"I was originally going to be a professor. I was going to be a professor of English and renaissance studies would be my specialty," Lanni said. "But I love film."
But to fund his movies, including his latest one, Lanni needs to make money with his full-time job.
"You know, I represent nurses for my day job. I'm a labor leader and, yeah, that funds my filmmaking," he said.
Not surprisingly, Lanni pays his actors union wages.
"I can afford two and a half days of shooting a year which everybody laughs about and it's absolutely true," he said.
Eric Roberts came on board for "Heal Thyself" to play a greedy doctor in a satire on our health care system. Paula Malcomson of "Deadwood" is his leading lady for the short, "A Woman in the West" and a sandwich may be the star of "A Reuben by Any Other Name." It's based on a real life deli debate.
"It's the difference between Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism in terms of the Reuben sandwich," he said.
Lanni says the sandwich debate is apparently equally serious to the religion debate.
"People are arguing back and forth in that place. I started a riot. And I just looked at this and I said, 'OK, no problem. This is a short,'" he said.
Lanni's shorts are mostly comedies and he's carefully working his way to making bigger projects. For now, he's happy to be paid in the laughter of others.
"There's nothing quite like listening to a whole bunch of people, you know, in sync, you know, especially with comedy because it's timing," Lanni said. "So when it happens, it's bam! You know? It's like, oh this is good. They got that one."
You can get a dose of Lanni's work when "Heal Thyself" plays the Hollywood Film Festival as part of a shorts program Sunday afternoon.