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Interview with Nancy Savoca - Co-writer and Director of Union Square

Women and Hollywood By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood July 13, 2012 at 1:26PM

Women and Hollywood: This movie was born out of frustration of not being able to get financing for films, and then you made a movie that needed very little financing.  Talk a little about the guerrilla method you used for this film.
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WaH: Talk about he journey of the film from last year's Toronto Film Festival to this week's opening almost a year later.

NS: Everything is new to me.  This film has been an education from the time we said we would do it until now.  We are still learning.  I had no expectations.  When we shot the movie I wanted to make this with the best possible people we could attract and we did.  What happened beyond that, I couldn't even focus on.  This is a movie that was done without a safety net. When you are doing that you are like Philippe Petit in Man on a Wire.  You are walking so high on tightrope you can't think about so much else except what you are doing.  If you start thinking about distribution I think you would just go hide under a bed somewhere.  We knew we had a wonderful story, a great cast and everything was a step at a time.  And when Toronto wanted to show our film that was great,  Every step along the way there were these sign posts with encouragement and it has been like that in this year that has followed. 

WaH: Is it liberating in some way not having those kinds of expectations?

NS: Yes.  When I started in the film business I didn't have any expectations and there is something in the work that is really nice.  Once you start making films it is difficult not to worry what people think.  For your first film you come from nowhere and people are like gosh look at this person. Then the second film they say it's not as good as the first one, and it won't be as good as the third one.  Then they start doing comparisons with other people.  On the whole, to live day to day you put it aside but it effects you.  And you need to constantly consciously refocus on the work.  Now after 23 years I feel really comfortable refocusing on the work.

WaH: I read in the press notes that you were savvy about product placement.  Can you talk about the pluses and minuses of that?

NS: I had enough censorship with being in one room that once we were out of that room we wrote a scene where she went power shopping in Filene's Basement.  My producers were like oh no.  My husband Richard Guay who produced my film said we have no budget to pay them.  And I said let's just go talk to them.  We did not pay for a single location on this film because we were so small and self contained that we could go to those places and stay out of the way.

The same thing with the nighclub scene.  For a producer there are red flags everywhere -- how am I going to get a club and how am I going to fill it with people?  Turns out a few blocks away from Neda's apartment - we could not travel to any locations- there was a club called Crimson and we asked if we could come when they were having a party.  We crashed a party and shot a scene while people were dancing.

WaH: Did they know?

NS: I don't know.  Nobody acted like they knew and they didn't asks for Mira's autograph.  They were taking cell phone pictures but the way she was dancing anybody would have taken cell phone pictures.

WaH: Can you give any advice from this experience - the not asking for permission piece.

NS: It such an interesting time.  I just wrote this piece for Filmmaker magazine on film waves.   People are saying indie film is dead.  It is not dead there are always waves it just changes because indie film because it is outside the mainstream industry running parallel and it always has to find its way.  When things aren't working on the bigger level then indie film has to jump ahead.  What ends up happening is that thing that everyone fears in the bigger business: the new technology, the internet, piracy, new cameras, what does distribution look like, 35 mm dying etc.  All these things are just an evolution.  The experimental people goes to the lower budget movies because we have to.  And meanwhile I can do this and then work on a TV show and a feature and then I am back here again. 

But this is so interesting because you can really see the terrain.  It's like being on the forefront and watching what happens.  I have a friend who says if you really want to see the forefront you should look a the porn industry because they are really way out there. So we really are just behind the porn industry.

WaH: I read that you are working on an adaptation of Elizabeth McCraken's The Giant's House.  I love that book.

NS: Isn't that an amazing book.  It's a beautiful book.  Neda and Mary are the people that I am working with on  this movie. 

Union Square opens in NY and LA today, July 13.

This article is related to: Nancy Savoca, Neda Armian, Mary Tobler, Women Directors, Mira Sorvino