Shannon Lanier, the executive producer, writer and director for Dark Ronin Films shares how acting changed his life and brought him into the entertainment business. His production company has been generating intriguing new independent film projects in the D.C./VA/MD/PA and NY areas. Lanier’s story is inspirational and relatable to many film makers.
Lanier started out acting in high school productions, which led to a Busch Gardens commercial. He left acting and the entertainment business behind, as many do, to pursue a more financially stable and reliable career. He attended George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in business. He then furthered his education through obtaining an MBA, Lanier continued on this career path until in 2009 when he re-visited his love of acting.
With the support of his loving wife and children, Lanier auditioned for the film Unraveled, which was filming in Maryland. Obtaining a part as an extra on the film, gave him a look into filming and he was hooked. Of the experience he says, “… I saw a listing for it and I decided I wanted to try to do some acting, and I got to be on there as an extra. They wanted some pretty good scenes and stuff, and from there I was just kind of hooked.” From this point, things progressed rapidly for Lanier with more extra roles, and small roles in other independent projects, short films, and the television shows; VEEP, Game Change, and the feature film Batman. These films and television shows cemented his passion for the film industry further and inspired his fascination with production and development. Lanier counts his involvement in Soul Mate: Evil Never Dies as encouragement for him to begin writing his own scripts and becoming more involved in the production and development processes of film-making.
Lanier began writing finding inspiration in his life and people he has known. “I started thinking about just different experiences in my own life, people I know and just different topics and I just really sat back and started writing from there…pretty much all the story lines right now… I have about ten different films that I want to get done. Really every single one of them was based upon someone I’ve known, or their struggle or experience, and it’s just really given an avenue to write. I really like just exploring human behavior”, explains Lanier. The first full length script for a feature film Lanier completed was November Lies, which is currently in post-production.
Lanier explains exploring behavior through writing dialogue, “You know, that’s I think the key in dialogue is making sure that it’s real and it’s the sort of things that you think, that you’re trying to like… I guess you’re just trying to tell that story and bring people in to understanding the characters. So evolving those characters and really having people relate to them in some way or the other, it’s a really cool journey to go through.” Lanier explored this idea while writing the independent film November Lies, which also happens to be his directorial debut.
Lanier counts the feature film, and working behind the scenes for Carlos Etizo Roman on a film as inspiration for his approach to directing. “You know, it was more his passion about things. Genre-wise, he did a lot of sci-fi. I’m not a huge sci-fi person, but there are a lot of lessons to be learned in how he approached everything. I may not be necessarily writing sci-fi oriented films, there’s still just the underlying sort of values and rules and sort of teachings that he kind of passed along to me on that”, explains Lanier of his inspiration from Roman.
Lanier has also recently begun his own production company along with a few partners, Dark Ronin Films , which is based out of Pennsylvania. He began the production company out of the sheer desire to make films that he wanted to see that were produced, written, and directed in methods that were of similar quality of the current studio produced films. “Dark Ronin Films has really come out of really trying to make a difference with projects. I wasn't too happy about the opportunities in the area as an actor. It’s so hard to find really good stuff that’s going to show the world what you can do as an actress or an actor or whatever. So, it was a matter of trying to do something different even on the East Coast and this area. If you’re going to do a small independent low-budget film, there’s no reason why it can’t look like a multi-million-dollar film. It really is the way it came about”, explains Lanier.
Lanier credits his new partners for the forward momentum that is currently moving the production company towards success. Christine Berry, Suzanne Stephens Breintenbach, and Gina Lee have been invaluable and instrumental on moving all the current projects at Dark Ronin Films from conception through to the marketing phases. Current project include House of Adelyn, a family film, and The Battle of Ripcord, which are both currently in pre-production. Lanier’s directorial debut with his partners, November Lies is expected to be released in the coming year.
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