Feature | Omar Khalifa

Omar Khalifa is a British writer, director and former journalist who cut his teeth in TV news and programmes under Oscar and Emmy award-winning producers.

His commercial work includes films for clients such as Vodafone, Chevrolet and Qatar Airways, and his award-winning narrative work includes New York Festivals gold in 2019 and Cannes Corporate gold 2019 for short INTERPOL drama, Aqila (2018).

Most recently, Khalifa released his new spot for Land Rover Defender.

electriclimefilms’s Content Manager Oliver Harbord spoke to Khalifa about his work and the ability to capture human interaction.

Oliver Harbord: How long have you been making films?

Omar Khalifa: Probably about 15 years. I’d be the assigned family photographer, shooting stills on a 110 film (flat rectangular) camera when I was a boy, long before I reached double figures. And then I got into journalism towards the end of my teens and into my 20s. I started getting paid for it, as a multimedia journalist.

I’d occasionally be assigned to travel and cover a few stories where I could write and shoot. Kosovo, Buenos Aires, Sarajevo. Met amazing people. As I moved up the ladder at Al Jazeera English, I started to shoot second camera for programmes while I was assistant producing. On the side, learning more, self-taught, about filmmaking and editing.

I started to experiment with shooting on phones (back in 2007!), and on a Harinezumi. I made a 30s short that won a Vimeo staff pick and was shown at bus stops around the world – no joke!

I’d be adding adapters to handycams (the Twoneil) to get the illustrious shallow depth of field back then. As cameras got better, I started shooting less and directing more.

OH: How did you get started with filmmaking? Was there a particular event or time that made you recognise filmmaking as your life?

OK: It’s mildly weird to think that filmmaking is my life. I like other things too. Maybe I haven’t really accepted it yet. Or maybe I don’t think I’m any good at it. But, I’ve always been interested in visual language.

When I got a job as a web journalist in Qatar, all around me were brilliant filmmaking teams, off to conflict zones, covering stories that I really cared about. I loved it. And I saw myself as a career videojournalist.

I started on that path, but slipped off it when I felt we could tell stories in more subtle, visual ways than I felt I was exposed to in current affairs those days.

So, by 2012, I shifted gears and became friends with advertising.

These days I’m writing scripts and looking to make a few shorts in my 40s – coming soon… the 40s that is!

OH: Throughout the filmmaking process, what’s your favourite part about it and why?

OK: The response. Good or bad. I love the fact a whole bunch of people somehow came together to execute a vision, and it gets out there for people to see. I love stimulating the masses, moving them.

Some, if not all of my best work has been the super low budget projects, where we’ve had the most creative control, invented mad ways of achieving things, and all the laughs (and professionalism!) have made it worthwhile.

OH: What do you find most difficult/challenging about being a director?

OK: Heartbreak and risk aversion. At least I used to. When you write a treatment that you think will win on so many levels, but for some reason or other, your masters don’t see it that way.

Also, I’m probably the most difficult thing about being a director; me.

A brief might come in, and sometimes I’ll go off on some unanticipated path of creativity because I’m on my fifth coffee after lunch, way off brief, and yet I still think it’s absolute greatness in a pdf.

Sometimes you need to proof-read your own brain from other peoples’ perspective. I do that, sometimes. And years later, it all makes total sense why they didn’t approve it.

OH: Where do you draw your inspirations from?

OK: Other great work out there, and in different mediums. The written word – books, articles etc – can trigger the most interesting visual metaphors in my head. Music too.

Long drives. I always have my best ideas on the go. Unanticipated moments. Life’s randomness. I’m not a cinephile, but I love cinematic storytelling.

OH: Describe your film style.

OK: I’m not sure I have one because it’s whatever the client wants, but when I get a moment, I love capturing the subtleties of human interaction. I like actuality. Observing. I like capturing big, beautiful landscapes. And smaller incredible locations with texture. And usually, in one form or another, some kind of escapism.

