Nuh Omar (pictured right) is a director and writer born in Karachi, Pakistan. He works in film, new media, shorts, advertising, and music videos. Christian Villarreal (pictured left) is a producer and storyteller from Bowling Green, KY. He began his career working as a script supervisor in Los Angeles, eventually expanding into the world of producing. Nuh and Christian's co-scribed time travel episodic"A Matter of Time" recently won season 6 of the Filmmatic TV Pilot Awards. More about the talented duo below...
1) How long have you both been writing?
I’ve been writing essentially my entire life. I used to make storybooks as a kid, and in my teens my mother would issue me weekly “writing challenges”, so I had notebooks filled with stories. Eventually, I started mimicking examples of screenplays I would find online in the early days of the internet. I don’t think I’ve stopped writing since I was 5.
Technically, since high school for me. With A Matter of Time, we’ve been writing this project since 2009. It was something that we worked on together in film school, and has been in and out of our lives ever since then, being rediscovered and refined.
2) What screenwriting training have you each received?
I went to both The New York Film Academy and Full Sail University for my degrees, so I’d consider that my professional training. Beyond that, just reading a lot of scripts.
We both went to Full Sail University, so my screenwriting training is simply from the course as part of our degree program.
3) How long have you been writing together as a team? Is this your only co-authored work?
Christian and I have been collaborating for a good twelve years at this point. We clicked at Full Sail with our mutual love of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and we sync really well. If one of us has an idea, the other has usually already had the same thought. It works because we’re able to critique, analyze, or resolve each other’s ideas without dismissing them. We’re involved in all of each other’s projects, writing or otherwise, in some capacity or another.
Sometimes it seems since birth. Other times it seems like we met in 2009 officially, in front of an Albertsons, and a partnership formed the likes of which even George (Lucas) and Steven (Spielberg) could not imagine.
4) What writing habits work for each of you? Do you write in short or long shifts, binge writing or scheduled sessions, together or passing the work back-and-forth?
I do binge writing. Once I sit down, I’ll end up spending hours just going non-stop. If we’re co-writing, I’ll pass the pages to Chris, and we go back and forth, tweaking what we need to. Oddly, I find that I wake up in the middle of the night and will write in my sleep, no joke. I’ll wake up to several--rather badly written--pages somedays, but it’s a jumping off point.
I tend to write in periodic bursts. Ideas that come to mind, I put to paper just to have them there for future use. Several times, I have done that and it has turned into a project we both go back and forth discussing the possibilities and plots of.
5) What genres do you lean towards? Are all of your works sci-fi?
Chris and I love sci-fi--it’s definitely one of our favorite genres. I don’t think I have a particular genre that I focus on. It’s whatever strikes me in the moment. I like to blend different genres when writing, like mixing colors. When the script finds its voice it will eventually land on one or the other. If I had to pick one genre, I find myself gravitating towards magical realism. It gives me a lot of room to play with and explore a story in a completely unique way.
I think my genre of choice always has mystery attached to it. The idea of the unknown ‘needing’ to be known is something that I love to discover in storytelling. Asking questions that eventually lead to answers or sometimes simply more questions.
6) Our judges loved "A Matter of Time", how would you describe the pilot and overall series to our readers?
I like to say that at the root of every story is a question, and the question for “A Matter of Time” is: What are the ethical, ideological, and theological implications of time travel? It’s a question I’ve never seen explored to its full extent in this medium before. Yeah, it’s cool to jump around in time and have some fun, which we definitely do in our story, but it changes the status quo of not only the social and political structure of the world, but also the basis of several thousand years of religious belief. That’s the playground we’re in for the series.
It’s a story that is equal parts adventure, mystery, and has some religious and ethical questions about time travel thrown in that no one has seen to ask before.
7) "A Matter of Time" seems like a viable project given the current market. Any 3rd party interest thus far? Where/how are you shopping it if at all thus far?
Nothing locked down at the moment. We’re still in the process of getting it out there. And of course, Chris and I have plotted out what happens in this world we’ve built beyond the pilot, and, for that matter, the rest of the season as well. But at the moment we’re working on getting the pilot shopped and are open to anyone interested in reaching out.
So far there has been some interest here and there, but nothing that would say ‘it’s getting made’ yet. We are not opposed to streaming or weekly television but would prefer streaming in this market.
8) What are you working on now? What do you plan on writing in the near future?
Chris will tell you, just like me, we’ve got something else in the works together, but we’re not ready to discuss it. It’s not at that stage yet. I have another TV pilot about the hidden lives of cryptids that is already making the rounds. I’ve got a feature about imaginary friends in the works, and a feature about the future incarnation of Death and his relationship with a Djinn he finds living in his house. The latter is special to me, as it’s about mental health, which is a topic close to my heart. I’m working on those solo, but I’ll pass them onto Chris regardless, even if he’s not involved in the writing process, and we’ll go from there, as we usually do.
We have a couple of projects we are working on, but that’s all we are willing to say at the moment.
9) Any advice for those about to write their first TV pilot?
Just write. Honestly, no first draft is a masterpiece, but getting it all on the page is what’s important. Seeing it all in front of you will help you assess where to go in, tweak, and edit. I think people overthink trying to nail the first draft, and I’d say just write what’s in your head, even if it seems a mess. You could have two drafts in a decade, or twenty in a year, and there’s nothing wrong with either. Your biggest critic is you. At the end of the day, you have a script, and you can only go up from there. Just write.
Write first, ask questions later. But keep in mind that a story isn’t finished when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take out.
Congratulations once again to Nuh Omar & Christian Villarreal, the Season 6 Filmmatic TV Pilot Awards Winners. All contact requests for Mr. Omar and Mr. Villarreal will be forwarded to their attention.