It wasn’t fame that Omar Ragab was after when he relocated to Hollywood a few years ago, it was the challenge to demand the best of himself while collaborating with those whom he respected. Ragab’s area of comfort is directly behind the camera, where notoriety is scarce save for the respect of your peers and the occasional industry recognition. In a small span of time, Omar has achieved nearly all of his aspirations, creating diverse productions with those whom have been a part of the community far longer than he; a scenario which testifies to his own excellence as a cinematographer operator and filmmaker.
The delineation between television, streaming, feature films, and content is nearly non-existent in terms of the opportunity it provides to display one’s skill as a storyteller and a professional. From advertising campaigns to streaming TV series and more, Omar Ragab has established himself among those in-the-know as one of the premier professionals behind the camera with the talent and perception of what translates as intriguing to modern viewing audiences.
Calvin Klein is a name and brand which needs no introduction. For the designer’s “PgLang” campaign, Ragab found himself collaborating with Grammy award and MTV VMA award winning director Dave Free in addition to award winning DPs Adam Newport-Berra (of HBO’s Euphoria and recipient of many Best Cinematography Awards for his work on The Last Black Man in San Francisco) and Christopher C. Ripley to create a series of seven commercials starring Grammy Award winning artist Baby Keem.
The entire crew (with the exception of the Dave Free, Christopher Ripley and Omar) was that of HBO’s Primetime Emmy Award Winning Series Euphoria. For Mr. Ragab, the thrill of working with so many notable peers was exacerbated by the fact that all of the commercials in this campaign were shot on actual 35mm Kodak film stock.
He concedes, “Shooting on film is incredibly taxing both mentally and physically and requires a lot of preparation as well as a laborious & meticulous work flow from top to bottom in order to get the right shots. You tend to be a lot more deliberate, methodical, and intentional when it comes to shooting on film which creates a certain atmosphere and electricity in the air!” The implementation of film rather than digital relies upon the excellence of those behind the camera, making for a unique experience that is both invigorating and anxiety producing.
Omar confirms, “One of my favorite moments was while I was operating the barge camera with Adam and I was zooming in on Baby Keem while we were wave running at about 30mph, I remember hearing Adam tell our focus puller Ethan McDonald to “Let it burn!” as we were rolling out our last magazine of film as the sun was setting. Something about being there at that very moment was both surreal and breathtaking and I still think about it from time to time!”
Sometimes the rare opportunity is more a factor of who you are working with rather than the format; as was the case when Omar found himself working with cultural icon Paris Hilton on the Netflix series Cooking with Paris. Along with Emmy nominated Director/Showrunner Rebecca Hertz and the entire production team, Ragab was integral to this premier season on Netflix which featured such celebrities as Demi Lovato, Saweetie, Kim Kardashian, Nikki Glaser, Lele Pons, and many more. The visual style of this series is as mesmerizing as one might expect from a figure as image conscious as Paris Hilton.
However, Omar divulges that the entire production was permeated with a close bond and stipulates, “It was probably one of the most jam-packed schedules I’ve ever adhered to, and by the end it felt as if we had run a marathon. The benefit about having such a minimal crew was that it made for an incredibly intimate and hands-on experience for everyone involved. Towards the end, we had all formed a familial bond which has now lasted countless TV shows and led to many fulfilling projects and experiences as a result of the success of our work.”
Writer: Coleman Haan