The Camera Eye is a Lifelong Vantage for Samuel Grant
You can learn a lot about the world by looking at it through a camera lens, even more if you create stories for others by doing so; that’s what Samuel Grant has learned through his career. The Derby (UK) native has travelled the world lending his talents to productions creating an impressive and eclectic resume. This cinematographer has made a conscious path that touches upon a number of styles and subjects to cultivate his own exceptional and unique style. You won’t recognize Grant’s work by an overt and blatant aesthetic but rather in the way that he molds himself to take on the style of a production and then offer his own insight to its benefit. By focusing on the “journey” of his art, Samuel may offer the best modern example of the motto “It’s the journey, not the destination.” Known for his commitment illustrating the narrative while refusing to constrict himself to one singular style, Grant has built an impressive and wildly diverse body of work which vets his renown in today’s industry.
The film Aiysha is proof of the subtle impact Grant wields as a cinematographer. This is the story of a young Muslim woman (played by Shila Iqbal), battling with herself, family, faith, and love, on the day of her own wedding. Director David Crowley worked with Samuel to manifest a constant sense of underlying tension and strain. Aiysha is as much about this woman’s battle with her own identity as the world that has been built around her. Though framed in the story of this Muslim bride, it is a scenario that anyone might find themselves in; the internal turmoil she feels is the touchstone the filmmakers have gifted to the audience. To support the performances and enhance the mood of story trajectories, Samuel utilized streamlined camera movements and camera color temperatures. From the warmth of Aiysha and Suzie Jay’s fumbling intimate moment on a hillside to the main character’s overdose in which a well-executed flip-shot breaks the fourth wall, the camera magnifies the spectrum of feelings overwhelming Aiysha.
Gangsters in Birmingham might be as different a subject matter as one could possible get from Aiysha; and Grant’s work on Peaky Blinders fulfills that requirement. Working on three consecutive seasons of this iconic UK series (now a worldwide hit via Netflix), Samuel regards his time on Peaky Blinders as one of his all-time favorites. It’s a public and critic favorite as well, proven by multiple BAFTA nominations for Best Drama Series and Best Production Design, — winner of BAFTA TV Craft Awards for Photography and Lighting and Visual Effects, British Screenwriters Award, multiple Irish Film and Television Awards, and Royal Television Society, UK awards. Grant notes, “The show has won numerous awards; however, for me it excels in cinematography. It really pushes the boundaries each season. Very bold production and highly stylized; I love that! Peaky blinders is really close to my heart, without a doubt my favorite show I have ever been a part of. I worked with some of the best cinematographers from the United Kingdom during this time.”
Working on a BAFTA nominated series doesn’t always include year’s long tenure for Grant. When Alastair Ramsden, producer for 21st Street Creative, approached Samuel to work on a VFX shoot in LA for the BBC comedy-drama series The 4 O Clock club, Grant jumped at the chance to take part in yet another beloved series and experience some time in SoCal, capturing VFX POV shots of downtown Hollywood. The warm California sun seems a world away (maybe half a world) from the football fields Grant had worked on for Skysports-Premier League. Though perhaps not as glamorous, and definitely much more dangerous, he is adamant that this is another experience that has shaped him as a creative professional. From his own film Mine to Peaky Blinders and his eclectic list of productions, Samuel declares, “I personally have had a very diverse career with many forms of narrative and live events. I always try to learn from every element and use it towards my favorite form, film. Working live is incredible, not much compares to it. There are no retakes and no notes. You have to be very precise with your plan. When things are happening live, you can witness some great moments whether it is on the pitch or in the crowd. You must keep your eyes open for key elements to help entertain the audience. When looking through the eye piece as you are recording, you suddenly drift away and are captured by the whole process. The performance, the lighting, the location, becoming lost: you are there in the moment until you hear cut. It’s a moment when collaborating with the right director that you are so certain they are going to feel the same, they walk on set and say shall we move on?! It’s such a nice feeling knowing you are both on the same page.”