Interview with Director Maria Giese

Source: UCLA Daily Bruin

Giese captures spirit of British soccer in first feature
UCLA alumna uses experiences to lend authenticity
   By Lael Loewenstein
   Daily Bruin Staff

   A memorable moment in the film "When
   Saturday Comes" occurs when a rowdy bunch of
   young British men cavort in a communal bath
   following a victorious soccer game. So free and
   natural are the actors, and so strikingly
   authentic their Sheffield slang that one would
   swear that only a British man could have made
   this picture, right?

   Wrong. "When Saturday Comes" is the first
   feature written and directed by UCLA Film
   School alumna Maria Giese, who happens to be
   neither British nor male, but who used her status
   as an American woman to lend the film some
   critical objectivity.

   "I was able to bring many of my own
   observations to the production," says Giese,
   who will be present to answer questions after
   her film screens at Melnitz tonight. "A lot of it is
   true to my own experience."

   In the film, a talented but irresponsible youth
   named Jimmy (Sean Bean) loses his chance to
   play for a first division professional soccer team
   after a night of heavy drinking and partying
   leaves him incapacitated. Once he's hit rock
   bottom, having also lost his girlfriend and
   endured a family tragedy, Jimmy renews his
   faith, turns his life around and fulfills his dreams.
   The Sheffield of "When Saturday Comes" feels
   so familiar to Giese because she spent a great
   deal of time there with her husband of 12 years,
   producer James Daly, an aspiring soccer player
   himself before he gave up and moved to the
   United States. There he met the Cape
   Cod-bred, Wellesley-educated Giese, fell in love
   and got married. 

   Giese and her husband were frequent visitors to
   Sheffield, where, while observing the close-knit
   life in North Yorkshire, she also collected source
   material for her future film.

   "I remember when I met my mother-in-law and
   we were at a `hen party,' " Giese recalls of the
   ritualized gatherings women attend while their
   husbands or boyfriends go out drinking. 

   "It was the only one I ever attended. All the men
   were on their lads' night out, which is lots of fun,
   and a hen party is an intensely boring and
   disturbing experience. We were sitting there with
   all these women unhappily drinking tea in
   someone's living room while everyone else was
   out having a bloody ball, and my mother-in-law,
   in complete exasperation, said, `That's it. All I
   know is I'm coming back as a man.' "

   That line and a similar incident also appear in
   Giese's film when Jimmy and his chums go out
   drinking, leaving mother and sister behind.
   "I saw just how frustrating and limiting these
   women found their lives, and I wanted to show
   that in the film." Even the story's heroine, Annie,
   wants nothing more than to get married and
   have her boyfriend's baby.

   The lead character in "Saturday," Jimmy, may
   closely echo Giese's husband, but Annie is a
   long way from the director's own persona.
   Where Annie would be content with marriage
   and a family, Giese, who originally wanted to be
   a socio-political documentarian, has always
   been driven by creative ambitions.

   That ambition flourished at UCLA, where under
   the tutelage of Professors Gyula Gazdag, Myrl
   Schreibman and Jerzy Antczak, Giese was able
   to realize her deep-seated and longstanding

   "Since I was 14, I knew I wanted to be a
   filmmaker. I'd always wanted to be Lena
   Wertmuller (the Oscar-nominated director of
   "Seven Beauties.") And I knew within a month of
   being at UCLA that I had not been wrong. I loved
   directing, and I loved that energy level, since my
   mind functions well having to think about a great
   many things simultaneously. And I loved writing."
   But the transition to the professional world was
   not so easy. "Film school was a stepping stone,
   but getting into the film business takes
   tremendous ambition and will, and it takes
   having a chokehold. In my case, it was my
   script," she explains.

   Having completed the script, Giese shopped it
   around, only to find that some executives were
   afraid that the project wouldn't get financed with
   a woman at the helm. The producers suggested
   Giese take a writer-producer credit and give up
   plans to direct while they found a man for the

   She held firm. "I said, if you want a male
   director, get another script. I had four older
   brothers, and I grew up in a world of men, so I
   know what that's all about. Men seem to evoke a
   kind of credibility for many people, but we just
   need to understand that bias and get beyond it."
   FILM: "When Saturday Comes." Written and
   directed by Maria Giese. Tonight at 7:30,
   Melnitz Theater. Q& A Session and reception to
   follow screening. Admission Free. For more info
   call 825-2345. 

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