We had the good fortune of connecting with Leo Sfeir and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leo, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Ever since I was a child I’ve always loved to create my own worlds to escape reality. I’ve been doing art as one of my main way of doing so. I started with drawing, painting and music. Quickly I picked up a still camera which lead me to discover filmmaking. As a cinematographer I feel like my job is very similar to painting with lights through a lens. It always seems very organic to me. I’ve always been fascinated by the way lights react around us, both naturally or human made, it’s always the little things that get me fascinated. For example, if you live next to a pool, you’ll get some incredible reflections on your selling during certain times of day. I try to use those observations as inspiration for my work. I am also fascinated by water, how it reacts with lights and how it looks on camera which is also why I work also as an underwater cinematographer. As a queer artist I also wanted to make sure to be able to get more representation for underrepresented communities.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I work as a freelance cinematographer in Los Angeles. Reaching the point I am at now was long and not easy. I’ve started working in film almost a decade ago in Paris, and tried almost every department. Set work is very hard on you so you really need to be passionate about it to not quite. Lights and cameras are one of my favorite things, I can nerd out on equipment for hours, and creating the image of a movie too. This passion of mine allowed me to overcome a lot of obstacles that I cross along the way. Unfortunately a lot of people in this industry are heartless and will do what they need to achieve their goal which I hard to learn the hard way but it also built me stronger. One of my favorite things to shoot is underwater cinematography which I specialize in. Water has such a unique feeling to it that is so mesmerizing. I also built a workflow allowing filmmakers to shoot digital and have a 16mm film look to it. It allows filmmakers with smaller budgets to be able to get the feeling they are looking for without breaking their bank which is something I am really proud of.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If my best friend was coming over to visit the area I would definitely have to bring them to the best tacos in town Tacos El Venado, a block away from where I live. Maybe go on a hike at Temescal Canyon in the morning to be able to get an In n out for lunch and spend the afternoon at Will Roger’s Beach. Knowing how nerdy my friends are we’d probably have to have a stop either at Disney Land or Harry Potter World, or maybe both! Definitely have to go for a Salt and Straw ice cream and a ramen in Sawtelle. And finish with a great Korean Barbecue in Korea Town!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Managing to pick someone specific to shoutout would be really tough but I think that my main shoutout would have to go to all of the directors that put their trusts in me to be the cinematographer of their movies. I know how hard it is to be able to put 100% of your trust in someone to help you make your projects, especially when it one that is very dear to them. Without those people I wouldn’t have been able to evolve and be who I am today. They also allowed me to do the job I adore and for that I am forever grateful.