Culture° | Rayhan Kandri On Dubai Internship

Culture° | Rayhan Kandri on Dubai Internship

OnSet° | Braun

OnSet° | Braun

NewDirector° | Lee J Ford

NewDirector° | Lee J Ford

OnSet° | CrimsonLogic With Daniel Marjan

OnSet° | CrimsonLogic with Daniel Marjan

NewDirector° | Sam Templeton

NewDirector° | Sam Templeton

Awards° | Betr Wins Gold At CICLOPE Festival

Awards° | Betr wins Gold at CICLOPE Festival

NewDirector° | Martín Romanella

NewDirector° | Martín Romanella

Feature° | Electriclime° At SXSW Sydney

Feature° | electriclime° at SXSW Sydney

NewDirector° | Fernando Hart

NewDirector° | Fernando Hart

Culture° | Shaye Guillory Promoted

Culture° | Shaye Guillory promoted

NewDirector° | Henrik Rostrup

NewDirector° | Henrik Rostrup

NewDirector° | Clare Chong

NewDirector° | Clare Chong

OnSetº | Standard Chartered Bank X Liverpool FC

OnSetº | Standard Chartered Bank x Liverpool FC

NewDirectorº | Roos Brothers

NewDirectorº | Roos Brothers

Finalists | Agency Of The Year Awards 2023

Finalists | Agency of the Year Awards 2023

Newdirector° | Emile Rafael

newdirector° | Emile Rafael

OnSetº | Audi

OnSetº | Audi

NewDirectorº | Kids Of Bill

NewDirectorº | Kids of Bill

NewDirectorº | Adinah Dancyger

NewDirectorº | Adinah Dancyger

NewDirectorº | AOE

NewDirectorº | AOE

NewDirectorº | Dania Bdeir

NewDirectorº | Dania Bdeir

Meet The Team | Dubai

Meet The Team | Dubai

OnSetº | Dyson

OnSetº | Dyson

OnSetº | Riot Games In Berlin

OnSetº | Riot Games in Berlin

OnSetº | Estée Lauder

OnSetº | Estée Lauder

Senior Producer | Dora Claire David

Senior Producer | Dora Claire David

News | Grace Rached Internship Program

News | Grace Rached Internship Program

OnSetº | Toyota Veloz

OnSetº | Toyota Veloz

Producer | Layal Mooti

Producer | Layal Mooti

Electriclime° | 2022

electriclime° | 2022

OnSetº | Saudi Arabia

OnSetº | Saudi Arabia

NewDirectorº | Electriclime° Welcomes Nick Sullivan To Roster

NewDirectorº | electriclime° welcomes Nick Sullivan to roster

On Set | Audi RS3

On Set | Audi RS3

Feature | Mariam Gabunia

Feature | Mariam Gabunia

On Set | Electriclime° Provide Snickers Hunger Support

On set | electriclime° provide Snickers Hunger Support

On Set | Electriclime° Creates Futuristic New Look For Intel’s ‘Evo’ Laptop

On Set | electriclime° creates futuristic new look for Intel’s ‘Evo’ laptop

Winners | Electriclime° Clinch Gold At Shots Awards Asia Pacific 2022

Winners | electriclime° clinch Gold at shots Awards Asia Pacific 2022

Top Ten | Electriclime° In Creativepool List

Top Ten | electriclime° in Creativepool list

Behind The Scenes | ClearScore By Toby Morris

Behind the Scenes | ClearScore by Toby Morris

Awards | Electriclime° Accepted Into Campaign Brief’s The Work 2022

Awards | electriclime° accepted into Campaign Brief’s The Work 2022

On Set | Mastercard

On set | Mastercard

Feature | Grace Rached

Feature | Grace Rached

Feature | Omar Khalifa

Feature | Omar Khalifa

Awards | Electriclime° Recognised At Immortal Awards

Awards | electriclime° recognised at Immortal Awards

Feature | Daniel Marjan

Feature | Daniel Marjan

New Name | Electriclimefilms Changes To Electriclime°

New name | electriclimefilms changes to electriclime°

New Director | Anthony Pellino

New Director | Anthony Pellino

Awards | Electriclime Nominated In AOTY

Awards | electriclime nominated in AOTY

Feature | Director Dania Bdeir On Estée Lauder Film

Feature | Director Dania Bdeir on Estée Lauder film

Interview | Harrison Bo Born

Interview | Harrison Bo Born

On Set | Crazy Domains

On set | Crazy Domains

Feature | Tobias Ross-Southall

Feature | Tobias Ross-Southall

On Set | Target With Pete Moore

On set | Target with Pete Moore

BTS | The Iconic With Lester Jones

BTS | The Iconic with Lester Jones

Feature | Layal Mooti

Feature | Layal Mooti

Awards | Electriclime°’s Durex Film Shortlisted

Awards | electriclime°’s Durex film shortlisted

On Set | Australian Olympic Committee

On Set | Australian Olympic Committee

Feature | Internship Experience In Dubai

Feature | Internship experience in Dubai

New Director | Pete Moore

New Director | Pete Moore

Q&A | Hopi Allard

Q&A | Hopi Allard

On Set | David Beckham Stars In MBS Spot

On Set | David Beckham stars in MBS spot

On Set | Intercontinental

On Set | Intercontinental

16mm Film | DOP Tom Welsh

16mm Film | DOP Tom Welsh

On Set | NCS

On Set | NCS

BTS | Bacardi In NYC

BTS | Bacardi in NYC

On Set | Electriclime° Battles Through Thunder And Rain In Kuala Lumpur

On set | electriclime° battles through thunder and rain in Kuala Lumpur

On Set | Parker Pens

On set | Parker Pens

Behind The Scenes | KFC Confessions

Behind The Scenes | KFC Confessions

BTS | Pete Moore For Clipsal

BTS | Pete Moore for Clipsal

On Set | Acer

On set | Acer

BTS | Lincoln Aviator

BTS | Lincoln Aviator

On Set | Electriclime° Launch Audi E-tron In Singapore

On set | electriclime° launch Audi e-tron in Singapore

Grace Rached

Grace Rached

On Set | Air+ In Singapore And Melbourne

On Set | Air+ in Singapore and Melbourne

On Set | Mexico City

On Set | Mexico City

On Set | Sony In Mongolia

On Set | Sony in Mongolia

On Set | Head Start Homes

On set | Head Start Homes

Electriclime° | Sustainable Set

electriclime° | Sustainable Set

On Set | Dettol

On Set | Dettol