Leap of Faith" (NBC, 2001-02), before returning to independent features with her sophomore effort, "Lovely & Amazing" (2002). The critically lauded second film was an ensemble comedy about a family matriarch (Brenda Blethyn) trying to deal with three daughters (Catherine Keener, Elizabeth Mortimer and Ravin Goodwin) who could not have been more unalike. "Lovely & Amazing" made the festival circuit rounds and earned nominations at the 2003 Independent Spirit Awards, including nods for Best Feature and Best Director.
Holofcener returned to series television, helming a couple episodes of "Six Feet Under" (HBO, 2000-05), before directing her third independent feature, "Friends With Money" (2006) - an ensemble comedy about four woman who become increasingly challenged with one another over their varying degrees of financial comfort. The three friends with money (Keener yet again, Frances McDormand and Joan Cusack) are worried about the youngest in the group, Olivia (Jennifer Aniston), because of her inability to make a living or sustain a relationship. Despite their shared concern for their poor friend, the others struggle to deal with their marriages and personal lives, proving no amount of money can save a fatally flawed relationship. Holofcener's film again played at Sundance where it screened at the 2006 festival on opening night.
Following "Friends with Money, Holofcener went back to directing television with an episode of "Bored to Death" (HBO, 2009-11), a sharp comedy about a struggling writer (Jason Schwartzman) who moonlights as an unlicensed private eye while receiving help from his psychologically damaged friend (Zach Galifianakis) and his womanizing boss (Ted Danson). She moved on to direct her next independent film, "Please Give" (2010), a comedic drama about a yuppie New York City couple (Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt) who eagerly await the death of their cranky old neighbor (Ann Morgan Guilbert) so they can take over her apartment and commence a long-awaited remodeling. After successful screenings at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival, "Please Give" opened in a small handful of theaters and to a heavy helping of strong critical reviews. Once again, Holofcener received the strongest praise, as well as a nomination for Best Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards
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Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
First feature credit as production assistant on "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy"
Wrote, directed and acted in the short film, "Angry"; premiered at the Sundance Film Festival
Wrote and directed first feature "Walking and Talking," which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival; first collaboration with Catherine Keener
Began directing episodes of "Sex & the City" (HBO)
Directed and scripted second film, "Lovely & Amazing"; again collaborated with actress Catherine Keener
Directed several episodes of the HBO funeral drama, "Six Feet Under"
Helmed "Friends with Money," a drama about three married women, their husbands, and their lone single friend; earned an Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best Screenplay
Helmed fourth feature film, "Please Give"; fourth collaboration with Catherine Keener
Nominated for the 2011 Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay ("Please Give")