1.01 Starting Out

Grant Armour

How I went from kit-room intern to full-time director.

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Production process:
Part of Rising Through the Ranks series

Grant Armour is a London-based shooting producer / director specialising in documentaries for online and TV, branded films and music videos. Grant has been on staff and producing long and short-form documentaries internationally for VICE for over six years.

I wasn’t much of a skater as a teenager so I had no idea what VICE was until I applied for an internship. Even when I saw my first VICE documentary – on Bolton’s “donk” music scene – I didn’t realise who’d made it. But I loved how messy and raw it was and how, at the same time, it felt definitive.

I’d sit in the fashion cupboard, surrounded by clothes rails, putting equipment together for crews going out on shoots

I’ve always loved cinema and documentaries. As a kid I would watch films on VHS, immediately rewind them and watch them again. When I got a bit older I’d shoot sketches with my friends. I’ve been inspired by everything from Kubrick and Lynch to Louis Theroux and turn-of-the-millennium MTV. After finishing an Art History degree, pursuing various musical projects and driving a truck for a bit, I figured I needed a real job so I could move out of my parents’ house. My friend told me that her friend interned at VICE and they gave her a job after. I looked at the website and a three-month production internship was going, so I applied.

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I think not knowing how big VICE was meant I came across weirdly confident in the interview. After bluffing my way through I started at VICE as the kit guy, over six years ago. There was no actual kit room: instead I’d sit in the “fashion cupboard”, surrounded by clothes rails, putting equipment together for crews going out on shoots, all the while trying to learn as much as I could about cameras from YouTube.

Any opportunity there was to shoot, I said yes. A shoot came up for Dalston Superstars, a short-form series parodying scripted reality TV, trolling young creatives in East London and starring the fashion interns I had met in the cupboard. We had no budget and barely any time but that just made it more fun. I was asked if I wanted to edit the footage, and said yes to that too. After a week of learning how to edit properly, I’d cut the first episode and made a theme tune. The video ended up going viral.

In my six years with VICE I’ve worked at every stage of the storytelling process

The first long-form documentary I shot and edited was The British Wrestler, about the UK’s underground wrestling scene. The producer and I cut a trailer with some of the initial footage, screened it to the whole office and it ended up being entered for Raindance Film Festival – now we just needed to finish the film. We worked overnight to ready it for its screening in the West End, which we attended on no sleep.

I’ve filmed stories about boy racers, young offenders, violent criminals, acid attacks, fetish fighting, wild animals and space tourism

In my six years with VICE I’ve been a production assistant, shooting AP, editor, director and producer. I’ve worked at every stage of the storytelling process – from initial research, to getting characters and access, to constructing the narrative, to creating the visual language and composing the score. I’ve produced and shot internationally for online and TV, filming stories about boy racers, young offenders, violent criminals, acid attacks, fetish fighting, wild animals and space tourism, and worked on the Emmy-nominated series Gaycation.

What I’ve learned is that you have to be ready to adapt, multitask and take on multiple roles. You also have to visualise the “whole” throughout the process and realise all the pieces you need to make the final finished puzzle in your mind a reality. Each new story is a learning curve. You have to really care about a story to drive it and I’ve only ever worked on ones that have interested me, whether they’re serious or just for lols. I think the secret is to stretch yourself with every project, find new ways of storytelling by jumping in at the deep end and immersing yourself in a world you never thought you’d feel comfortable in. In the years ahead, I’d simply like to tell new stories, make better documentaries, direct features and be able to pass on any knowledge that I have amassed to new talent.

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