Get to Know Artist Grant Spanier
Brought to you by Talenthouse (@talenthouse)
Grant Spanier (@grantspanier) is a Los Angeles-based creative. He's a director, designer, photographer and one half of the directing duo DAD®. Along with following him on Ello, check out his work at www.slashgrant.com and www.dad-dad.com
Interviewer Alexi Ueltzen (@alexi) is Ello's Social Media & Email Manager. She lives in Evergreen, CO with her husband, two dogs, and one hedgehog named Ditters who hates everything except for mealworms and tunnels.
First off, tell us a little bit about how you got into producing music videos and taking photos.
I started in writing short fiction, then stumbled into startups and design, then cartwheeled into advertising & add’l advertising bullshit… then I kickflipped into music videos. From the unending complexity of directing videos I sauntered into taking photos because (with all due respect to my photographer brethren) it’s so (relatively fucking) easy, or at least less complex, compared to most of the video work I do.
Your videos and photos have a retro-yet-otherworldly vibe. What kind of messages or emotions are you trying to convey with your work?
Hold on to what was because impending doom is all around us? I kid. Sort of. Idk I guess I’ve always been pretty nostalgic… it’s almost a sort of supernatural nostalgia since it’s a longing for times & eras I never actually knew. I guess I mostly shoot on film so that’s baked in. I think I’m attracted to what feels like it might be hyper-natural.
The process of figuring out what you’re trying to say isn’t always simple. Sometimes you just express and the thesis of it all isn’t totally clear, but the images feel right to you.
You have a manifesto on your site, which is somewhat unique in the world of artist portfolios/websites. What inspired you to publish it and is it a living manifesto, or has it been solidified for a while now?
I’m a bit of a completist and I find that writing things out helps me understand myself. Additionally, being a director forces you to have a point-of-view. And having a point-of-view means understanding yourself (see "02 / know thyself” on the ‘festo haha).
So I wrote my manifesto as a way of understanding my own ambitions and guiding principles first. I also wrote it as a thing to point to when younger creatives asked for advice.
It’s been solidified for a bit, but I’m sure it could evolve. Perhaps with another iteration of my site.
You “like to play in different mediums.” What are you deep into right now?
Ehhh. It just keeps me so interested & engaged & a little scared, but mostly excited. I guess my current obsession has been scanning. It’s sort of a new layer I’ve discovered to shooting film.
When I shoot film I get a physical item — the film negative — and I love that new layer of “photography” (making images).
Tell us a little bit about why you share your work on Ello. Shower us with compliments if you want, but please - be honest.
I started sharing more on Ello because the quality is unparalleled, it’s far less cluttered than other places (like Instagram) and is really a curated, super super quality experience.
Ello is full of artists, which is great. I really love the Artist Invites/different initiatives & partnerships Ello has — there are some really dope opportunities to get work out, discover new work, etc.
I was selected as part of the Relish Mag/GROSS Mag LA issue and it was a huge opportunity/introduced me to some really dope creators.
You say you want to do dope stuff with dope people. Us too. What are some of your favorite collaborations to date, and/or who would you love to collaborate with?
I’m in a directing duo called DAD® and my cinematographer/co-director Corey C. Waters is certainly my most treasured & consistent collaborator.
As a director you collect a big people on the production side that are absolutely vital as fuuuuck to bringing visions to life. Too many to name.
Working with other artists is one of my favorite things to do. It gives me life. Bringing visuals to life from music artists’ work is especially exciting.
The tour visuals project for Camila Cabello was really rad in that it gave us the chance to structure something in context for the live environment, and explore some longer form elements/themes.
Alina Baraz was cool because the relationship started with some photos for her album packaging (The Color of You), then escalated into a music video for her lead single (I Don’t Even Know Why Though).
Additionally, it was my first collaboration with creative director Amber Park who has been huge for me in terms of bringing me into dope projects/elevating those projects.
Shooting YG for his album was a big moment for me in terms of production scope on the photo side. And the creative direction was some of my favorite to date.
Gallant and his team have been day ones, working with him/them has always been really cool.
For future collaborations I’m really excited about a lot of music acts. I’ve got a dream/bucket list that I dare not share. I’m hoping to focus a bit more on creative directing one, or multiple music projects, in some capacity.
I’m trying to expand my real heavy collaborators in terms of stylists, glam, prod. design, models, etc.
I really, really get hyped about leveling up the collaborators. That’s sort of the main nectar of the creative journey for me.
Your website has a tongue-in-cheek, Between-Two-Ferns vibe and I fuckin’ love it. What did you want your website to communicate to visitors?
Websites can be tough… I feel like I’ve built a giant maze that I’ve trapped myself in with my current site.
But alas, the aim when I built the site was really just to answer the question for prospective clients/collaborators — can we trust this guy to do something dope? Do we like him? What’s this dude about? The design/content was meant to put a lot of my personality out there so that not only would those website visitors would be (hopefully) saying YES we want to work with Grant/we trust Grant… but they’d be saying it to the full version of me.
The more people “get” who I am the more likely it is we’re going to be a better fit. Your website can sort of be a creative dating profile, and I want people to know what (potential insanity) they’re getting into.
If the weird ass videos of me turn them off it’s probably best we don’t work together anyway.
I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole on people’s sites before and I wanted to dig a hole for folks to get stuck in.
Best cold brew and tacos in LA? Asking for a friend. Also me.
Best cold brew I’ve had is at Verve downtown, or Rubies & Diamonds on Sunset. Best tacos are DTLA at Chica’s Tacos, best burrito is at Leo’s Taco Truck in Koreatown.
What crazy project do you want to tackle next?
Maaaan I think I’m deep in the current tackling and consideration of said projects. Nothing like the excitement of possibility and the debilitating fear of execution.
I’m definitely pushing deeper into cinematic work/narrative stuff and trying to plant seeds for longterm projects there. I’m shooting stills from movie concepts and including them with scenes from said screenplay concept.
I moved into a new studio and am trying to level up my photography experimentation/aesthetic. Would love to really own a music project’s full creative direction.
Hoping to do a show for my DRIVE THRU SOCIAL CLUB series (recently featured on i-D) in the fall.
Also working on more music-driven projects that don’t seem productive but make me happy.
What message or advice do you have for young creatives just starting out?
Kidding, mostly. I guess my biggest advice is to shut up and just be making stuff. So many people are professional promoters (a part of it, sure) vs. actual creators. Say less.
Dig deep to find authentic stuff. Don’t get too caught up with what’s “right” and just make, make, make.
The MOST IMPORTANT THING when you’re creating is — does it look cool to YOU? Does it feel cool to YOU? Learn to answer that question honestly. Learn to adjust when the answer is no (even when it’s hard).
Most incredible projects aren’t so sexy minute-by-minute, but the creators understand the value of investing time and energy into something that might not work.
Pursue what might not work. And pursue it with enough energy to at least test that proposition. I think it’s worth finding out.