Today we’d like to introduce you to Shaka Omari.
Hi Shaka, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
I started my career in this industry as an Actor. After graduating from the University of Houston (Go Coogs!) I moved to New York with some of my college friends to continue acting. After about five years there doing theater, commercials and student films, I decided to switch things up and move to LA to learn more about the film industry.
There was just one day when auditioning I thought to myself “You know what, I want to see what it’s like on the other side of the table”. I was working at Apple at the time and met my friend and now business partner Charles Malone. We decided to create a production company, Open Queue Productions and started filming ideas and concepts. The idea was to just create, even if it was just shooting on something as simple as an iPhone, just to keep the creative muscle growing.
Thanks to another one of my friends, Check Solita, I landed a job at one of the major talent agencies and began learning the business side of the industry. That has been a massive blessing and a masterclass in understanding the inner workings of Hollywood. I’ve also met some of the nicest, hardworking, creative, ambitious, caring and supportive people at the company.
I’m still an actor and have an amazing acting coach, but a lot of my focus now is building the company.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
It hasn’t been smooth, though my Instagram might make it seem so, LOL.
A lot of the struggles are mental. You really have to check in with yourself and remind yourself the reason why you want to do this, whatever that reason may be. You need to make sure not to compare yourself to someone else’s journey. My Mom once told me, “Comparison is the Thief of Joy”.
One of our first tests in this industry was when we had two films fall apart on us.
We took it hard, very hard.
Doubt started to creep in, and we heard whispers from people we knew questioning our ability, which in turn made us question ourselves. The thoughts of “are we meant to do this”, “are we failures” “it shouldn’t be this hard” started to set in. I say this to say it’s ok to feel those feelings. They are going to happen, it’s what makes you human. You feel it because you care, and there is no better sign to know how much you care about what you are doing. Because I’m a nerd, I have to quote Wandavsion, “what is grief but love persevering”.
To try to suppress or pretend those feelings aren’t there doesn’t help. Ask for help if you need, see a therapist, find activities that bring you joy, take a break and when ready, come back to it. It’s not your identity and realizing that for us helped. It’s something we love to do, it isn’t the whole sum of who we are as individuals.
It’s still not a smooth road, but I’ve learned that things rarely are in this industry. Look at Squid Game. Took ten years and rejections, but now it’s the most popular show on Netflix. So we have changed our mindset around setbacks or “failure” and upped our patience.
We have a quote that gets us through those times that I love from Samuel Beckett.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
We are a film production company. Our focus right now is on live acting and we cover all genres. We also are in acquisitions where we are looking for scripts from talented writers.
We really love stories that aren’t just fun and exciting but follow our mission statement which is “To find stories that inspire people to go out and be creative”.
We want people to see our work and say, “I want to tell stories like that”, “I relate to that”, “I feel that”. Stories that unite us and show how we are all connected .
One of the things we are most proud of is we have one of our shorts streaming right now on the streaming platform Curia, which you can access on your iPhone/iPad/TV stream box or computer.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
We have many people to give credit to, LOL. It takes a village…
Chris Meyer and Andi Wong believed in our last short and helped us secure a streaming deal with Curia Tv. Shout out to Iciar Perez over at Curia. Check out the app and the short is called Kaleidoscope. Curia also has a lot of great curated content including short films from festivals. (Also, in case Chris is reading this, Arsenal is the greatest!)
I would love to Thank Jeff Jacobs and Michelle Kydd Lee for their mentorship and support. They have made me believe more in myself and take on things that I didn’t think I could. Watching their work ethic and drive is inspirational. Would also like to include my Acting coaches Tom Draper & Tom Lenoci in that as well, pushing me out of my comfort zone time and time again!
Charles Malone, my business partner and friend.
To all the cast, crew and co-workers that I have been lucky to work with and be supported by. To name a few Joanna Priwieziencew (My best friend, for support and picking me up when I’m down), Bobby Propes (been there since the beginning), Martin Baird, Jorge Granera, Elizabeth Ramirez, Jenn Cheung (for supporting us with building up Open Queue), Lara Clear (for being a brilliant actress, fellow Arsenal supporter and referring me), Jay Akin & Bernardo Cubria (for always pushing me to continue acting), Jennifer Okafor (working with me to build up my skills as an artist) Paige Wandling (for introducing me to my current Acting coaches) Kevin, Richard, Bryan, Joe, Howie as well as countless others at the agency who have taken time to give me advice or taken an interest in me (you know who you are)! I can’t forget Ikenna Okoye and the whole crew at the “2 Kings in a pod ComicBook Club” and of course everyone in the Foundation (past & present) for giving me an outlet to give back to the community.
Charles Malone also wanted to thank his mentors Carla Hacken, Stephanie Johnson and Jackie Argenio.
My family. My Mom, My Dad, My Brother & My Sister. This section would be too long if I tried to thank you enough, LOL!
(…and if Chris is still reading, if it makes you feel better Bernardo supports Man U too, so Arsenal forever to you both!!)
- Instagram: @shakaomari & @openqueueproductions
- Twitter: @shakaomari & @openqueue
Some photos by Vincent Mejia