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A Region of Its Own: How Shoot in the Alps Has Mastered the European Mountainscape

Company Profiles 107 Add to collection

Alps expert and founder of service production company Shoot in the Alps, Paolo Sassi, sat down with LBB to share how he navigates productions across five countries, why he sees the Alps as a unified region of its own, and how environmental changes are impacting the landscape

A Region of Its Own: How Shoot in the Alps Has Mastered the European Mountainscape

Paolo Sassi, founder and producer at service production company Shoot in the Alps, is a master of the region. He’s always lived there, and makes it his mission to support productions across the entire terrain. 

The company was born out of a desire to return to adventure. Paolo started his career in extreme sport filming, but had moved to TV commercials before launching the company. 

“I was climbing with a friend and I just said, ‘I’m fed up with finding that perfect spoon for a yogurt TVC in Milan, I want to do something more dynamic.”

So he made a website for an early iteration of Shoot in the Alps; After one year, he got one job, and then the next year, two, and so on.

He’s since worked with a range of high profile clients such as Adidas, Moncler, and Mountain Dew on projects in the region, as well as on high-fashion shoots with the likes of Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, and Net-A-Porter. 

The beauty of the region is often reflected in the high-fashion productions the company has become known for. And Paolo’s work is so renowned in the region that, he says, different production companies working on the same project will get in touch synchronically for help. 

From sourcing locations to managing sites, to casting and sourcing the equipment and crew, Paolo and his team of experts manage to brave all kinds of snowy weather and sub-zero temperatures to bring the Alps to life with specialized film crews by maintaining relationships with mountain guides and helicopter pilots, beside location managers and scouters who work all year round in the region.

Navigating the Alps as one region

He sees the landscape as one region, instead of the five countries (Northern Italy, Southern France, Switzerland, Slovenia and Austria) that make up the terrain. “The culture is very similar, and with borders being removed, people are able to move across with few limitations,” he said. “Clients often travel to different countries without realising.” Even when filming in Switzerland, despite the country’s border, the process is smooth and Paolo’s team have made the journey hundreds of times. 

Paolo has grown his network across all five countries in the last 20 years. “It’s a close community of creatives in the Alps, and we’ve become friends over the years,” he told LBB. 

Early in his Alps-focused career, Paolo realized the way productions approached the region was dictated by borders. “I’d have clients calling me asking ‘Can we do Italy?’ ‘Do we need to go to Switzerland?’ and so I’d suggest other areas, and I started to think, well, it doesn’t make sense to divide it.” 

Instead of having productions organized by individual countries, Paolo encourages his clients to take a holistic view on the region as he does himself, which he says can bring clients to filming in spots they might not have considered before. 


Bringing clients to the Alps

He recounts multiple occasions where unpredictable weather conditions (think snow, lots of snow) have disturbed sets the night before a shoot. “We always find a way,” he says, as he knows the best spots in the region, it’s easy to find alternatives. 

Which he did for one client as COVID was emerging. “A client’s hotel in the Dolomites was shutting down, just before the shoot, because of COVID,” he says. “In four days, we swapped from Italy to Switzerland - I told the client to trust me, and that we had to do it. And we did.” 

For production companies based in just one of the countries that make up the Alps, this quick change would have been near impossible. For Paolo and his team, crossing over like this is as straightforward as possible. 

I feel the clients are happy to be in this environment,” says Paolo. “They’re happy to do something with us that isn’t what they do every day.” 

With navigating the Alps comes a certain level of risk, which Paolo says his level of expertise mitigates. “But It’s also about keeping them warm and cozy and convincing the teams to do a little bit of a walk together with the director, even if it’s out of their comfort zone,” he says. 

“We always send the location images, but once a client is on set, they see just how beautiful it is in real life,” he says, and it’s the real-life beauty which Shoot in the Alps aims to translate on film. 

Paolo points to one client that had planned a shoot in Chamonix, where the focus was to be a precise look of a chalet that we searched for a good week and the mountains were only for the background - a “minor part” of the production, he says, until they got to location. 

“By the end, they’d shot everything on the glacier, because it was just so beautiful, and the chalet was left aside,” he says. 

The changing environment 

But with a beautiful landscape comes attention and tourist footfall, especially in the more popular locations such as around the Mont Blanc or some of the most instagrammed lakes of the Alps. 

"The sad thing is as we update our locations library, we can see the detrimental impact of global warming and mass tourism on this incredible environment. The difference in the photos we have taken in just 2 - 3 short years is heart-breaking, especially the ones on the glaciers” says Paolo. 

Instagram, he says, is a blessing and a curse: the platform has given the Alps newfound popularity, but has made the most popular spots trickier to film at. 

“I have clients now that come to me and show me a location on Instagram that they want to go to, But these locations are sometimes overused and often busy with tourists, especially during high season when it’s very hard to shoot.” Clients come to Shoot in the Alps in part because the team can direct clients to hidden beauties that make a shoot stand out. 

And with a passion for retaining and restoring the beauty of the natural environment, Shoot in the Alps is a member of One Percent for the Planet - a worldwide organization where members contribute at least one percent of their annual sales to environmental causes - and has been since 2010. 

“The landscape is changing,” says Paolo. “But we’re trying to make positive changes where we can.”   

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Shoot in the Alps, Wed, 22 Sep 2021 16:03:51 GMT