At first, Joe Simon learned things the hard way—on his own. After getting his start shooting extreme sports with a camera he bought at Best Buy, Joe started shooting weddings to make some extra cash. Now, more than a decade later, Joe has turned wedding videography into an art form all its own—treating each wedding like an independent film. He is also the owner/director of The Delivery Men, a production company that offers services from film conception to delivery. But while Joe may have started out on his own, he didn’t stay that way. In fact, finding a creative community he loved was part of what helped him turn things around.
Well, there really wasn’t much of a community when I started. I think back then most video people hated each other. It was a “don’t take my secrets” kind of a thing. I’d never used a video camera before, so I really had no idea what I was doing. I picked up some number from Best Buy and started filming people and myself. And I really fell in love with it—the whole process of shooting and editing and just creating whatever you wanted to. I had some wondrously terrible jobs, and I decided there had to be a way to make money with the camera. I ended up doing weddings at some point, and everything snowballed from there.
Just clients that didn’t care. Here they’re spending $1,200, and they want everything. It’s really hard. The technology was a problem back then too. I was shooting on SD, which meant the quality wasn’t that good, and the product wasn’t taken seriously. The quality of the videography didn’t match the quality of the photography.
I also did stupid things like sticking hand-held microphones in bushes and running a wire all the way down the aisle. But of course the mic didn’t even pick up anything because it obviously wasn’t meant to be omnidirectional. And then there were some other horrific things like on-camera lighting. Just all around bad. The videos themselves probably matched how terrible the weddings were. ￼
It wasn’t until 2007 that I found an online forum and started turning things around. That’s where I met everybody in the industry who I’m friends with today. We were collaborating and talking about our jobs—what we were doing right, what we were doing wrong, and the problems we were coming up against. It was a really cool community. I was basically trying to learn anything I could because I didn’t have any formal education. For me, it was just trying to soak up as much knowledge as I could wherever I could find it.
It’s amazing. You can bounce ideas off them and get their feedback. Because no matter who you are—whether you’re at the top or the bottom—you’re going to have problems. But someone else has probably already been through that same scenario. So instead of spending a week trying to figure it out, that person can help you immediately. It’s such a cool thing.
There’s definitely a wrong way to do it. A few Facebook forums are very unconstructive. That’s the wrong way. I think it always comes down to the people—are they going to be constructive, or are they just going to throw in some zingers for entertainment?
I definitely think so. You improve because you open your eyes to other things that are possible. Collaboration elevates what you do. You can only do so much on your own. You need to have a team, and you need people who will help you and push what you’re doing to make it even better.