When the movie Joker came out to Oman, Al Montaser Al Jahwari was not only fascinated by its amazing plotline but also the magic that happened behind the screen.
In his mind, he deconstructed the process of how the makeup artist put so much work to achieve the look for the main character. While Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the Joker was intense, that wouldn’t have come out as memorable if the look didn’t go along with it.
It wouldn’t take long before Al Montaser would go to work and try the look on one of his selected model. To become successful in his field, he has to learn from the best, and because he didn’t have direct access to the people who worked for the movie, he learnt the process on his own.
Arm with the different tools of his trade, from brushes of varying length and sizes to different colours of make-up he went to work.
It was from this hands-on experience that he would learn that achieving the feat wasn’t easy — it took hours, patience and dedication.
Al Montaser has worked in different makeup effects in the last five years. He has experimented with mixed media. In his most creative, he managed to distort a face and give it a feel like it was skinned to reveal the muscles below. From arm and leg wounds to burnt skin and rotting pigmented skin, he pushes himself to be different all the time.
“I started doing cinematic makeup in 2013. From six years ago exploring what I can push myself to do, I learnt a lot,” he said.
Now 29, Al Montaser is known to be one of the best in the country. A field that not a lot of people understand, he has to be resilient to educate people that what he does have a room in the world.
“From online tutorials, I learnt the basics. I slowly developed my skills and dedicated time to explore different makeup artist option,” he said.
“When I started, people were having trouble understanding my passion. There was a bad impression of cinematic makeup. Some people in the community think that my kind of art is a waste of time and has no clear goal,” he shared.
“One of my friends, for example, told me that I would not go anywhere with what I do. The same friend told me that I will never amount to anything and that I will not get the mastery in special effects that I aspire. It has to take time to change that perspective,” he said.
Despite the many challenges thrown his way, Al Montaser remained hopeful that others will come to appreciate what he does. While the road was a lonely one to take, he expanded his network little by little.
“I participated in many local films and video series. My goal then was to refine my skills. I became a part of the production of this film called “Inevitable” which talks about drugs and their effects. I also became part of this series called “Single Resident’ which explore the life of bachelors. These projects have different artistic requirements, but they helped me a lot in gaining perspective and experience,” he said.
For him, practising the art gives him psychological comfort and tranquillity. By giving life to the character, he can push himself and achieve what others deemed unachievable.
“I like working with different special effects. My work on wounds and burns attract many viewers and admirers. They require a lot of focus when you make them, and you also need a higher degree of mastery because your goal is to simulate reality,” he said.
“In one project, there was this cinematic trick that I have to labour on. How can you make an eye removal look and feel realistic? There was also one that simulates amputation of the leg. While they took longer hours to achieve, the final effect was so mesmerising that I received a lot of compliments for my work. That alone makes it worth it,” he said.
Al Montaser also embarks on some fun stuff. For Instagram engagement, he created a project which involved realistically mimicking the eye of a girl falling into a can of beverage.
“I did it for fun, and there was no specific reason for that project. I just wanted to showcase my special effects work and demonstrate the power of make-up in the cinema. I couldn’t believe when that became viral and spread not only in Oman but in different countries,” he said.
“Six years of doing this and thankfully, a lot of people are beginning to understand. My worst critics in the past became my admirers. With time, they realised that what I do is a form of art that has real-world value, especially in movie production and cinema. Movies won’t exist without the contribution of cinematic make-up,” he said.
“Today, the responses I get are mostly positive. The acceptance and appreciation of people to my work boost my confidence and inspire me to do more work,” he said.
Al Montaser, however, said that he is not done growing and admitted that he has a long way to go. He wants to be able to make his talent a global necessity.
“I did many workshops and participated in many events outside Oman, and these contribute to the improved level of my work. I hope I would reach a higher level of professionalism and expertise very soon,” he said.