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Nancy Savoca (July 23, 1959), is an Americanmarker film screenwriter, director, and producer. Born and raised in the Bronx, New Yorkmarker, she is the daughter of Sicilian and Argentinemarker immigrants Calogero Savoca and Maria Elvira Savoca. Married to Richard Guay (pronounced as "gay"), also a writer and producer, they have three children: two sons and a daughter.

Life and work

After completing her courses at Queens College, Flushing, New York, Savoca went on to graduate in 1982 from New York University’smarker film school, the Tisch School of the Arts. While there she received the Haig P. Manoogian Award for overall excellence for her short films Renata and Bad Timing. Around this time she met Rich Guay, then an accounting student working at an Italian deli near her home. They were married in 1980. Once out of film school she worked as a storyboard artist and assistant editor on an independent film. But her first real hands-on professional experience was as a production assistant to John Sayles on his film: The Brother From Another Planet and as an assistant auditor for Jonathan Demme on two of his films: Something Wild (1986), and Married to the Mob (1988).

In 1989, her very first full length movie, the privately funded True Love about Italian-American marriage rituals in the Bronx won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival held in Utahmarker each year. The movie, starring Annabella Sciorra and Ron Eldard, both making their film debuts (and co-starring a number of familiar faces from The Sopranos including Aida Turturro and Vincent Pastore), was hailed as one of the best films of the year by both Janet Maslin and Vincent Canby of the New York Times. Savoca was nominated for a Spirit Award as Best Director. MGM/UA snapped up the distribution rights and RCA released the soundtrack, seeing two of the songs reach the Top 40 hits on the Billboard charts.

Since then she has written, directed and produced movies for the big screen, for television, has written or polished scripts for other directors, and has directed a number of episodes in ongoing television series. Her most famous work for television was co-writing all three segments of the Demi Moore produced If These Walls Could Talk, a mini-series about abortion rights, and directing the first two segments. The second segment starred Sissy Spacek trying to decide in the mid-70’s whether her marriage could stand the strain of another child. Cher starred in and directed the third segment. In it she played a modern Planned Parenthood doctor, the victim of a pro-life fanatic.

In 1998, Savoca was feted as a "New York trailblazer" at the New York Women's Film Festival. Savoca was also honored by the Los Angelesmarker chapter of the advocacy organization, Woman in Film and Television (WIFT). Her film, True Love was called one of the "50 Greatest Independent Films of All-Time" by Entertainment Weekly.

Two of Savoca's films, Household Saints and True Love, are listed in The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made (St. Martin's Griffin.[564232]

Nancy Savoca’s work has also been the subject of a retrospective by The American Museum of the Moving Imagemarker.

An artist’s vision

Savoca works most often as an independent filmmaker although she is no stranger to Hollywoodmarker. Like the innovative John Cassavetes, she allows her actors to find their own way through to a character. Also like Cassavetes, although her films are entirely scripted (often in partnership with her husband, Rich Guay), Savoca is willing to change a line or a scene at a moment’s notice if it feels right. And unlike most directors, she will use people in her films that have either only acted on stage, or never acted at all. Making a movie is personal. As well as devoting perhaps years to one project, it can be emotionally draining. Asked to direct Emma Thompson in Wit, Savoca declined since the plot of a woman dying from cancer was too close to events in her own life.

Savoca’s films reflect an ongoing concern with the feminine, albeit the quirky feminine. With a sense of nothing being “directed” or manipulated, she evokes so-called “ordinary” life on its deepest emotional level, yet with perfect artistic control. In 1991’s Dogfight, starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, she gives us a touching portrait of feminine courage and masculine absolution. This film—about a Marine on the eve of leaving for the new war in Vietnammarker finding and bringing the ugliest girl he can scrape up to a dreadful contest called a “dogfight”—was not well attended, but was critically acclaimed. The New York Times again praised Savoca’s work. As an interesting aside, Brendan Fraser made his first appearance in "the movies" as a cameo in Savoca's Dogfight,

