From the Classroom

USC film student aims to bring storytelling to dance

David Grannum ‘22 looks to combine his love for choreography and cinematography as he enters the entertainment industry.

Photo of David Grannum.

David Grannum’s lifelong journey as an artist prepared him for what he now describes as his mission: “to tell a story, and not just have a camera that’s looking at dancing bodies.”

Grannum, a senior at USC, began his formal dance training at age 11 at the On Stage Academy of Performing Arts Center in Fall River, Massachusetts. In an interview, he spoke of his first teacher Linda Mercer-Botelho, and the values of “discipline, structure, and hard work” she instilled in him. He believes these values enabled him to progress his dance technique very quickly, as he was cast as the Mouse in Festival Ballet in Providence at age 14, and then as the lead Russian dancer at the Festival Ballet in Providence at age 15.

During these formative years, Grannum split his time pursuing his extra-circular professional dance work while nourishing his budding passion for film. He then made the leap to higher education with applications to USC, UCLA and NYU’s respective film schools. His application film, “Accepted,” centers around a high school student’s acceptance into Harvard University. The film, told through narrative dance choreography, explores whether the protagonist will “choose to stay in her hometown with a previously established relationship? Or attend Harvard University to pursue her dreams?” The film ends as the protagonist embraces her significant other, a suitcase flanking her left side.

Screengrab from Grannum's film "Accepted."

Grannum began his studies at USC in the fall of 2018, and films such as “Santa Monica with Izzy,” “DAVID & LIFE - Pilot - CLEAN IT UP,” and “DAVID & LIFE: The Start to Spring, 2019″ show a side of a creative that typically remain unseen. From intimate moments with friends and family to the intricacies of airport travel are brought to life with clever humor and one of his favorite elements of movie-making, the soundtrack.

“One of the aspects of filmmaking that I really love is sound design,” Grannum said. “It really brings the film to life and I have a lot of fun because my brain is just like dramatic all the time, and I think that’s the type of brain you need when you do sound design.”

Photo of David Grannum.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought both opportunities and setbacks in his creative and professional pursuits. Before the pandemic, Go 2 Talent Agency represented him as a dancer but discontinued sending him to new auditions as the industry came to a standstill. He had been living in the USC Village but spent the rest of his sophomore year in his childhood home in Fall River, Massachusetts with his mother and two siblings, Leah and Anthony. He returned to Los Angeles in the fall of 2020 and continued his studies online.

Photo of David Grannum.

Grannum’s next project, “A Happier Place,” will follow a man after his death. “When our body makes shapes — when our body makes different formations — it evokes feelings, it conjures something deep in people when they see it, when they visualize a feeling,” Grannum said. “I try to not just choreograph from an ‘Oh that looks cool’ standpoint, but from like an ‘Oh that feels cool’ standpoint.”

He’ll tell the story of his character’s life after death by combining film and dance. Grannum excitedly said this will give him the opportunity to show what his idea of heaven looks like.

Photo of David Grannum.

Grannum also interns and works about 25 hours a week as a filmmaker at Universal Music Group’s 1824, “a new marketing, content and experiences team powered by university students and young creatives from around the world,” according to 1824′s website. At 1824, he has worked with artists such as Selena Gomez and Billie Eilish, editing projects for different social media purposes. He is also part of UMG’s Youth Task Force for Meaningful Change, which focuses on UMG’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. He works in content production on the social advertisement and marketing teams. He spoke highly of his role on the task force, saying “it’s been a lot of fun seeing behind the scenes of the type of work that is necessary for social change and pushing for equity.”