Jeremy Lanning always knew he was going to join the military.

“It felt like something I was supposed to do,” said the 41-year-old Fort Worthian. “And nothing interested me more than the helping professions. I wanted to work on an ambulance as a paramedic and do rescue work.”

These desires spurred him to enlist in the U.S. Navy when he was still in high school in his native Cleveland. After a distinguished military career, he moved to Fort Worth and established a practice as a psychiatric counselor. Yet through all this, something else moved him.


“I saw lots of movies at the Cleveland Institute of Art,” he said.

He also worked in a movie theater, helping load the celluloid reels onto the projectors: “That’s where I first fell in love with film.”

Now, after a recently concluded successful Kickstarter campaign that he described as “more draining” than he expected, he’s preparing to shoot his first film, Get to the Gray, an ambitious short to be filmed here in his adopted hometown.

When his military service started in 1993, Lanning wound up going through boot camps with both the Navy and the Marines, a branch to which the Navy provides medical support. Working in various support positions in field ORs, he rose to the rank of third-class petty officer and NCO, joining a Maryland-based emergency response team created specifically for injury to the President of the United States. After eight years of service concluding in an honorable discharge, family connections and the psychology program at Dallas Baptist University brought him to Texas. Now he splits time between Dallas and Fort Worth. When he’s not training other counselors and doing anti-bullying presentations in schools, he’s seeing patients (many of them veterans like himself), specializing in trauma, substance abuse, and suicide intervention.

Lanning had experience writing poetry, short stories, and songs for a moderately successful Cleveland band. However, he got into filmmaking only three years ago, when he conceived the idea for Get to the Gray. The film is about a criminal profiler whose middle child goes missing while he’s working in a near-future America that has given the profiler and other select individuals carte blanche to fight terrorism.

“I think somebody can make a short film that’s wildly ambitious,” he said. “I think they can put out something with all the depth of a feature film in 28 minutes. There’s no apology for it being short.”

He got advice from fellow filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier (who adapted his own short Blue Ruin into a feature that won rave reviews last year), who told him to strap in for a commitment of several years. Lanning prides himself that in the three years he has been developing the project, he has yet to lose a cast or crew member. More impressively, he recently gained Fort Worth’s Julio Cedillo (Sicario) for a key role. He hopes to start shooting in the spring.

In addition to tackling an unusually big subject for a short film, Lanning hopes to show off Fort Worth to advantage. He has already shot a brooding teaser trailer utilizing some of the city’s less populated areas, something that has already helped him with fundraising.

“I want to shoot around Mount Zion Baptist Church and some other places that people might not know about,” he said. “I want to show a different side of Fort Worth.”