BY TIFFANY JOHNSON
Omari Collins of O.G. Collins Media exudes pride. Whether it is pride in his craft, himself, or our culture, you will soon notice after having a conversation with him that his aura makes you want to be better. He got it honestly. If his last name sounds familiar to you, that is because his late father, Dwayne Collins, was a prominent activist within the Charlotte community who left behind a legacy of hope. Omari, 27, continues the pride of his last name while beginning his journey of daring towards his destiny of storytelling through media.
As a child growing up in Charlotte, N.C., Collins was no stranger to being in front of the camera. Due to the nature of his father's previous positions as President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Chair of the Black Political Caucus, both in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, he often found himself in front of the camera from a young age, by his father's side. Surprisingly, that caused him to shy away from camera work due to him associating media with his dad’s time at work.
Yet as he got older, things changed, and he gravitated more towards showing his face on camera as a host and soon discovered another passion . . . being behind the camera. Like most kids when they are around family, someone must be tasked with holding the camera to capture family moments. Typically, when there was a family function, he would hear his grandfather’s voice saying, “Here Omari, grab this camera” and was unofficially tasked with serving as the family’s videographer. While he did not expect that it would gravitate from a task to a passion, we are all glad that it did.
What he has come to love most about being behind the camera and editing footage is the ability to control the narrative. “I just fell in love with creating and dictating my own story. Right? So, a lot of times you might be in front of the camera talking . . . but the editor or the person filming really has the power to cultivate the vision or turn you into whatever person they feel like turning you into and I wanted that type of power. I wanted to tell my own story and be in charge of it, so that really propelled me to learn about film and camera angles and editing styles,” he passionately described.
Omari credits his mentors, like Chioke Brown, for teaching him the basics of how to film and edit while pushing him to understand the value of being a master of all trades in media. These skills aided him while running the web series, Eagle Access which he founded while a student at North Carolina Central University. When the show first began, Omari’s top focus was being in front of the camera as a host. Yet, his mentor posed questions like, “what if your videographer doesn’t show up or what if your editor is not available?” causing Omari to think twice. Now the skills that did not first grab his attention, set him apart from his colleagues and continue to widen his window of opportunity.
“I think a lot of stuff that I did in college did propel me and prepare me for things I did in the real world and I’m still doing,” said Collins.
His road to success is one of persistence, yet through it all he remained faithful that he was destined to make it in media. Following a short stint post-graduation, working for someone else, he determined that if his destiny were to be fulfilled, it would be done under his company O.G. Collins Media, LLC. There were “Definitely times that I wanted to give up, and like oh [no] this isn’t [going to] work. I had angels and different times God was speaking to me throughout my path and was just telling me . . . keep going. You know, trust in him,” Omari recalled. So, he moved back home, from Atlanta to Charlotte, to get his company off the ground.
At the time his good friend and former UNCC football standout, Austin Duke, was beginning to get serious looks for the NFL draft. After some brainstorming, the two decided that Omari would document Duke’s Path to the Draft through a documentary series, shared on YouTube. This series got traction and was eventually seen by the Carolina Panthers communication department, who contacted him on social media as they had their sights set on him as a content creator for their franchise.
It was through this opportunity that he met his future client, Cam Newton, who would often see Omari editing training camp footage and would sometimes inquire about certain footage captured. Then one day, a Panthers staffer mentioned to Cam, “yeah Cam, you should let him shoot some of your stuff,” to which Cam responded, “if you’re serious, send me an email.” The rest is history as for the past few years, Omari has held a contract with Cam Newton’s production company, Iconic Saga Productions, and is one of the main creatives behind Cam’s content, especially what you see on social media.
His relationship with Cam has taught him more about “being flexible, being fluid, and just the grind… He’ll make you want to work harder.” Work harder he does. It’s not easy being the man behind the Cam. When working, Omari might get around 4 hours of sleep if he’s lucky, to which he’s now accustomed. He shared, “I’m waking up at 3:30 a.m. to capture him before he even wake[s] up . . . he gets up at 4:30 a.m.” and usually grinds until midnight.
Yet it is worth it when his work is well received after giving it his all. This summer, content he created was picked up by Bleacher Report and SportsCenter, allowing his work to be seen by millions. He was ecstatic when contacted by SportsCenter, and thought “This is wild, like SportsCenter, I watch y’all every morning.” Collins compared the warm reception to that of an artist with a painting where people stare and marvel at the artwork. Of course, an artist wants his work to be well received and enjoyed by audiences, but it isn’t the sole reason that one creates.
