Directors Corner: Joe Stevens

Joe Stevens is a director who can shoot, edit, and design. Even when he’s not deftly handling all roles like a jackknife, his work is informed by a wide-ranging skill set, holistic vantage point, and sharp eye. Extraordinary visuals and a youthful, contemporary expression are ever-present in his lifestyle-driven work. As content director for experimental optics label, Shwood Eyewear, Joe Stevens brought the brand’s ethos to life. Both in the fashion world and support of original makers with stories of style and substance. This view from the inside makes Joe a true partner for brands looking to develop an original voice through filmed narratives.

This is called the Director’s Corner, but you do much more than direct? How do all of these creative abilities feed into what we will call Directing?

Directing is a funny thing to define because so many people do it differently. I spent most of my early career doing the one man band approach and learning every part of the process, from creative to final exports. It’s definitely helpful having that background on bigger sets today. Thinking about how everything will come together in the edit and helping the agency make life easier in post is a perfect example of this. Also having countless hours behind the lens as a DP and photographer doesn’t hurt either!

What came first, still photography or motion media?

Motion and stills have always been a dual passion for me. However, I can remember back when I was 14 years old or something like that and getting to hold a video camera for the first time. It wasn’t commonplace at the time for family’s to own a video camera so that first interaction with one was special. I was hooked immediately. Today, technology is moving forward faster than ever and constantly giving us new ways to bring stories to life. I enjoy the challenge of learning new techniques and staying up to date with what’s possible.

Apart from the multi-hyphenates we’ve discussed, is there a hidden talent you’d like to share? It can be silly or sincere, you decide.

This is a random bit of info but I’m pretty competitive at ping pong haha. If you challenge me to a pickup match, watch out. I’ll bring the heat!

You’ve worked closely with brands to define their essence and communicate, visually, to audiences. What do you enjoy most about this process?

I have had the pleasure of working with a lot of great brands and there is a common factor across all of them. Passion. A driving force coming from people pouring their heart into creating something they care about. That energy is amazing and I can’t get enough.

What were some early creative influences or mentors?

The skateboard videos of my teen years had a major influence on my filmmaking style. The videos always had killer music, great style, and most importantly the editing was extremely attention grabbing. Every shot was intentional to create a flow throughout the edit. Whether that was simply cutting to the beat of a song, or time-remapping at the peak of a trick. Those videos were engaging for every second of play time, which is something I strived for in my own work even back then. Nowadays with social media posts being the norm, having instant and continuous attention grabbing content in my videos is a must.

What’s a project you're exceptionally proud of and why?

In 2012 I made a video lookbook for Shwood Eyewear that utilized a stereoscopic 3D technique. It’s essentially a wiggle .gif but in video form. At the time I hadn’t really seen anything else like it. So I had to figure it all out on my own. There wasn’t a YouTube tutorial for that type of stuff back then haha. I built a 3D rig for two cameras and was able to fine tune the point of parallax for each shot. I also built a smaller version that worked with gopro cameras underwater. It was a major challenge to pull off especially with a small budget. There was also some magic sauce in post that made the 3D effect even better. Overall a very fun project that I got to flex my creative and technical skills.

What’s something you do in your spare time?

If I’m not on set, you can usually find me on two wheels in the mountains.

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Lauren Schwartz