We had the good fortune of connecting with Omar Juarez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Omar, how do you think about risk?
I think life is all about risks, the moment that first fish waddled out of the ocean and became the earliest pioneer to pave the way for us all; gave us feet to move and evolve. Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking risks is scary, but the scariest risk I think is doing nothing at all, because then you risking everything. All the possibilities that could have happened, all the victories and failures that taught me what it meant to succeed. None of that would have been possible if I never took a risk and believed in my dreams.
When I was younger I wanted nothing more then to get into a prestigious film school but they were so expensive it felt impossible. I grew up poor with single mother who did everything she could for me, I had to work three jobs just to be able to afford community college. My goal was to transfer somewhere after two years and get that degree, that would open doors. I would go to class at night and work during the day and on weekends because I had a dream of making films, it was the only dream I ever had and I needed it desperately to succeed, because it was all I had. After two years and one credit away from being able to transfer, I took a risk and decided to buy a camera instead of paying for tuition. It was the best risk I ever took, I learned so much about myself and what I was capable of.
That used little camera got me my first DP job on a short film and It was the most exhilarating thing to ever happen to me, I was making films! Sure it wasn’t a big Hollywood blockbuster movie but to me it meant everything, because I could finally see what I could do, it validated my skills and kept that dream alive. Years later here I am in L.A. with several DP credits to my name, I’m directing and producing ads for some amazing companies and brands. I can see the premier lights in sky now, so close yet so far away, they push me to continue to take risks and reach for the stars. So moral of the story is if your heart tells you to take risks go for it because you never know how far you can go unless you try.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve always been a creative person, as a kid I loved to draw so much that I would get in trouble in class for doodling on my desk. I would get punished and have to stay after school to clean up all the desks. I never thought my creativity would ever get me anywhere but trouble, it was just something I did because I loved it. Now I get to be creative for a living. I went from drawing to photography and that eventually landed me in the cinematography world. I now get to make moving pictures and I still have the same love for it as I did when I was a kid.
I’m always hearing that in order to make your art into a business you have to take off your creative goggles and put on your business hat. I hated that, because they’re probably right. I never liked the business side of art, to me those were always two different worlds and I never wanted to be a suit. I never did anything for the money I only did it for the love of what I got to create, those pictures meant more to me then a paycheck, which is probably why I was broke for a such a long time. But I think in the long run it payed off, all the passion I put into my work made it stand out and the people that hired me, to shoot their films and take their pictures could see I really cared about what I produced. Now all those projects and headshots I took for fun turned out to be what got me where I am today.
Staying true to who you are and what you’re passionate about is what’s most important to me as an artists. I love all aspects of art, from painting to photography. To me filmmaking is the art of creating visual stories, I believe that every frame should be a painting, the sound could go off and the audience would still be too captivated by the imagery on screen to notice. A lot of my influences come from the master painters like Caravaggio and Rembrandt, their use of chiaroscuro always intrigued me and I try to use a lot of their lighting techniques in my cinematography.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love hiking and swimming L.A has the best of best of both worlds, the beach on one side and the mountains on the other. My favorite hike is right behind the Griffith Observatory at the peak there’s a hidden little botanical garden called Dante’s View inside there’s little romantic nooks with benches where you can be alone and look out into amazing views of the city.
When it comes to beaches I love Point Dume in Malibu, the beach is beautiful not too crowded or touristy and it also has an amazing little hike where you can see everything. What always amazes me about this place is that every-time I go I get to see the dolphins swimming out in the ocean, not once have I been let down, they always seem to put on a show right in the water.
In terms of food the Arts district and downtown are where it’s at Dune is my go to spot awesome Mediterranean place, and Tirsas Tacos near chinatown are always kicking.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My mother, her love and support shaped who I am today. All the struggles she went through to give me a better life have pushed me to try harder and harder to achieve my goals.