Audiences everywhere are abuzz with the news that comedy legend Sebastian Maniscalco teams up with two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro in the new comedy,About My Father.

The film follows Sebastian, who is eager to introduce his immigrant, hairdresser father (De Niro) to his fiancée's (Leslie Bibb) wealthy and eccentric family (Kim Cattrall, Anders Holm, Brett Dier, David Rasche). What ensues is a hilarious culture clash that helps Sebastian and Salvo understand the beauty of family. Director Laura Terruso teams up with screenwritersAusten Earl and Sebastian Maniscalco to tell a story that is influenced by both Maniscalco's and Terruso's childhood and their relationship with their Italian immigrant parents.

Terruso sat down with No Film School to break down how she transformed her inspiration for About My Father, working with exceptional actors like De Niro, and how understanding every aspect of filmmaking made her a stronger director.

No Film School: Congratulations on your latest successes, with About My Father coming out in theaters on May 26. Can you talk to me about how you got to be involved with this film?

Terruso: Thank you! My agent sent me the screenplay when I was still in post-production on my last film, Work It for Netflix. It was the first script I read where I practically leapt out of my chair and said, “I HAVE TO DIRECT THIS MOVIE.”

The film is about stand-up comedian and actor Sebastian Maniscalco’s relationship with his father who immigrated from Sicily in the 1960s. Well, my mother immigrated from Sicily at around the same time and so I felt a real connection to the story, the characters, and the world. I pursued the project doggedly and was able to pitch my vision for the film to Sebastian, his manager Judi and the team at Depth of Field and thankfully, they hired me to direct.

Courtesyofdananderson5_aboutmyfather'About My Father' BTSCredit: Dan Anderson / Lionsgate

NFS: Explain a little bit about your journey in the film industry and how you got to where you are today.

Terruso: As a young person, I was very interested in writing and theater, but I never thought I’d grow up to become a filmmaker. I didn’t have any family in the business and when I pictured a “film director” I thought of a middle-aged white guy in a baseball cap and jeans holding a megaphone. In my 20s, I started making short films that screened on the LGBT film festival circuit and met a lot of other filmmakers.

I noticed that the ones who were able to make careers of their passion were the ones who went to film school. So, I applied to the Graduate Film Program at NYU. In film school, I threw myself into every single aspect of the craft. I wanted to understand all the technical aspects of making a film (cinematography, sound, editing) so while I was in school, in addition to making my own short films, I produced (and sound recorded) two micro-budget features directed by a filmmaker named Madeleine Olnek that screened at Sundance and was a cinematographer for some NYC-based web series such as High Maintenance and The Slope, among many other odd set jobs.

Working on those projects was great because I met some incredible talent and got to observe other filmmakers in action. During my first year of film school, I made a short called Doris & The Intern. I approached Michael Showalter (who was teaching at NYU as an adjunct professor at the time) and asked him for feedback. He loved the film and we started talking about movies we liked and one day he suggested we write something together.

A year later, we had written the screenplay for Hello, My Name is Doris. We shot the film starring Sally Field in Los Angeles and Michael advised me to make the move out west. However, I knew I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a director having been the female co-writer of Doris, so I went back to New York and used my NYU thesis rig to make a micro-budget indie called Fits and Starts starring Wyatt Cenac and Greta Lee.

We screened that film at SXSW the same year Hello, My Name is Doris was being released in theaters, and that’s when I knew I could make my way to Hollywood. My first job was re-writing and directing a teen stoner comedy for girls called Good Girls Get High which was released on HBO Max. I had such a good experience working with the producers of that film that they invited me to pitch on a film they were developing called Work It.

We made Work It for Netflix and that was the big leap for me into studio filmmaking which is what led to About My Father.

NFS: When did you realize, “Okay, I could actually make it as a successful writer-director”?

Terruso: I think seeing other colleagues of mine succeed was really inspiring. High Maintenance ended up becoming an HBO series and when I met that team, we were just shooting in our apartments on DSLRs. Also, being so involved in Doris made me realize that I could do this.

NFS: In the last eight years since finishing film school, what have been your biggest takeaways?

Terruso: Relationships are everything. I’ve been so fortunate to work with some of the best people in the business. Trust your instincts. Your gut is never wrong.

NFS: Biggest challenges?

Terruso: I find my biggest challenge when making a film is the stuff that’s completely out of my control… like the weather. On bigger studio movies, often the filmmakers don’t really have much of a say as to where they’ll shoot because certain states or municipalities have tax incentives. So you might end up shooting a summer weekend comedy in Alabama during hurricane season (true story).

NFS: You’ve worked with some great talent, including Sally Field in Hello, My Name is Doris, Liza Koshy in Work It for Netflix, and now Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco, Kim Cattrall, and Leslie Bibb. What is it like working with these exceptional actors?

Terruso: It’s the best thing in the world. When you work with actors at that level, they become your key collaborators. 

Courtesyofdananderson2_aboutmyfather'About My Father' BTSCredit: Dan Anderson / Lionsgate

NFS: Tell us about the underlying meaning/story behind About My Father. Why is this personal to you?

Terruso: This film is Sebastian’s love letter to his father and my love letter to my mother. It is a humorous and heartfelt exploration of what it means to be an immigrant and what it means to be first-generation. It’s rare to make a studio movie that is this deeply personal, and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to do so.

NFS: What advice would you give other women pursuing a career in film?

Terruso: Learn the craft and say yes to everything. The experience and relationships you’ll forge by working on other people’s projects will make you a better filmmaker. 

NFS: What’s next for you?

Terruso: I’m developing a few different projects – a TV series with my friend Emily Hampshire, a miniseries based on a documentary I love with Norman Lear’s company, and some film ideas. I also have an experimental documentary I’m currently finishing called No Midnight about performance artist Joseph Keckler that will be headed to festivals soon.