Leonard Laninovich

By Malinn Loeung | Photo by Stan Lim


Leonard Laninovich
Leonard Laninovich is spreading autism awareness while working towards a career in film and TV.


Creating Connections

Born in Fontana and raised in Redlands, Leonard Laninovich grew up just 15 miles from UC Riverside. As a student at Redlands East Valley High School, he had a small group of friends but wanted to expand his social circle. “I want to know more people and I want everyone to know me more,” said Laninovich, who has autism. So, he set out to make that happen at UCR. Laninovich has a long CV of extracurriculars and special passions. Along with being part of the Gamma Beta Phi Honors Society and applying to join the R’Shorts Film Club crew, he attends a tabletop role-playing club every Thursday night. It’s a “fun bonding experience” where members work together to create their own characters, develop unique concepts, and workshop mechanics, he said. Laninovich is also looking forward to getting involved with Fight for Autism (FFA) a student-led organization that spreads appreciation and acceptance of autism. “I went into UCR looking for experiences, and I will get those experiences no matter what,” he said.

Media Misrepresentation

Being diagnosed with autism as a kindergartener might have been a big moment for everyone around him, but, unlike the people who noticed he was different, he didn’t think so. In fact, he didn’t come to terms with being neurodivergent until he was in high school. Before accepting his diagnosis, he said he was always “kinda down” and “hiding” because he felt a lot of people belittled or ignored people on the spectrum. “There’s a lot of stigma and misinformation, but it’s hard to address because it feels like most people won’t understand,” Laninovich said. Despite the obstacles, he continues to put himself out there so people can learn that his life is both “different and not so different” at the same time. He hopes to dispel the idea that all people with autism are similar to the characters depicted on TV shows like “Atypical” or “The Good Doctor.” “We’re all unique, but we are also on par with the rest of humanity,” Laninovich said.

Making Dreams a Reality

Within a few minutes of meeting Laninovich, you’ll learn that he “really, really, really” wants to be in the film and TV industry — whether it’s on screen, behind the camera, or writing scripts. He has a particular passion for reality TV. In fact, Laninovich has auditioned for the popular TV show “Survivor” every year since 2020. Last year, he even submitted two tapes. “‘Survivor,’ ‘Big Brother,’ ‘Amazing Race’ — I want to be in them so bad,” Laninovich said. He is also interested in the psychology of reality TV stars and hopes to teach a student-led R’Course on the subject before he graduates in 2025.

Rising Star

Before Laninovich becomes a big star, he hopes to gain more filmmaking experience at UCR as he works towards a bachelor’s degree in theatre, film, and digital production. That’s why his fingers are crossed as he waits to hear about that R’Shorts Film Club position. He also attended UCR’s annual Casting Call, an opportunity for students to be part of campus promotional publications, like commercials, billboards, and more. And he’ll continue to enjoy his favorite class, Stage Management, because of the hands-on experience. “I just want to get my experience, get my degree, and then just go out there and show the world what I can contribute,” he said.


Return to UCR Magazine: Spring 2024