Unter freiem Himmel

Gernot Stefl, Benjamin Hable and Michael Frager are behind the ‘Unter freiem Himmel’ company and discuss their activities.



Job description: Design and production of films and animations
Company: Unter freiem Himmel OG
We work in: Graz, Austria
We've worked here since: 2012
Our contact
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What we do

Customers (companies, artists, universities or museums) come to us with an idea which they want to implement as part of a motion picture project. We devise suitable concepts which, depending on requirements, might be films, 2D and/or 3D animations, interactive installations and AR/VR projects. We specialise in animations, all of which are produced in-house. For all other productions, we work with our partner freelancers and companies.

Why we love our job:

Whether cartoons for a children’s museum or 3D animations for a stainless steel producer – we always incorporate our own ideas into our work. We like it best of all when customers approach us for this reason: they like our work and value our ideas. We are also much more than just a company with shareholders: we are close friends and also see ourselves as equal ping-pong partners, film fans (we meet once or twice a month for a trash film evening) and nerdy beer drinkers who can spend hours discussing how the camera work in the 34th minute of the last film we watched together can be interpreted.

Important skills in our job:

Aside from the technical skills, the following characteristics have also proven to be very useful: * The ability to organise yourself better than your younger self had ever believed possible. * The ability to tolerate and even enjoy the poor musical tastes of your colleagues! * The ability to down endless cups of coffee without getting shaky hands or a racing heart. * The ability to incorporate your own ideas and skills into a project and forgo your own ego in favour of the joint goal. * The ability to recognise and concentrate on your own tasks and strengths within the company while delegating other tasks to others to ensure an efficient distribution of work.

Our biggest accomplishment so far:

Our greatest success is probably the fact that we are now managing the company in its fourth year, making ends meet financially and we haven’t killed each other yet! The highlights include the creation of our 2015 show reel, which finally gave us the chance to complete a fun internal project and unleash our creativity. And of course the fantastic work we have created. The more recent projects we are proud of include Instagram animations for Sagmeister & Walsh, implemented with photographer Marion Luttenberger and production of all illustrations and animations for the upcoming exhibition ‘Tüftelgenies’ at the Frida & freD children’s museum in Graz.

How we found our current job:

All of the shareholders met during their studies at FH JOANNEUM. The story of the company’s creation is relatively unspectacular: one beautiful spring day, several friends were sitting relaxing together beneath a large ash tree. Someone suggested “Hey, why don’t we set up a company?” and the others replied enthusiastically “Yessss!”

What we learned for this job during our studies:

Through our projects, we got to know relatively quickly what it means to work as part of a team. You quickly learn how well (or not) you work with whom, where the chemistry is right and where there is a spark so that you can go on to set up a company together a short time later. An important positive message was instilled in us during our work at FH JOANNEUM: “Somehow it always works out in the end!”

Job prospects in our field:

In our opinion, the film and video industry in Styria is overloaded but there are few companies creating conceptual, story-driven and high quality productions. In the animation sector, which is currently expanding in the direction of explanatory animations (unfortunately due to various ‘animation factories’), it has been easy for us to gain a foothold thanks to our individual concepts and our background (graphic and motion design). In our opinion: the more you establish a specialist position on the market, the easier it is to find your niche. We learned that the hard way, starting out as a kind of ‘all-in-one’ solution.

We are:

  • talented
  • spirited
  • daft

About our job:

We don’t have anything like a 5-year plan (we also don’t have a business plan – but shhhhhh don’t tell anyone!) If asked the age-old question of “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, we would say: “No idea!” We live and work for the moment and have established a good middle ground between our work and our leisure time which we value just as much. Self-employed = self and employed. What rubbish. It’s all a matter of organisation. Of course, sometimes you might spend a weekend in the office but as an employee you can’t meet a friend for a beer at four in the afternoon! It is our aim and desire to continue having many more years of fun working in the same basic formation with a growing network. For us, Graz is a fantastic compromise between urban and rural life. It has a small but very active and talented creative scene where, in our opinion, people work with and not against one another.