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Gabriel Okorie is the winner of the Best Makeup Artist in the recently concluded African Movie Academy Award (AMAA) held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

His story is that of a man who graduated with a B.A in English Language and Literature and thought that as soon as he was through with his compulsory national youth service, he would start a career in Lagos.

But, when the realities of Nigerian situation dawned on him, he humbled himself and went into apprenticeship to learn Make-up and Special effects. Today, he has found himself in the mainstream of Nigeria's movies industry. In 2003, he won the award of the best makeup artist at the Pan African Movie Award which was held in Accra Ghana and has never looked back since then.

Gabriel hails from Isialangwa Local Government area of Abia State and attended Aladinma Housing Estate Primary School in Owerri. From there he proceeded to Emanuel Secondary School in Owerri and afterward went to Abia State University, where he bagged a B.A in English Language and Literature. He spoke with Daily Sun recently and about his tortuous road to stardom.

The beginning
After my youth service at the Ogun State Cultural Centre, I settled down in Lagos State with the high hopes of getting a job with a bank or an oil company. But as the day, it became clear to me that I needed to wake up from my dreamland. Then my friend, Basorge Taria Junior, who also served in Ogun State ,had started attending auditions. So, he invited me to join him in the daily search for audition venues. Initially, all that came our way were Waka-Pass (minor roles) but we did not give up. There was this production entitled :'Faces', I attended the audition and was chosen to play one of lead roles. But when Zeb Ejiro, who was to direct the movie came along, he said that he needed someone younger to play the role because the person is supposed to be in the secondary school. But, before I surrendered, I told him that I have someone who could play the role very well and he told me to bring the person and the next day I took Basorge to Zeb and he was thrilled by his talent.

The Ejiros' discovered me
After that encounter, Zeb Ejiro picked interest in me and introduced me to Chico and his brother. Chico liked me and brought me into Grand-touch Pictures as a production assistant, after the exit of Stanley Ikeogu, I became the production manager of Grand-touch Pictures. While at Chico's outfit I discovered that my strongest point was not acting. Everyone wanted to be a star and I decided to be a makeup man because I was a very good artist and I can style hair. Dagogo Diminas-Jack was the biggest Makeā€“Up Artiste in Nigeria then and he used to work for our outfit so Zeb Ejiro sent me to go to Dagogo's studio to train as a Make-up artiste I was an apprentice under him for four years and along the line we formed the 13 Fatman Outfit. We stayed together for a period of time and in 2000. Ifeanyi went solo followed by Sobifa. I was the last to opt out to start Gabazini Creations.

Most challenging job
Every job I do comes with challenges, I have come to learn not to see any work as easy because if you do so you may find yourself performing below expectations. What makes us standout is because we take every work serious be it comedy or thriller, we don't compromise on standards. Even when a script is flat we try on our own to bring life into it by creating good characterisations through make up. But I wont forget 'Egg of Life' produced by Oj's productions and directed by Andy Amanechi (a no nonsense director), in a hurry. Because, the film was an epic movie and had about 10 major cast and each of them had distinct make-ups. The work lasted for almost 21 days and at the end of the day, I landed in the hospital.

On Nollywood
So far so good. Despite the fact that there are many areas that are calling for urgent attentions, when viewed from where we started from, I will say that we're making steady progress. When we came into the business nobody took makeup serious. And some people thought it was just application of powder on the face but with time, people have come to see makeup as a vital and technical aspect of filmmaking.

The major challenge we have as makeup artists is the lack of relevant working tools. We need to create better effects but they are hard to come by in Nigeria and when you source for them from abroad, you would discover that the prices are exorbitant. Most of the producers would rather prefer a local substitute or create something out of nothing (which is what we do most of the times)

Make-up artistes are underpaid
When you compare what crewmen and people behind the scene put into movie making, the fair assessment is that we are not well paid. For example, before Genevieve got into this industry, I was already a well-known makeup artist. I made her up in her very first movie, which was the role of a newscaster in a film. Ini Edo's first movie and the rest of the big stars were made up by us. But because they are the ones the audience see, the producers and marketers tend to dance to their tunes and worry less about us. We work throughout the production to eke out a living but they only do their small beat, get good pay and leave. I seriously think that movie producers should try and make their crew members to enjoy some good remuneration as the actors are currently doing.

We have a Guild, but marketers are King
At the inception of the movie industry, we formed our own guild tagged: Creative Designers Guild Of Nigeria to oversee the welfare and protect the interests of creative designers in the industry. Right now, the guild is becoming very effective and we have branches all over the federation and our members cut across costumiers, makeup artists, set designers and property men. In negotiating for a better bargaining deal for its members, the guild is trying but the marketers remain the major owners of the business and so no matter what the guilds come up with, the marketers have the last say. I believe that better days still lie ahead.

The future
My dream is beyond Nollywood. I have eyes on the world stage. I want to be an internationally acclaimed makeup and special effect person. And I thank God that in 2003, we won the best Makeup artist at the Pan African Movie Award that held in Ghana. The film with which we won the award was shot in Ghana and out there, Gabazini Concept is a well known outfit that is well respected. I want a situation where my outfit can be invited to take part in films produced in Hollywood.

The future of Nollywood
I must say that Nollywood started as an error, but now experts are beginning to embrace it. Very soon, we'll take our pride of place in the international community. It was started by traders who had no academic training. The industry is barely 10 years old and looking at the progress made so far, you will believe that things are going to change. I think our major drawback is the format on which we produce our movies. Most of our films cannot enter for international movie festivals and competitions.