Interview by John Wisniewski
Richard Lanni is the director and co-writer of SGT STUBBY: AN AMERICAN HERO. Based on the incredible, real-life story of America’s most decorated dog – a stray rescued from the streets of New Haven, Conn., by a young doughboy on the eve of America’s entry into World War I – a stubby-tailed pup soon finds himself in the trenches of France, embarking on a historic adventure by his beloved Soldier’s side. A genuine, four-legged American hero and the first canine promoted to the rank of Sergeant in U.S. Army history, Sgt. Stubby shows the world the true meaning of dedication, loyalty and bravery in this thrilling “tail” of adventure for the entire family.
John Wisniewski: Your new film company Fun Academy has opened recently. How have things been going for yourself and the company?
Richard Lanni: Our feet haven’t touched the ground since we opened our doors, it’s been go, go, go, but I’m privileged to have a talented and committed team alongside me. When you’re shoulder to shoulder with good people you don’t notice the 16-hour days.
John Wisniewski: You wrote the screenplay for Sgt. Stubby, An American Hero, why did you choose the setting of WWI for the story, and was it difficult to write the story?
Richard Lanni: I wrote the screenplay with a friend, Mike Stokey, a former marine. We didn’t choose WWI, it’s a true story that happened during 1917/18. We had about seven re-writes during the period, but we knew we needed to make the changes and so we and got on with it. Stubby is a CG animated movie and often you don’t see that dialogue doesn’t work until you see the acting. It was a fun writing project that we were both passionate about.
John Wisniewski: What has the critical reception been to the film, so far?
Richard Lanni: The film does not release until April 13th, but the reaction from those who have seen it including foreign buyers and some major studios has been extremely positive.
John Wisniewski: Could you give us a look into future projects by Fun Academy Motion Pictures?
Richard Lanni: Our mission is to create entertaining family content based on true stories and iconic pieces of American literature. Stubby will be a trilogy of movies, and we have two others in development, all CG animated.
John Wisniewski: Any favorite films and filmmakers, Richard?
Richard Lanni: Many! Steven Spielberg, David Lean and Stanley Kubrik, to name just a few.
John Wisniewski: What is the most difficult task in filmmaking for you, and what is the most enjoyable?
Richard Lanni: Finding the right story and assembling a good team. It’s all about people. If you are lucky enough to have a good story and you assemble the right people then it pops! This is a great feeling.
John Wisniewski: Any advice for those who wish to open their own film production company?
Richard Lanni: Belief, Belief, Belief! If you believe strongly enough you can make it happen.