How did you get into film? What particularly attracted you to become part of this industry?
I have always been a TV junkie. Even as a child, I preferred sitting in front of the TV to reading books. Whether it’s documentaries, kitsch or crime fiction… I just love it.
Then, as a teenager, I started taking pictures, mainly in nature and during sporting activities. After several attempts at studying, I finally found my perfect education in Vienna at the College of Photography at the College of Graphics. There I also had the opportunity to take the film editing course, which also completely fascinated me.
After graduation I did an internship at Pro Sieben/Sat 1 in Unterföhring, where I was employed as an Avid editor after the internship. For the next 11 years I produced reports, animated films and much more… Film was completely my medium! And the feature film trailer was my big passion. Producing something and being able to realise ideas myself, just being able to let your creativity run free, that was wonderful.
In addition to my work as an Avid editor, I also edited for our local station in Kitzbühel and made a ‘making of’ of our long-running crime series ‘SOKO Kitzbühel’ in 2009. A little later I was asked by the production company if I could imagine working as a still photographer on ‘SOKO Kitzbühel’.
Yes, I could imagine it… With a self-made blimp (sound case for the camera) made of a water pipe and a pelicase, I started my new career path. I was very happy to take on new challenges. Since I didn’t know anyone in this profession, it was a case of learning by doing.
I have been taking pictures with silent cameras for a long time. And my work material is always up to date.
What distinguishes Tirol as film region for you?
Tirol is simply beautiful. You have so many different places to explore. There are a variety of beautiful backdrops for the film world. I get to places and areas through film life that I would never have found privately. Mystical valleys, dreamlike lakes, there is something for every genre.
I work wherever I am needed. But in Tirol, my home, it is especially nice to work. People know each other and everything is more personal here. I also like it when you’re either hanging on a slope on the Nordkette with climbing gear or recreating an avalanche on the glacier in Kaunertal and then you have to get to your workplace at 5 a.m. with ski gear.
We are curious: Tell us your favourite location in Tirol!
Having grown up in Kitzbühel, it’s my favourite place, especially the Schwarzsee and the Bichlachtal. Many people only know Kitzbühel as a fancy resort for the rich, but there are so many places that only locals know. Nature grounds me a lot, the dawn over the mountains, or just looking at the Kaiser, which looks different every day, is quality of life for me.
And now: The stage is yours! Please introduce yourself and your field of activity!
My name is Stefanie (Steffi) Leo and I come from Kitzbühel. Film and photography have always fascinated me and with my brother’s analogue camera I marched to the lake at dawn and photographed everything I could get in front of my lens. In my day you still had film and I think you learned to take photographs more consciously. I remember once I got up every day for a week to capture a certain foggy atmosphere at the lake. Digitalisation has also brought speed into photography, which I find very unfortunate. Now everyone slaps presets and filters on the computer and voilà: I’m standing on the beach with a sunset, even though I took the picture in my living room.
I have already briefly described my career.
Because of my initial shyness, I had learned to take a lot of photos during the shoot. Moreover, I always found the photos I took during the shoot more natural than the posed photos.
Being a still photographer is never boring, because every director acts differently, every production is different and you work in very different places with different conditions. Sometimes in a snowstorm, sometimes in very inaccessible valleys or beautiful lightning-blue lakes, sometimes in the 30 m² municipal flat on the 8th floor without an elevator.
My photos are needed for various purposes: For TV papers, previews, press, posters, autograph cards, fictional book covers… for crime series I produce the crime scene photos or pathology shots. You work closely with the other departments.
It’s always interesting to see the end result on TV, because every director implements his ideas differently, and I often have to smile because I know where I was sitting hidden in some scenes and had taken photos.
After ‘SOKO Kitzbühel’, more and more projects in Tyrol came along (‘Landkrimi’, ‘Der Bergdoktor’, ‘Il Pastore’, feature films, an RTL action series, Netflix series like ‘Totenfrau’ and many more.
I travel all over Austria for my job and I love my job, and I hope that this is reflected in my photos.