Interview by Asif Khan
When a 5year old watches a dinosaur movie, he gets amazed looking at the gigantic creatures. But not a certain kid- he used to get his thrills from pointing out mistakes made in a project streamlined by veteran moviemaker ‘Steven Spielberg’. Nuh Omar always showcased his stream of passion towards quality film-making. Looking at his distinctive quality of storytelling from a young age, he has evolved and emerged as a renowned filmmaker and director of today, who is not only working for the local industry but also rubbing shoulders with internationally acclaimed writers and directors. His choice of unconventional stories and distinct style spell him as a creative genius who does things his own way. Phenomenal success came his way through a short film, ‘Mojiza-e-Fun’ (The Miracle of Art), which was a tribute to late Shahid Sajjad, one of the most exceptional and gifted sculptor artists of Pakistan. Tossing aside the conventional rules of direction, Nuh’s ability to shoot films that appeal to all, is a rare talent not everyone possesses .With a number of short films, commercials and his magnum opus web series ‘The Fortress of Dorkness’ with more than hundred episodes, Nuh is one of those few and far between directors to have emerged in decades. With a great knack of keeping the audience engaged with his unconventional projects, aesthetic shots and high-octane use of the camera Nuh knows how to give audiences the thrills they crave. These days he is finalizing a feature-length screenplay, titled “The Imaginary Friend Society” and also inscribing his feature film, tentatively titled “Ghosts” . In his no holds barred conversation with Social Diary, Nuh divulges many latent facets of his journey and life:
SD: Where do you get your out-of-the box ideas?
Nuh: From life in all its manifestations. My work used to be an encapsulation and depiction of my deeply inspired daily experiences. You know, instead of dining at high-end restaurants, I always prefer roadside burger dhabas;to be able to watch people closely and try to read their expressions and see how they carry themselves. The spoils of this pastime show up across my work.
SD: What are some old memories that you would like to share with us?
Nuh: During my teen years, making illustrations was my major hobby. On being praised, those anime-inspired and some enriched with satirical gags used to provide me a sense of fulfillment. I came up with Mr. Bad, while I was thirteen, based on funny alien creatures and when I turned seventeen I created “Loco Animals” which depicted a group of weird animals led by witty Kodak Bear, who used to click pictures of every moment. That was how I started comprehending the aesthetics of arts and became so daring that when in the school assembly, students were asked, what they want to become in future, my answer was utterly different from the rest, as I audaciously said that, “I want to be a filmmaker”. Everyone laughed at my answer but my Biology teacher encouraged me to pursue what I intend to.
SD: What films have you watched while growing up and do you think inspiration drawn from those reflect in your films?
Nuh: I was lucky enough to be given the freedom to watch everything, but it was mostly science-fiction and fantasy that appealed to me like the films of Hayao Miyazaki & Jim Henson. You can observe the influence of magical realism stories in my writing for sure. It’s a way to narrate a story in a more relatable way.
SD: What kind of films inspire you?
Nuh: I’m an ardent fan of fiction, fantasy and magical realism. While living and working in Toronto, Los Angeles, New York , Karachi and Dubai, the experiences that I have inculcated from the diversity of cultures, values and living patterns have amplified my vision.
SD: Does success or failure affect you or is it like you do a project wholeheartedly and then let the chips fall where they may?
Nuh: To me, I tell my story, and its success or failure is really a lesson for the next story I’m working on. You’re always learning, in every aspect of life, so each step is a lesson for the next.
SD: Films with moral endings serve as an agent of social change. Do you think that everything that is shown, should have something for social-good.
Nuh: I think as a filmmaker there is a level of responsibility you have when making your art. I think that bleak stories tend to be favored, but I’d personally rather craft a story that leaves people with a message of hope, no matter how dark the ending may be. I think social change is a part of that.
SD: Do you set out to create a project which has the ability to change people’s mindset?
Nuh: Sometimes I do, and sometimes I just start writing and see where the pieces fit in the puzzle. I’ve written stories where I sat down to do something just for fun, and they ended up with a message of morality. If that changes someone’s mindset, then you’ve accomplished something, even unintentionally. Entertainment is all about perspective, and if someone is affected by your film, even one person, then you’ve accomplished what you set out to do.
SD: If acting is self negation and modeling self-promotion, then what is direction?
Nuh: Direction is guidance, knowledge, and understanding. You’re usually behind the camera, and you’re the final word, so it comes down to being able to navigate and convey that navigation to the world.
SD: What is it that will be a new experience for the viewers, never seen before?
Nuh: I like to play in fantasy worlds. I think audiences will see that. Being a Pakistani filmmaker, there is more to us than solemn drama. My mantra is “Dream Out Loud”, so imagine your dreams come to life on the screen in a coherent way. That is something new I think people won’t expect to see, but will enjoy about my projects.
SD: They say that stories always remain the same and its the treatment which makes a difference. Do you agree?
Nuh: Every story is told and re-told, so I do agree to an extent. Some of my favorite forms of entertainment are the same concepts told in different ways. You can’t create without some form of influence, and you adapt and expand your work from that which had an impact on you. I’ve generally been told my scripts are like nothing out there, but someone will always find a correlation I am sure, and that’s more of a compliment than anything else to me.
SD: What are those specific production challenges you encounter after getting on the crease. How well prepared are you for bouncers?
Nuh: You just always have to go in with the mentality that Murphy’s Law is real. Overconfidence is not the same as being prepared, and being prepared for the worst is what the crew should be ready for. It’s what direction and writing is all about.
SD: What projects are currently keeping you occupied?
Nuh: I’ve got several things in the pipeline. Foremost is that I’m working with a New York based writer Mark Davis on the television series “The Alexandrian”, about the life of Cleopatra. Mark’s writing is immaculate, you get instantly drawn into how much depth he invests into his work.
SD: Are you doing any science fiction projects?
Nuh: I’m working with my long-time producing partner, Christian Villarreal, on “A Matter of Time”- commentary on theology and ideology which is about the real life implications and consequences of time travel. Whereas my other project “I’m Here” is about a tabloid journalist who seeks out creatures of legend and folklore to interview and tell their side of the story. It’s a reflection of my time and experiences in the American heartland, telling the tale in a way that is fun and engaging.