The art of the motion picture has captivated audiences since its inception, but that final piece of magic, be it on the big screen or a smartphone, is a labor of love brought to life by many minds working as one. It’s an idiosyncratic machine that has to be speaking the same language, or the message will never be heard. Lucky for us, cinematographers like Omar Ragab are masters of communication behind the scenes.
Raised in the whirlwind of Cairo, Egypt, Ragab was in constant conversation with the city around him. At the crossroads of ancient and modern civilization, where deep-rooted family ties refuse to be swept up amidst big-city hustle and bustle, Ragab remained ever-connected to his community and environment. But it was the glimpses of nature that penetrated the chaos of Cairo that truly spoke to this cinematographer’s soul.
“I’ve always been infatuated with light, and how its presence, or absence, affects our perception,” recalls Ragab. “Once I realized that being a cinematographer gave a person the responsibility to tell stories through a visual language, I was hooked!”
Already fluent in Arabic and English, Ragab began his passionate study of photography, the language of light.
Immersion is the fastest way to fluency, and no job was too big or small for Ragab as he dove into Los Angeles’s film culture. His early work as a production assistant brought with it an appreciation for the importance of all positions on set. Even seemingly low-ranking posts carry the weight of the film production on its shoulders, and Ragab quickly understood that every crew member’s contribution was paramount to the project’s success.
This understanding combined with his tireless work ethic, technical ability and family-oriented nature has brought Ragab success in every area behind the camera, from 1st assistant camera positions to stints as an assistant director. Experience not only as a crew member but as a leader in each department has equipped Ragab with a unique skill set that sets him apart from most cinematographers.
Ragab’s warm and confident demeanor, in combination with his enthusiasm and proficiency behind the camera, allows him to lead a production from a place of lived experience. His rise through the ranks has imbued him with a sense of duty to pass his wealth of knowledge on to aspiring cameramen and women on set.
Working in close collaboration with the director to uphold the visual integrity of the film, these qualities are crucial for a cinematographer to embody and exemplify. Also known as director of photography, the DP is responsible for overseeing all aspects of a film’s photography, and must have a comprehensive command of three different departments: camera, lighting and grip. To harmonize the efforts of each team and accurately capture the film’s intention, communication is key not only through the camera, but amongst the crew as well.
Rebecca Hertz, showrunner and director for Netflix’s “Cooking With Paris,” was quick to praise Ragab’s constructive influence on set. “Omar’s positivity beams through his work and into others, creating a loving, friendly, and therefore, efficient work environment,” said Hertz. “He is highly intelligent when it comes to camera and production knowledge and is patient with others, teaching and directing them methodically.
When UberEats secured a coveted Super Bowl commercial spot, Ragab was called on to bring his creative expertise to the set. Featuring Mike Meyers’ and Dana Carvey’s beloved “Wayne’s World” characters, Ragab was tasked with invoking the broadcasting nostalgia of the 1980s. To achieve the desired effect, Ragab dug deep into his toolkit, using vintage lenses and 3 different cameras to capture the performance of each actor and provide a canvas for the special effects work in post production.
With Ragab’s magic touch, UberEats’ “Wayne’s World” commercial was a standout favorite amongst the heralded Super Bowl line-up. Ragab’s efforts left a strong impression on the commercial’s production manager Giovanna Giangregorio, particularly his commitment to the project’s creative vision.
“Omar is outstanding at his craft and an invaluable asset to any project,” said Giangregorio. “He worked without rest to make sure all of our creative needs were met and transformed into a visual far beyond what we imagined.”
At the end of the day, a film crew is like one big family—some members are close to the heart, some are distant relatives, but no matter the person or position, communication is essential. Fluent in the language of light and leadership, Omar Ragab connects with every level of his team so they can let the camera do the talking.