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Hustlin' Your Way To The Top: The Legend of Grant Peelle

By June 6, 2013 Business 34 Comments

12 min read

Grant0002

 
This is Grant Peelle.

Grant works his ass off. In the last two years, he’s gone from being a hobbyist filmmaker working in real estate, to a valued Creative Director here at Stillmotion. He also directed his own feature-length documentary, I’m Fine, Thanks — a film that he and four other awesome dudes made in just a short stretch of 6 weeks on the road.

All of Grant’s life-changing success in filmmaking is a result of the unstoppable hustle and freakish determination he’s put forth in the last two years.

Two years. Really? That’s it?

For some of us, the most life-changing thing that will happen over the course of two years is transitioning from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5. But in two years Grant went from being a real estate investor who hated his job — to a guy focusing his life and his camera lens on telling stories that matter.

How’d he do it?

Well… it’s a long story. But it’s a good one and it’s one that matters, so now is the time to go take a pee and grab a granola bar, because we’re about to tell you how…

Grant went from this:

to this:


 
Like we said, Grant worked his ass off.

If you’re also feeling like it’s “time to get tenacious,” keep reading — we’ll be going into detail about how exactly Grant’s ass was worked off, and how it became the new ass that he continues to work off every single day.

We all go through life encountering a number of grandiose statements and inspirational quotes about the importance of working hard. From internet memes passing by us on the feed, to real conversations with our loved ones, the message remains the same:

If you want to get good at anything, you’ve gotta work hard.

Grant’s hard work primarily involved committing to a few major things:

  • He stopped fantasizing altogether.
  • He got extreme, he got radical, and he got weird.
  • He owned his role on the set.
  • Fox, chicken, chicken seed (more on this later).
  • He’s never stopped hustlin’.

Now before we get into the details, a bit of history about our bearded hero.

Grant is a family man. He loves his wife Carrie and his two sons Elijah and Aiden, and he always loved making home movies of their adventures together living in Ohio. But he wanted to document his family’s story on another level — in fact, he wanted to document lots of stories on another level.

He wanted to make films and tell stories that matter. He wanted to support his family by carrying out his dream rather than working a job that made him miserable.

Not coincidentally, escaping this feeling of complacency and taking action to create the life you want is the exact topic of the first documentary he set out to make (I’m Fine, Thanks…seriously, you should watch it).

Now, some people certainly may be passionate about real estate, and that’s cool. Grant was not. He wanted to make films, and he couldn’t go through another day of talking to people about counter tops and backsplash.

So he made the decision to take action.

Fantasizing: time waster and killer of action.

As the greatest pop diva of all time once eloquently sang:

On and on and on
So deep in my daydreams
But it’s just a sweet, sweet fantasy baby.

Mariah’s predicament in this song is no different from what so many filmmakers face in the quest to improve their skill level. Working hard to become a great filmmaker takes commitment, time, and unstoppable energy — and it’s easy to waste a lot of that time fantasizing about how great it will be when you’re experienced and accomplished.

Before you know it your fantasy career is worked out in great detail… but you’re right where you’ve always been.

Grant stopped doing that.

He did, of course, want to become an accomplished filmmaker and capture the memories of his family in a unique way. But rather than trying to make films with the goal of being accomplished in mind, he simply began doing the work he knew he had to do to be better tomorrow.

That was the decision Grant made that started everything — to better himself every single day.

Literally… every single day.

Get extreme. Get radical. Get weird.

Grant made his decision to take action, and he had a bit of catching up to do.

He was, of course, a major Stillmotion fan boy. He knew there was something special about our storytelling techniques and the way we edited the arch of a story, and he knew that we were really badass DSLR filmmakers. At the time we weren’t the educational source that we are now, so he came up with his own techniques to learn from Stillmotion’s work.

I did some freaky things.

-Grant Peelle

Relentless in his mission, Grant began downloading Stillmotion films off of Vimeo and importing them into Final Cut Pro. He would cut and reverse engineer at every instance that an edit was made, so he could understand the choices we were making to achieve the story arch that makes our films so compelling.

But it soon became clear to Grant that the reason we were so good at editing was not only because of our dedication to story, but also because we’d shot a lot of weddings and made a lot of same-day edits.

Remember how we said he challenged himself every day?

