I had the plesure of talking to Jamie Kelman, an amazing man who has done amazing things in the makeup industry. He also has a sense of humor! He’s someone to admire, because you’ve all seen his work. For all of your future industry professionals, you’re gonna want to clue into Jamie. You’re gonna wanna work with him one day!
How does it feel to have been an “Oscar Nominee”? Just that title itself is such an honor!
I’m nominated?!? Wow! I’m always the last to know!
Actually I think that you think that I was nominated for BAD GRANDPA. While I was one of the four people who applied Johnny Knoxville’s makeup, the Academy deemed that Stephen Prouty was the most responsible person for the Grandpa makeup, and therefore made him the sole nominee for the makeup oscar nomination. I agree with their determination, btw- Steve is the man and deserved the nod. I’m working with him right now on a GOOSEBUMPS feature film. He got the job as lead designer with the clout of his Oscar nomination that you attributed to me. See? I’m there by proxy twice over! He and I did ZOMBIELAND together, and we go way back to sharing ape makeups on Tim Burton’s PLANET OF THE APES (the last time it was done with actual makeups before they took up the digital apes). Steve Prouty and I initially met in a place called ‘Whoville’ back on Ron Howard’s ‘HOW THE GRINCH STOLE XMAS’ (year 2000) working for a makeup legend named Rick Baker. Though it would have been nice to lose at the Academy Awards as a Nominee alongside Steve for BAD GRANDPA, and thusly now be known as an Oscar Nominee, I am however, not an Oscar Nominee. I have some Emmy statues though, does that impress anyone? They are shiny and nice.
How did you get into the business?
I got into the movie makeup business by being obsessed with monsters at a young age. They terrified me, and had a crushing grip on my psyche. I couldn’t sleep and had to have mental therapy. When something switched on in my brain and I became old enough (13 years old) to realize that what I was looking at was actually the work of artists, it exploded my brain and made me want to create and therefore control the monsters. I still get off on making monsters, I think it is the coolest thing in the world.
What advice do you have for artists wanting to break into the industry?
Draw, paint and sculpt. Those are the three main disciplines of Special Makeup Effects. Then do that on people’s faces, and never stop learning and doing it until you get paid. Then stop, and drop out of life. Except for that last sentence.
I have to ask, do you ever get nervous working on a new project?
Yes. Who wouldn’t? You are only as good as your last project, and once you embark upon your new last project, you find yourself there upon it.
Do you ever get starstruck? – everyone wants to know.
Yes but rarely. Jack Nicholson is my fav, and I had the great fortune to be near him working on the movie ‘BUCKET LIST’. I couldn’t believe I was within arms length of him. Jeff Bridges is another one— when I met him on ‘IRON MAN’ he needed to shave his head but wasn’t ready to do it. Since I wear my hair mostly shaved off (because I’m balding) he asked to touch my head to see how it felt. It was like Starman reaching out to me and actually grabbing my head. He has those alien eyes. But we hit it off and he took me with him to shoot the teaser for TRON 2. He knew I was a childhood fan and dug that I was passionate about it. That by the way is something I forgot to say in the ‘advise’ question. Be passionate— you cannot defeat passion, it always prevails.
You have such admirable movie titles in your resume, how does that feel?
Tingly, is how I feel, but only when acknowledged like you just did. Otherwise I start to feel worried that I look old due to an abundance of credits, and then the industry will force me to retire because I know too much. You get hired more when they can pull the wool over your eyes. I’m serious.
Do you have any favorite makeup applications to perform?
My favorite makeup applications are Character makeups. I love to bring characters to life who only exist in a movie, and who would not exist as they do if it were not for my contribution to the creation of that character. It is an honor to be a filmmaker— movies mean very much to me, and despite the grind of Hollywood, I consider myself privileged to have the opportunity every chance I get to create a cool character for a movie. It’s the stuff dreams are made of— at least my dreams, anyway…..