Nancy Savoca

I was born in 1959. Filmically speaking, it was the year of Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, one of the early films of the French New Wave. Truffaut along with Godard, Varda and others were fighting what they saw as the tired narrative of post-war French films.

1959 was also the year that John Cassavetes made his debut with Shadows, a movie he described as being about “the little people – the ones Hollywood doesn’t talk about.” The film couldn’t get a U.S. distributor but still managed to win the Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival. This helped secure an American release through European distributors.

Right around that same time, in New York, Maya Deren thought “official cinema” was “running out of breath” and she formed the Filmmakers Cooperative to explore avant garde filmmaking. The group included Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage and Shirley Clark.

The American New Wave (or the New Hollywood movement) came only a decade later, in the 70s. From Arthur Penn, Elaine May and Charles Burnett to Spielberg, Lucas, Scorsese and Coppola, these filmmakers, many of them film school grads, were rebelling against a tired Hollywood studio system.

The 80s brought us “high concept” movies yet with it came artists like David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Euzhan Palcy, Katherine Bigelow, John Sayles, Jim Jarmusch, Susan Seidelman, Spike Lee and Joan Micklin Silver whose personal visions bucked the system.

But when True Love won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 1989, I didn’t realize that I would be a part of yet another film wave. In fact, I was surprised on many levels. First off, we entered the film in what was then called The United States Film Festival, at the suggestion of John Sayles, who was one of our mentors. I remember thinking, “Oh the festival in Utah.” Who knew that this would be the year that “Sundance” was born and became a household name?

As things turned out, I wasn’t able to attend the festival because I was dealing with a birth myself. The night we won, I went into labor with our second son. So, while I heard some muffled excitement on the phone that my husband and producer Richard Guay held out to me, I could only hug the wall and pant. It wasn’t until I came home from the hospital a day later, with newborn Kenny in my arms, and found our apartment overflowing with flowers from every major studio and every big Hollywood agency that I could react. But even then, my hazy postpartum response was, “Who died?”

But, present or not, on the night of January 28,1989, I, along with Steven Soderbergh (whose sex, lies and videotape won the Audience Award) became a part of the wave we now call the Indie Film movement. We would join an incredible group of filmmakers who left their own mark throughout the 90s and beyond.

~ Nancy Savoca in Filmmaker Magazine

One response to “Nancy Savoca

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