He knew he couldn’t make his 30th film until he’d made his first, so he got to work.

Here’s the masterpiece that is that first same-day edit, a rare jewel that Grant still holds dear to his heart:
 

 
In what appears to be an underground advertisement for the Ford Focus, Grant kicked off his very extreme challenge of making 30 same-day edits in 30 days.

Grant is very humble, and considers this first same-day edit a “throwaway with no story” — which indeed it is. But if the Ford Focus piece is what needed to happen before he could go out and make a same-day edit with a real story, then it’s a good thing he got it out of the way on day #1 — don’t you think?

By day 15, Grant’s same-day edits were shaping up:
 

 
He forced himself to stay up until 3AM almost every night finishing his edits. He continued to tweet about what he was doing, and this provided motivation as well — people took notice of him and encouraged his lofty goal.

Somewhere around day 15 of Grant’s challenge, Stillmotion put out a tweet asking for a P.A. in Chicago, Illinois.

Grant, self-procalimed doer of freaky things, was living in Ohio at the time — about eight hours away. He very sneakily asked Stillmotion if “he needed to know the Chicago area,” to which we replied that we did not, assuming he was more like one hour away or just a guy who didn’t get out of the house much.

Prepared to keep his true Ohioan identity a secret, Grant hopped in his car, booked a hotel room for three nights, and drove through the night to make his 4AM call time and P.A. for Stillmotion at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

He literally paid his way to P.A. for Stillmotion. And he was the best damn P.A. the world has ever seen.

“I’ve never done that before, but I’d be happy to.”

Grant showed up to P.A.  at the Shedd Aquarium, and he was immediately asked by our very own Lil’ J to set up her tripod.

He didn’t know how to do it. He grabbed the tripod, and he just figured it out. This would lay the framework for the rest of the day, as he encountered about a million requests for pieces of gear that he had never touched before in his life.

But hey, we realize “just figure it out” is never the most helpful piece of advice. Obviously there were things that Grant couldn’t figure out, being that he was at the skill level where setting up a tripod was new to him. So how did he get through it and manage to keep up?

He was upfront and honest about his skill level, while staying dedicated to solving each problem as fast as possible. This way, whoever asked something of him always knew that there was someone on top of it. While “just figuring it out” is certainly something to shoot for, it’s important to be tactful about the questions you do ask.

Grant’s rules of thumb when owning your role as P.A. on the set:

  • Never be burdensome.
  • Don’t ask questions consistently and constantly.
  • Ask questions on behalf of whoever’s asked you to solve the problem,
    without them being a part of the solution.
  • Follow up “I’ve never done that before” with “I’d be happy to.”
  • Always anticipate a problem.
    (Example: is a makeup artist coming? She’ll probably need a place to set up).

In Grant’s moments as a P.A. it was never about his filmmaking dreams or his eagerness to learn — it was about helping these people (us!) get everything they needed as fast as humanly possible. The learning would come from the experience.

This guy, who walked in questioning how to setup a tripod and looking at every lens in the bag to find the 85 — was invited to come back again to P.A. for A Game of Honor, where he continued to shine. His unstoppable hustle set him apart from any other P.A. we’d worked with, because his hustle he clearly wasn’t in the mindset of “I’m doing this because I want to be a great director someday.”

When asked to comment on Grant’s unheard of enthusiasm and devout ownership of his role on the set, Creative Director Patrick Moreau had just one thing to say:

Most PA.’s would fall behind within 10 minutes. Grant not only was able to keep up, but he’d also give us the sweater off his back so we could stay warm.

Grant’s ferocious hustle and amazing ability to problem solve earned him some special recognition among the Stillmotion crew, and he was asked by Patrick to attend the premiere of A Game of Honor in New York City, to which he responded:

“I’ve never done that before, but I’d be happy to.”

Fox, Chicken, Chicken Seed…

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 6.45.40 PM

There’s a reason that Grant is able to problem solve like MacGyver on the set: he lives in a “fox, chicken, chicken seed” state of mind.

If you’ve ever spent more than an hour in Grant’s immediate area, you’ve probably heard him mention the “fox, chicken, chicken seed” approach to problem solving.

