Grant West is a 22 year old filmmaker and artist from Hickory, North Carolina. He is in his final semester at UNCSA where he is about to achieve his BA in filmmaking with a concentration in production design and a minor in arts management.
North by Northwest caught up with Grant in an interview. He shared that his desire to become a filmmaker came about when he was a senior in highschool at Hickory’s Challenger High School. “I saw people picking relatively safe and sure majors and future careers. That’s how I knew I wanted something that was a bit more of a ‘roll of the dice’ for my future. I had done film projects with people at school and at camp. I loved being able to bring people joy when I was working on these projects.”
Taking an Opportunity
Grant met North by Northwest’s CEO Anthony Alderman last year. When he responded to an art director position advertised at his school for a summer feature. His school’s career organizer, Kate Miller told him about the opportunity. “I saw the advertisement for an art director that was local to Hickory and it felt perfect for me. I had to apply. As soon as I met Anthony and his family I knew I would fit in with the people and the culture.”
Beyond bringing people joy, Grant said what inspires him to make films is to help bring an artist, a director, or a screenwriter’s vision to life. “I love showing them what we can do to help them realize their art. And get a work as best as it can be.” To date, Grant’s favorite projects have included the film “Cost of a Stranger” which was about a prostitute grappling an accidental pregnancy and her own destiny. One of Grant’s favorite inspirations for the film was “Moulin Rouge” so he loved getting to take style from that in designing the brothel. “I like being bold. Sadly, in post-production they turned the film black and white. But I still have some of these photos for my portfolio.”
Grant also enjoyed designing a spaceship for the film “Adrift” which he designed alongside Shelby Grzech. “I designed the concept art, and saw it rendered into a 3D spaceship. That was really cool.” Grant also was very proud of his senior thesis project which is due to come out in may. The film is “JAZMIN”. It was a story made by, and to uplift, African American women. “And that was a really fun, positive environment and project to get to be a part of. It’s also very lively and colorful, at one point it rained glitter. There is a flower magic carpet and lots of hip hop mishmashes with inspiration taken from our favorite artists (SZA, JID, JCole, etc.).” The film is half animated. It will be made available for the public to view at the end of the semester.
I asked Grant what it was like to be a filmmaker in North Carolina. “I feel like Winston-Salem is a great first stop for filmmakers on a bigger adventure. The town is like a RPG [referencing role playing video games] It’s not too small and not too dangerous. And there is a lot of variety.” After graduation, Grant is looking forward to going to the beach for a week with his younger brother. His brother will just be finishing high school at the same time. Then he plans to move to Atlanta, GA and get a job as an Art PA. His aim is to get involved in set design and illustration. “I look forward to getting a list of things to draw for the day. And then going and getting my cup of coffee in the city and getting to it,” he told me.
Filmmaker and Artist
But Grant isn’t just a filmmaker, he also loves art. When he’s not drawing with pen and ink he likes to experiment with spray paint. Grant spray painted Anthony Alderman’s garage. North by Northwest regularly asks local artists to get involved in spray painting or painting the company’s back lot walls and facilities. Currently, he’s working on a project where he is recreating scenes from The Handmaid’s Tale. This is one of his favorite books. He will recreate scenes in the style of Lichtenstein. “I really like Lichtenstein’s style but I heard he was not a very nice person and a bit sexist. So I thought it would be a great way to reclaim his style if I used it to tell feminist stories from The Handmaid’s Tale.” He hopes this will be finished in the next couple of months.
Advice to People Starting out on the Career Path
I asked Grant what advice he would give to people who wanted to become a filmmaker. “You do have to work with a lot of different personalities. And every decision requires more than one person, which is good in a way because power is distributed. It functions well when it goes well. But if you can’t manage artistic egos then you might come into sticky situations.
You have to try not to take things to heart and keep things moving. If this is something that is difficult for you then you can still be in the industry if you want to focus on something like editing but everything else is part of a larger process that is very involved with people.” Otherwise, Grant suggested that someone who had a big imagination and was able to easily visualize things without them having to actually be already in existence, would thrive in the career.
Grant said he’s been enjoying the opportunity to work with 2nd Street Productions, and with Anthony, because it’s given him the opportunity to work more with cinematography and editing, as well as, to learn new technologies. We look forward to seeing what projects Grant works on next! North by Northwest regularly connects and engages with local artists on projects and collaborations. If you’re a local artist with a cool idea or project, please get in touch with us.