5 Takeaways from Being On Set with The Delivery Men

Let me begin by saying that when you shadow Joe Simon on a film shoot, you learn a few things. To capture the behind-the-scenes footage for our new course, On Set with Joe Simon and The Delivery Men, the Story & Heart team spent 4 days with Joe and the crew in Seaside, Oregon.

Low Tide is a passion project through and through, and we were so excited to help bring it to life.

But let’s back up.

How did this collaboration come to be?

A few months ago, I got an email from Joe, sharing the idea for Low Tide and asking if we were interested in doing the BTS for the project.

I replied that yes, we were definitely interested.

From an educational standpoint, I knew that this course would resonate with our community because it covers a topic that many of us encounter: how to actually see a passion project through to completion.

Two months later, there we were on the coast, making a movie.

Why relay this story?

Because after a few emails and, later on, a few beers, you may find yourself a new creative partner. Making connections, reaching out, and working collaboratively is a huge part of filmmaking—and sometimes all it takes is an ask.

It’s been a few more months since our days in Seaside, and we’ve had some time to reflect on the collaborative filmmaking process from start to finish. Mainly, to think about how other filmmakers can also bring projects to life that they really care about...even with a small crew and budget.

Low Tide is a testament to the power of a passion project, and the course shows filmmakers how to see one through.

So what can you do to jumpstart your own passion project?

Here are 5 things we learned from watching The Delivery Men work:

1. Put it on the calendar

You have to start somewhere...and oftentimes that means picking a date.

Setting a concrete time aside for your passion project will help you actually make the space for it in your schedule.

If you don’t block those days off, chances are that you won’t actually use them for your project. And if you don’t make the initial time commitment, you won’t gain the benefits of pushing yourself creatively.

The Delivery Men booked a trip to Seaside to location scout, and set aside a few days later on for filming—they cleared some time in their busy schedules as commercial and documentary filmmakers.

With those dates in mind, they were able to hire crew and give those people a timeline. And with every decision, they progressed further and deepened their commitment to the project.

The point is, even if another project comes up, honor your calendar. Otherwise, you’ll just keep pushing that passion project back into the ether, and then it may never happen!

2. Care...a lot

Another big part of making a project happen? You have to really, really care about it.

Filmmaking is a lot of work, no bones about it, especially if you’re making a film independently. Caring about the impact your film will have will help you stay motivated to complete the project.

The Delivery Men cared about having complete creative freedom to make a film, and they wanted to expand their portfolio to attract more narrative work. They were able to push themselves to make a film using narrative storytelling with complete creative freedom, and because of that motivation they finished their film.

Often, things will start, then fizzle, because you just don’t care enough.
— Justin DeMers, Story & Heart

If you follow step one and put a project on the calendar, make sure you care enough about it to follow through. To grow, first you’ve got to care about growing.

3. Bring in the right key players

If you’re going to bring on extra people for a project, taking the time to find the right key players will go a long way.

This rings especially true if you’re working with a small crew...every person really counts!

Whether this means doing research to find specialists that you may need (anyone from a grip to a sound designer) or using referrals, put in the effort to make sure that your crew connects with your project and will help you make it the best it can be.

This philosophy also applies to finding talent. Sometimes, using an agency or casting director might be worth the extra cost.

Even with their small budget, The Delivery Men knew that they needed 2 really strong actors to carry their whole film, so they put in the time and budget to use a casting agency. Their talent completely elevated the project. Everyone on the project did an amazing job— proving how much can be done with a small, dedicated crew that are all invested in a project.

4. Know your role

And once you find those key players, it’s immensely helpful to make sure everyone knows exactly what their role will be on set. That way, everything will run smoothly on production day.

Of course, with a small crew there will be some needed flexibility. For example, on the Low Tide shoot, the gaffer also acted as a key grip, spotting Joe and the camera when they filmed in the Tilt-a-Whirl and on the rocky beach. But allowing people to focus on their tasks, and to flourish in their own role, will not only give them ownership of the project but keep things moving efficiently.

It all comes down to setting people up to succeed—if they do, so will your project.
— Justin DeMers, Story & Heart

5. Put in your pre-production work

And speaking of setting yourself up for success, putting in your work during pre-production really is the key to having the production itself go well. That means figuring out locations, release forms, shot lists, and call sheets, not to mention planning things like craft services and lodging for you and your crew if you need it. 

The Delivery Men put a ton of work into their pre-pro, and it really paid off. They were able to make a 14 minute film in 2 days—pretty unheard of. They figured out locations, what masters and cutaways they’d need, secured great talent, and made detailed shot lists...all of these things equated to a smooth on-set experience.

When issues did arise on set, they had enough of a buffer to deal with them. For example, when the weather didn’t go as planned, they were able to adjust the schedule without sacrificing their story because they had a handle on everything that one decision would affect.

Setting a strong foundation for your on-set experience starts in the beginning with pre-production.

These are just 5 things we observed when working with Joe and the crew...we have a whole lot more tips up our sleeves over at the Academy of Storytellers. Enough tips to fill over 4 hours and a 13-part course, in fact! Like what you read here? Check out the course over at http://www.lowtidefilmbts.com/. And if you sign up by July 14th, you’ll save $30!

Have any more questions about the course, On Set with Joe Simon and The Delivery Men, or what we learned along the way? Ask us below!