The riddle goes as follows: You’ve got to get each of them safely across a river, but you can only take one at a time. If you leave the fox with the chicken, that chicken’s dead. If you leave the chicken with the seed, that seed is gone!

Basically, in order to get them all across the river without eating one another, you’ll need to divide and conquer.

Once you’ve figured out this riddle, you may proceed to the end of the blog post.

I’m Awesome, Thanks.

Grant’s experience as P.A. for Stillmotion caused him to make only 15 same-day edits in 30 days, but it also gave him the confidence to make the documentary he’d been sitting on for years.

However, he wouldn’t be able to do it without his good buddy (and the current father of this blog), Adam Baker. They set out into the sunset in their legendary van, and shot I’m Fine, Thanks in just six short weeks.

But how? After only being a P.A. and picking up the camera a few times during A Game of Honor, how did Grant feel confident going into a six-week shoot for a feature-length documentary? How was that not an intimidating task?

It was an intimidating task for him, and it continues to be — because he lives every day with the intention of being better tomorrow.

And if you’re just really into Grant as a dude at this point, why not check out his recent TEDx Talk:
 

Don’t ever knock the hustle.

We were asked to help with editing on I’m Fine, Thanks, and Grant and the family came out for two months.

Conversations we’d had in the past about original programming ideas developed into what is now Stillmotion Originals, and we just couldn’t bear to ever let him go. Grant has become an invaluable Creative Director, and is currently heading up our first feature-length independent documentary with Patrick.

Grant has made and is continuing to make incredible sacrifices every single day in pursuit of his dreams. His family lives in Ohio, while Grant is here in Oregon. He looks at them every day through FaceTime with his ultimate dream in mind: road tripping across the country, telling stories with his family.

But in order for Grant and the Peelle family to cross the river successfully, they’ll need to divide and conquer.

Time to take action.

The only reason Grant made it to where he is now is because he took action.

He made the crazy goal to make 30 same-day edits in 30 days, and once he immersed himself in it… things just started to happen.

It wasn’t fate, and it wasn’t luck — it was a decision.

Grant made the decision that he was going to go for it — and he made the same-day edits, he answered our tweet for a P.A. in Chicago, he drove eight hours in the middle of the night to get to us, and he made his first documentary in six weeks.

Sure, it’s been a crap ton of work and sacrifice… but before he took action, he was sacrificing his happiness working at a job that he hated. And really, is there anything worse than that?

******

What’s holding you back from taking action?

Is it really a good excuse?

Are you still making time to watch every episode of Arrested Development? (not that we don’t love Arrested Development, but still…)

About maggie

34 Comments

  • Nick says:

    Stillmotion,

    One year ago, I found a video somehow convincing me to purchase a $250 monopod for my t3i. 1 year later it works great on my RED Epic. You’ve been incredibly motivating and I can’t thank you enough.

    Sincerely,
    Nick

  • Max Lopatinm says:

    Amazing story! Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to meet you Grant!

  • ZD says:

    Not impressed.

  • David says:

    That is awesome Grant. You are an inspiration!

  • Levi Whitney says:

    What a great post! Keep up the amazing work.

  • 1. Take the chicken across the river.
    2. Return, leaving the chicken on the far side.
    3. Take the chicken seed across the river.
    4. Return, bringing the chicken back with you.
    5. Take the fox across the river.
    6. Return, leaving the fox and chicken seed on the far bank.
    7. Take the chicken across the river.

  • Orobosa says:

    i luv this piece on Grant. It’s one thing to read about Grant and another to be around him in person, even if its just for a few minutes. Grant’s attitude is contagious – my life has taken a dramatic turn for the better all thanks to “i am fine thanks” and one of Grant’s phrases that i have since coveted as mine: “embrace the suck”

    …to mention but a few
    Oro

  • Nestor Bravo says:

    I DEFINITELY NEEDED TO READ THIS!!! WILL BE WATCHING “I’M FINE THANKS” TONIGHT!!!…..VERY EAGER!!! I FEEL CHANGE! THANK YOU!!!

  • Melissa says:

    I have to agree with Oro… I was lucky enough to have Grant as the leader of my team at evo and it was an awesome experience to get to know him, learn from him and experience the force of his energy and tenacity. And I definitely heard him talking about foxes and chickens a lot…. still not sure what it means, but a huge fan of Grant and can’t wait to see what he accomplishes next at StillMotion!