In 1993’s Household Saints, again teaming up with Lili Taylor, Savoca moved beyond her interest in “ordinary people” to one extraordinary person who steps over the boundaries of routine religion into the realm of the luminously spiritual. Tracey Ullman and Vincent D'Onofrio play the parents of Lili Taylor. Being Italian, they are also Roman Catholic. Professing Catholicism means certain things, but it seldom means housing a saint. Savoca’s script was lovingly crafted from the book by Francine Prose. With Jonathan Demme as the executive producer and released by Fine Line, the film was on the "Best Films" list of over twenty national critics and was nominated for a Spirit Award for Best Screenplay by Savoca and Guay. Lili Taylor won a Spirit for Best Female Performance.

Working with Oscar nominees Rosie Perez, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and Tony Award winner, Patti Lupone, Savoca wrote and directed The 24-Hour Woman about the myth of the “superwoman,” able to juggle a marriage, pregnancy, and a high profile job. Perez plays the producer of a local TV show for women in New York Citymarker who lives her pregnancy, child-birth, and new baby very publicly “over the air.” Also appearing was the up-and-coming Diego Serrano as "Eddie Diaz." This movie was premiered at Sundance in 1999 and Savoca was nominated for an ALMA (American Latin Media Arts) award for Outstanding Director.

Moving into television, Savoca directed, as mentioned, the first two segments of If These Walls Could Talk. The first segment, a single woman seeking a backstreet abortion in the 1950’s played by Demi Moore, caught Moore at perhaps her finest moment as an actress. In this section, Savoca also worked with the highly respected actresses Shirley Knight and CCH Pounder. It was then the highest rated original movie in HBO history. It played at several international film festivals and received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for best television drama and for Ms. Moore's performance. Because of “Walls,” Savoca shared a Lucy Award from "Women In Film" with the other creators for “changing the face of television.”

Released in 2003, she directed Reno: Rebel Without a Pause: Unrestrained Reflections on September 11th, the performance artist Reno’s raw, cynical and furiously funny rant about the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centermarker and The Pentagonmarker. This film opened at the Toronto Film Festivalmarker on September 11th, 2002. The city of Florence, Italymarker awarded this film the Prize for Peace and Liberty.

2005 saw the release of Dirt starring Julieta Ortiz, a stage actress making her first appearance in a motion picture. Dirt, which premiered on Showtime, explores the life of Dolores, an illegal immigrant from El Salvadormarker who can only find work “under the table.” Constantly terrified she will be deported as she cleans American houses, she dreams of the day she can go back to a home of her own. For this film, the Writers Guild of America nominated Savoca and Guay for a WGA for Best Longform Teleplay in 2006. Ortiz won Best Actress in New York's Le Cinema Fe and Savoca won Best Director at Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival.

Latest work

As of 2009, Savoca and Guay are shooting a documentary on Gato Barbieri, an Argentinian jazz saxophonist. They are also currently working towards the filming of Ki Longfellow’s novel The Secret Magdalene in which Savoca is again the screenwriter and director, while Guay is producing.

Concerned about the 2008 presidential election, Savoca and Reno made a short film for YouTube to encourage everyone to vote. (See external links for url.)

As a Director

Television Director


  • 1995 – Dark Eyes (pilot), ABC
  • 1996 – 1952 and 1974, If These Walls Could Talk, (miniseries), HBO
  • 2005 – Dirt, Showtime

As a Writer

  • 1982 – Renata (short film, with others)
  • 1982 – Bad Timing (short film, with others)
  • 1989 – True Love (with Richard Guay)
  • 1993 – Household Saints (with Richard Guay)
  • 1996 – If These Walls Could Talk (with others)
  • 1999 – The 24-Hour Woman (with Richard Guay)
  • 2008 – The Secret Magdalene (pre-production)


  • Women Filmmakers and Their Films, St. James Press, 1998

External links

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