Simon grew up in Waukegan, Illinois and attended Waukegan High School, the College of Lake County, then the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where he graduated with a B.A. in Political Science. His father Shadie Simon was a high school English professor, a writer, as well as a scriptwriter for Coronet Films, Chicago, Illinois, an educational film producer. His mother Denise Pautz Simon was a former school teacher and a homemaker. Simon became interested in photography and film at a young age, buying a Super 8 camera and making short films.
Simon directed his first professional stage play at age 17, directing the regional tour of a children’s show entitled Jack and The Wishing Beans for the Roundtree Players. At age 29 Simon founded the Chicago area Stage Two Theatre Company in 1985. Stage Two under the artistic direction of Simon held a quiet national status recognized on both coasts for taking risks having staged 36 World and Midwest premieres. The troupe specialized in debuting works of new playwrights. Simon's goal for Stage Two was to stimulate thought and arouse the imagination.
The Second Room, Simon's first film, is about an alienated architect, who is paralyzed by disengagement and fear of experience. The Second Room received the Gold Award at the Charleston International Film Festival and was one of only five shorts accepted for the AFI-Los Angeles International Film Festival in 1995. In addition, The Second Room was selected for the Discovery Series at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Simon's next feature film was Along for the Ride, a film about two estranged brothers who meet in Mexico to lay their deceased father to rest. Each man's story, their lies, fears, and deceits weave a humorous, hallucinatory and heartbreaking journey toward understanding. It won Best of Fest - First Feature at the Saguaro Film Festival International. It was an official selection in competition at the Austin Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, New Haven Film Festival and Atlanta Film Festival. The film is distributed by Fabrication Films formerly SearchParty Films (distribution rites purchased at Sundance Film Festival).
2010 marked the release of I'm No Dummy, the first feature length theatrical documentary about ventriloquism, examined and dissected the world of ventriloquism through clips, photos, and interviews with many of the greatest vents from today and yesterday, illustrating that this perceived novelty act is truly an extraordinary art form.
The picture stars popular ventriloquists such as Comedy Central’s two-time Comedian of the Year and YouTube sensation Jeff Dunham, Tony Award winner Jay Johnson of sitcom SOAP fame and Campus Entertainer of the Year Lynn Trefzger. The film had its world premiere at The Seattle International Film Festival and played at The New York International Children’s Film Festival before being released by Salient Media and Vivendi/NBC Universal.
In 2012 Simon directed the big screen adaptation of Jay Johnson’s Tony® Award winning Broadway play, JAY JOHNSON: THE TWO & ONLY!. It was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina at the historic Thalian Hall. The film was released on Pay-Per-View in over 55 million households. In December, 2014, it was released world wide on DVD.
Simon's career as a director has received positive reviews from the critics.
The Second Room
Rick Moser of the Copley News Service stated, "An exciting directorial debut. Simon has successfully translated his keen artistic vision to the screen." and "For a film debut, The Second Room shows a strong directorial hand."
Film Threat Magazine in its BEST OF issue gave The Second Room an 8 (out of 10 points); and said "The Second Room is a hot feature from a director to be on the look out for."
Along for the Ride
Bill Gallo of the Los Angeles New Times proclaimed, "This first feature by a young Chicago director named Bryan W. Simon is an astonishing thing to behold", and said the film was a "brave, funny, and engaging movie."
Russell Smith of The Austin Chronicle called Along for the Ride, "Fresh and compelling, look and feel is nothing short of amazing" and stated, "Thanks to Simon's assured and straightforward direction, this film rises well above the lackluster status quo of current indie cinema."
Daria Snadowsky of INsite Magazine declared, "Along for the Ride is a triumph for independent cinema... an extraordinary antidote to the mediocre mainstream".
Les Paul Robley wrote, "This is an impressively moving indie film, Bryan W. Simon is to be congratulated."
Rick Moser said, "Bryan Simon knows how to make movies, and how to make them work."
I'm No Dummy
Patrick Hickey of The Review Fix stated, "Simon has without a doubt done his homework and made his subjects charming, thoughtful and fun, from start to finish."
Dan Pearson, Sun Times Media for the Beacon-News, "I'm No Dummy, an entertaining and often eloquent 2009 documentary by Waukegan filmmaker Bryan W. Simon."
Edward Yerke-Robins of LAist commented that, "I'm No Dummy presents ventriloquism as a complicated, controlled, and nuanced exercise. I'm No Dummy isn't interested in throwing the last word on ventriloquism; its only wish is to entertain while it educates, and it does so beautifully."
David Dickstein of OC Family Magazine stated, "This is a highly entertaining look into the art and history of ventriloquism...Grade: A."
Jay Johnson: The Two & Only!
Patrick Hickey of The Review Fix stated, "Bryan W. Simon’s directing also brings out Johnson’s quirky and sincere style with shots that showcase his wide smile. At others, the shot selection adds some extra uniqueness. At one point in the show, Simon takes us the inside of one of Johnson’s doll’s cases. A rarely seen shot, it caps off an incredibly dramatic segment. Always in the right place at the right time, Simon’s work on this production is both well-executed and well-edited."