  • lesliejean says:

    amazing what action really does =)

  • Extremely inspiring. Now I want to go and shoot stories for the next 30 days!

    Thanks for sharing, lots of kudos to you guys.

  • Mitch says:

    I saw the world premiere of I’m Fine, Thanks in Portland last year. It’s a great story and a inspirational film! Congrats on your recent achievements, Grant!

    PS Check the letter-order of “Hustlin'” in the title. :)

  • Curt says:

    Small steps long vision…Grant I’m with you buddy…go get’em

  • chris says:

    Amazed at the fast progression from the car piece to the soccer piece in only 15 days. Really impressive.

  • Lou Mindar says:

    Grant Peele: The Man…The Myth…The Legend. You continue to be an inspiration, buddy. Thanks for showing us all that dreaming is important, but taking action is what really makes the difference.

  • Carrie says:

    Grant not many people would want to work so hard, be willing to take that leap of faith, and sacrifice as much as you have in this pursuit. We miss you immensely but are very proud of you and your accomplishments. Eli, Aiden, and I love you very much.

  • Danny says:

    Very motivational, thank you for sharing, take action…

  • Just what I needed to hear in this stage of my business! My one year anniversary for starting my film company in Maui was last month. I’m able to provide for my family and we’re loving life! I’m able to work from home and spend time with my family every day. I’m doing what I love all thanks to a swift kick of motivation from my wife. This post has inspired me to step it up even more! Thanks so much for sharing

    I’ll be in Portland at the end of August – would love to stop by your studio and give you all high fives for being radical human beings

  • Alan says:

    Great Story Nick;
    You’re right; achieiving your goals comes with huge sacrifice. This business is great when you’re young and single but the constant travel can be tough on families.

    How do you juggle the work on the road with being with your family?

    Alan

  • My respect for Grant continues to grow. What an inspiration! So glad I’m taking action with the TakeAction challenge. My weekly challenges look easy in comparison to Grant’s same day edit challenges. I hearby hand in my whine card and will keep doing my best to kick ass at this awesome opportunity. Thanks, Stillmotion! Thanks, Grant!

  • Darryl says:

    in a similar situation and would love an answer if possible

    once grant resolved to take action, did he quit his real estate to pursue his 30 day film making challenge? or did he do this around his work schedule?

    • Margaret says:

      Yo Darryl,

      Grant worked around his work schedule during this time– he had a fairly good amount of flexibility, which isn’t a privilege everyone has. But even if he didn’t have a flexible work schedule, something tells me he would have found a way…

  • Sonya says:

    Thanks for sharing Grant’s story. Just what I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other towards my dreams.

  • Darren Van Dyke says:

    Wow! Amazing! That is incredibly inspiring and something I really needed to read and hear on the Ted x video. I just, one week ago today, quit my day job that I hated to pursue a film career. I am still working on figuring things out and the article really helped spike some more energy in me.

  • Odile says:

    Great story… After moaning for months I could not do the photos I wanted due to : “not the right place, note the right time, not… God knows what, any excuse to postpone” will do… I stopped this attitude and embarked on a photographic trip in Kolkata, India. I came back with good shots which helped me to build confidence. And I do nothing but pursuing my dreams. Grant’s story is so inspiring…

    I am a big fan of yours for the quality of your work, your positive energy, enthusiasm and willingness to share. Thanks so much.

  • Mikey Leung says:

    When are you guys going to come down to Australia for some workshops? I reckon the filmmaking and storytelling community down under is simply dying to hear stories like Grant’s. Thanks for being so awesome Patrick & co.

    -M

  • Ian Magrisso says:

    It is an inspiring story: Check this out if you want to hear more:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9Ch7BEtWQQ

    In case your wondering I am fine. Actually I found the statement in this TED talk about “I’M Fine” being the biggest lies in our country to be a very powerful statement and unfortunately sober truth of our times.

  • Cimela says:

    What an inspiring hustler! This story has SO much heart. Grant, way to be fearless and such an incredibly inspiring human.

    The SM family just got 100x’s more legit. You guys care about why it matters and tell inspiring stories but y’all don’t stop there, you recognize and surround yourselves with legendary dragon slayers. :-)
    SM for the win.

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