His pride and passion in his work, and ability to put his best foot forward under tight deadlines that allow his clients to break their own stories, has opened doors for him to work with high level clientele like Roc Nation and the NFL. Collins' burgeoning career speaks to the importance of creating your own opportunities, and not waiting for them to come to you. His first time shooting football was with Austin Duke, which opened the door to allow for his first time shooting an actual football game to be one in the NFL. Because he was prepared, he was able to thrive. It's both exciting and inspiring to see that he is just getting started and still has much more in store for his future.
Like his idol, Spike Lee, he dreams of producing, directing, and starring in his own film or t.v. show. He desires to inspire people, whether to laugh or cry or to motivate people to get up in the morning by helping them through their tough times. Before those future projects come to fruition, you will soon be able to catch him returning to the screen, online, as he has plans to revamp his YouTube channel and get back to being in front of the lens. So many people ask him about his career, how it got started, and what it is like capturing footage of the NFL and through his channel, he will be able to continue to inspire people on a more personal level. “A lot of times, you can tell someone else’s story, and you forget to tell your own,” said Collins.
For the one who may have been wanting to get started in videography or photography, and may be fearful or keep procrastinating as a form of self-doubt, remember Omari's encouraging words, “If you have a passion, and you feel like you have a purpose, and you feel like this is right for you, do it.”
MoTiFFated Minute with O.G. Collins:
A Minute of Advice for the Novice
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What camera would you recommend for a beginner in videography?
I would recommend for videography or photography, a beginner camera is . . . the Canon T6 or Canon T5i … That’s the beginner camera that I started with, it can do photos and video. So, that will get you used to working the camera and you still can do manual mode in there to really learn how to do certain things with the camera.
What microphone is a good starter?
Rode. I trust rode mics. On-camera mics, any of those they make good products and I think a Rode mic would be good and once you move higher up, you can go to a Sennheiser mic which is a more expense mic, but it’s worth it. Rode would be my first starter, and then Sennheiser makes great products.
What’s a good editing software?
I live and die by Adobe Premiere Pro … When you start, if you want to grow, and it’s a field that you want to grow in and edit in, just go ahead and learn Adobe Premiere Pro and get it going, because it’s definitely worth it. They use that in films, and everywhere.
What mistakes are avoidable for photography?
I think the biggest mistake is when people don’t take care of their equipment. If you take care of your equipment, your equipment will take care of you. I think that’s it . . . but when you say certain mistakes, it’s just lessons when it comes to shooting certain stuff.
You know, and hopefully that lesson doesn’t cost you the opportunity with that one person, but it might open up doors for certain stuff. It’s a lot of times, even when I shoot, especially with photography it’s like, dang I meant to have the light a certain type of way. But, then I look at the photo, and I’m like oh dang, that’s kind of cool. Like, it didn’t flash like I thought it would but way the light hit on your face and [doesn’t] hit that side of your face is like, oh, I like that. . . so it’s just like some stuff is just like you might think it’s a malfunction, but it’s really a creation. You know, and so it took a lot of people to start doing certain stuff and it’s like, oh I didn’t mean to do that but I’m glad I did.
What advice would you give to someone looking to break into videography and photography?
Just keep shooting, just shoot. . . Start with stuff shooting in your house. Start with just [going] outside in your yard or in your community and just shoot. That’s really it, just shoot.
People are like, “it’s nothing to shoot” or “I’m not getting paid,” or “it’s nothing to do right now,” like bro just shoot. Just like, create something. Create your own atmosphere. Create your own . . . set, and just keep shooting because the more you do it, the more you’ll get comfortable. The more, you know, creative your mind will get.
It’s like if I'm shooting, somebody sitting at a desk. I can’t just do that same shot all the time. I’ve got to get creative. I have to come up with another way to shoot it. .. It’s like alright this is boring now. Let me try to shoot from above the head, let me try to shoot from down low. Let me shoot from . . . another angle or in another frame rate.… Even with photography, it’s like alright, let me shoot with the lights on. Let me shoot with them off. Whatever.
Just shooting and constantly shooting and constantly doing something with your camera everyday, or as often as you can, that’s my thing. I would just tell people to do.
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