She attended local schools. After completing her courses at Queens College, Flushing, New York, Savoca went on to graduate in 1982 from New York University's 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.
After film school, Savoca worked as a storyboard artist and assistant editor on an independent film. Her first 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, she directed her first full-length movie, the privately funded True Love, about Italian-American marriage rituals in the Bronx. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie, starring Annabella Sciorra and Ron Eldard, both making their film debuts (and co-starring a number of now-familiar faces from The Sopranos including Aida Turturro and Vincent Pastore), was praised 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 picked up the distribution rights and RCA released the soundtrack, with two songs reaching the Top 40 hits on the Billboard charts.
Since then she has written, directed and produced movies for the big screen and television, written or polished scripts for other directors, and directed a number of episodes in ongoing television series.
She was among five writers and co-wrote 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, a married woman who does not think she can afford another child. Cher starred in and directed the third segment, in which she played a doctor targeted by anti-abortion activists. It was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards and three Golden Globe Awards, including Best Miniseries or Television Film.
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 Angeles chapter of the advocacy organization, Women in Film and Television (WIFT).
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. Her film True Love was called one of the "50 Greatest Independent Films of All Time" by Entertainment Weekly.
Nancy Savoca's work has also been the subject of a retrospective by the American Museum of the Moving Image.
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 (Eio Books, 2005; Random House, 2007) in which Savoca is again the screenwriter and director, while Guay is producing.
Revolution Books screened "Dirt" on August 11, 2010. Savoca appeared for a Q&A. DIRT is an award-winning tragic-comedy about an undocumented cleaning woman. Shot in NYC and El Salvador.
In February 2011, Colombia held a retrospective of Savoca's work which she attended.
Savoca has completed her independent feature Union Square starring Mira Sorvino, Tammy Blanchard, Patti LuPone, Mike Doyle, Michael Rispoli and Daphne Rubin-Vega. Madeleine Peyroux recorded an end song for the film which was invited to open in 2011's Toronto International Film Festival. It is now being released in selected theaters throughout the United States.
On June 4, 2012, Nancy Savoca received a Best in the Biz tribute in Canada's 10th Anniversary Female Eye Film Festival.
On July 13, 2012 (a Friday), Union Square opened to packed houses in New York City, Los Angeles and Toronto. An indie shot in 12 days for less than $100,000, it has received widespread notice from major print sources such as the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, to online sources like Newsday, Yahoo Voices and the Pasadena Sun.
In the fall of 2012, Nancy directed a short film for Scenarios USA. This is an organization that uses the stories of high school students, transforming them into professionally made short films. Nancy worked with student screenwriters to help develop their original ideas into films that air on Showtime and become part of an innovative teaching curriculum used in high schools around the country.
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