Lisa D’Apolito

Love, Gilda

Lisa D’Apolito


1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?

Love, Gilda, an 84-minute documentary about the life of Saturday Night Live great Gilda Radner, is my first professionally directed work. It was the opening night film at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2018, was theatrically released through Magnolia Pictures, and had a broadcast premiere on CNN on January 1, 2019. Love, Gilda is told through her voice as she looks back and reflects on her life and career. The film comes together by weaving her recently discovered audiotapes, interviews with her friends (Chevy Chase, Lorne Michaels, Laraine Newman, Paul Shaffer and Martin Short), rare home movies and diaries read by modern-day comedians inspired by Gilda (Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph and Cecily Strong). Working through the challenges of Love, Gilda, I found my true creative voice. The film has all my favorite elements in it: comedy, emotion, nostalgia, archival and animation, as well as well-known funny people.

2) How did you get into directing?

I’ve have had many different type of creative jobs in my life. I started my career as an actress. Being on film and commercial sets since I was a teenager gave me hands on understanding on how production works and how different director’s work. I have been very fortunate having been directed by some great directors, such as Martin Scorsese. After acting, I worked at FCB Healthcare as a producer for many years. I rose to head of production enabling me to produce or oversee many different content mediums. I have produced commercials, events, long-form branded contents, radio and print. As a producer and part of a creative team, I have interviewed hundreds of people ranging from Nobel Peace prizewinners, politicians and pop stars; to people with terminal diseases and parents who have lost children. Through the years, I have learned to how make people feel comfortable on camera; while also getting the content needed for the piece. Working as a producer, I was also able to learn what to do from the best commercial directors, and what not to do from some not-so-great ones. Directors with massive egos were lacking in how they handled either talent or regular people. To me, directing is more than the great shots and the production values; it is making the talent shine in the way they were meant to shine. I have always wanted to be a director, which is why I created Love, Gilda. Through it I was able to explore and experiment with my role as director in my own project.

3) What is your most recent project?

I recently directed and produced videos for Gilda’s Club, a cancer support organization founded by Gene Wilder and friends after Gilda Radner lost her own battle with cancer. These videos series portray several New Yorkers living with cancer. I have several projects in development. A docudrama about Coco Chanel and a television series I am directing on the real life Peggy Olsens of Advertising. I also am working with the Gilda Radner estate in developing several projects including a biopic on her life and several short stories and a screenplay Gilda Radner wrote.

4) What is the best part of being a director?

For me, it is a thrill to take an idea from the process of brainstorming to the execution of something tangible and real. I love developing and exploring the creative essence of a project–the shoot, the postproduction process, all of it. It is inspiring to work with different types of creative people that I can learn from. For example, working with composer Miriam Cutler on Love, Gilda taught me a lot about how music is another storyline that heightens emotion, color and the rhythm of film. But truly the most satisfying is when you are done with all the preproduction, editing, sound, and music graphics and you see the finished project on the screen

5) What is the worst part of being a director?

I think it depends on the project. When I interview people who have gone through bad situations, I stay calm, but after the shoot I think about the person and what they went through. It can have a lasting effect on me emotionally. In terms of logistics, planning on shooting outside to find it rainy that day is difficult without a back-up plan.

6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, TV movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre–comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?

I love real people and their real stories I think that is strength. I also love actors and funny people, and after working on Love, Gilda I am very comfortable working with celebrities. So to me, the medium doesn’t really matter, it’s the idea and the potential execution. I also like doing non-profit work as I feel I am doing something that is ultimately beneficial to our world.

7) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?

My mentors in life are my godmother, acting teacher Sande Shurin, and all the amazing creative people I worked with in advertising over the years. Sande has the most creative view on approaching work that I have ever seen. She taught me to look at scripts see from all different perspectives. Her approach is honest and organic, never forced. I try to get to the core honesty of every story and never try to enhance for shock value, as to me that hardly every works with audiences. The creative teams in advertising that I have worked with on commercials and print ads taught me the value of research and details. I learned the importance of every detail from hiring the right make-up artist to the authenticity of props, clothing and casting. As head of production, I have also learned from the producers who worked for me who were always up on the latest cameras, technology and social media.

8) Who is your favorite director and why?

There are so many amazing directors who have totally different styles. I love Alfred Hitchcock’s films, which are like watching a work of art. His shots are so beautiful and add so much to the dramatic tension of a story. I love Wes Anderson and the uniqueness of his stories, the cinematography of his films and the quirkiness of his approach. I thought Greta Gerwig’s direction of Lady Bird was extraordinary as it felt so female and empowering

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?

My favorite movies are Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Wizard of Oz and Italian film, The Great Beauty. My favorite current TV shows are The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Call My Agent, and The Deuce. Spot wise, I still love the 2014 Honda commercial “Hug Fest” with Bruce Willis and Fred Arminsen. It is so simple, but a great concept. I also like commercials that can make you cry like Laura Greenfield’s “Always #LikeAGirl” and Chevrolet’s “Maddie,” Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” and assorted Hallmark commercials.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)

I grew up in New York City. Greenwich Village to be specific and my first creative venture was as an 8 year old creating puppet shows in the staircase of my grandmother’s building for the unsuspecting neighbors going up or down the stairs. I am a dual citizen of the U.S. and Italy. In fact, the town of Mugnano Del Cardinale in Italy where my family is from will be showing Love, Gilda dubbed in Italian this summer.

I lived in London for over 3 years studying acting; and in Los Angeles, for many years while working as an actress in commercials and TV. I was a producer in advertising for 17 years at FCB Healthcare and then started my own production company 3 Faces Films in 2014.



Contact Lisa D'Apolito via email