Michele Mulkey on Blood, Sweat, Cosplay, and the Future of Indie Filmmaking

©Michele Mulkey, all rights reserved.

Michele Mulkey, it’s an honor to have you with us! We know you’re incredibly busy working on the AD Lane project Invasion of the Not Quite Dead, so thank you for taking the time out to chat with us.

Michele, you have an incredible list of credits under your belt ranging from Solaris, Seed of Chucky, The Chronicles of Riddick to Charmed, Firefly, and CSI: Miami. We also love that you’re an avid supporter of independent film.

cTaylor_tagWhat was the inspiration that first led you to the make-up artist/special effects field?

mMulkey_tagIt really started when I was in college.  I was earning a Performing Arts/Theatre degree and it was the first time I was exposed to any kind of SFXMU (special effects make-up).  I simply feel in love with everything about it.  Enough so that after getting my degree, I moved out to Los Angeles to get formal training in SFXMU and begin a career working in Film and Television as a SFXMU artist.

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cTaylor_tagCan you tell us a little bit about your process, the techniques and technologies you use in the design of your effects, props, and make-up?

mMulkey_tagThe process can be very involved.  I actually don’t think many people are truly aware of what actually goes into make even a simple injury prosthetic…Like a cut.  When creating any type of SFXMU or prop, you first have to do research on whatever it is you are making.  You have to know what it looks like in real like to be able to recreate it on camera.  Then you have to sculpt it out in clay, being as realistic as you can in form and detail.  Once the sculpture is done, it has to be molded.  Then that mold is used to “run” the actual prosthetic or prop in whatever material it is needed in.  It really is involved and requires a lot of knowledge not only in sculpting, but you have to be familiar with all kinds of molding materials, prosthetic grade materials and even silicones and poly-foams.  And when creating any kind of larger prosthetics, fake bodies or props – those all have to be molded in fiber glass due to their size and weight…So a SFXMU artist has to have a very diverse skill set.

©Michele Mulkey, all rights reserved.

cTaylor_tagCan you give us an idea of what a day in the life of Michele Mulkey might entail when you’re working on a project?

mMulkey_tagLOL…Long hours and no sleep!  Usually I’m up fairly early, especially if I’m working on set.  Sometimes my call time can be 4am depending on how involved the make-ups are for that shooting day, or how many people have to be in make-up that day. And that’s being on set and ready to start working at 4am.  For the most part, when I’m working in my FX Studio, my days still start early (between 7am – 8am) and then it’s usually broken down into part of my day working on creating any prosthetics or props for whatever film or television show I’m working on at that time.  The other part of the day usually consists of filling orders from my on-line FX Store and then slipping in some networking with potential clients when I can.

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cTaylor_tagIs there a particular genre of film or television that you find especially inspirational?

mMulkey_tagThe more detailed oriented the specific SFX is, the better!  And what I mean by that is the attention to detail given in the script in terms of how something would happen in real life.  I have always been fascinated with human anatomy and I challenge myself with each job to try to create an effect as close as it possibly can be to real life.  When the writer or director is already putting an emphasis on being realistic and true to life with the SFX in the script, then I know that is a project I want to be involved in.

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cTaylor_tagMichele, what initially draws you to a project?

mMulkey_tagThe more detailed oriented the specific SFX is, the better!  And what I mean by that is the attention to detail given in the script in terms of how something would happen in real life.  I have always been fascinated with human anatomy and I challenge myself with each job to try to create an effect as close as it possibly can be to real life.  When the writer or director is already putting an emphasis on being realistic and true to life with the SFX in the script, then I know that is a project I want to be involved in.

©Michele Mulkey, all rights reserved.

cTaylor_tagThanks to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other assorted social media networks, the way films are being made and marketed has started to shift. For better or worse, how big of a role do you see social networking and crowdfunding becoming in your industry?

mMulkey_tag It has changed the way films are made forever, and I think in a good way!  It enables the writers and directors of a film to maintain control of the original vision and content of the film.  Too often with productions, the money people can have so much control over what actual gets seen in the final product, that the original vision of the film sometimes gets lost along the way.  The greatest thing about crowd funding and social networking is that the people who created the script remain in complete control of the film throughout.  As a result, I think it helps allow the art of the film to remain the focus.

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cTaylor_tagI’m a bit old school when it comes to my favorite films; Alien and The Thing being among them. If a film features make-up and prosthetics in lieu of CGI, I find myself more invested emotionally – especially when the effects look as gorgeously (and at times horrifically) real as yours. Does your process differ substantially when you’re working on projects that attempt to blend CGI with more traditional special effects?

mMulkey_tagThank you so much for that amazing compliment!  And to answer the question, yes, it does differ when you are trying to blend the two together.  Often times you have to incorporate sections of green screen fabric or green screen colored make-up into your effect so that they can add in the CGI in post after everything is filmed.  The most difficult aspect of that is only creating half of the effect with make-up, instead of the entire look, but still being able to visualize the final look with the CGI added in.   It can get confusing at times…

©Michele Mulkey, all rights reserved.

cTaylor_tagMichele, who’s been your favorite actor/actress in the make-up chair or on set, and why?

mMulkey_tagI had the honor of working with some truly amazing actors and actresses, but as far as my favorite…It has to be Thora Birch.  I have a very quirky sense of humor (one of my favorite shows is Family Guy!) and I found out very quickly that Thora does too.  There were so absolutely times that I had to stop doing her make-up for a minute because we had each other laughing so much, I couldn’t keep my hand from shaking.

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cTaylor_tagI think people are as interested in hearing success stories as they are in being regaled with tales of utter failure. I think we stand to learn from both. In that spirit, do you have a favorite special effects “fail” where the make-up, prosthetics, or a prop just didn’t work for one reason or another?

mMulkey_tagOMG…That would have to be “The Blades from Hell”…LOL!  It was really a very simple project, but for some reason nothing went right with it.  All I was doing was creating small blades to be attached to helmets, but the parameters of the blades became more and more involved once the job started.  They had to be flexible enough to bend around the curve of the helmets and a material that would allow them to have lights attached to them with glue and they had to be silver in color.  Not too hard, but then the budget was minimal so it was limiting the cost of materials I could use and the number of blades to be made kept increasing but the due date didn’t change…All of those factors together made what should have been an “easy” job turn into my one and only nightmare job!  I kept saying to myself…”My God, I can create a full size fake body with removable organs and pumping blood…but I can get these F#*$ing blades to come out!!!”  I was sooo glad when that job was completed!!!

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cTaylor_tagYou have your own prosthetic/effects company (ANImakeup) that makes quality effects, make-up, and prosthetics a reality for, well, everyone including those of us who are into Cosplay. What’s the most rewarding/challenging thing about that?

mMulkey_tagYes, I have my own FX Studio and I am also co-creator of ANImakeup. I love that I can provide high quality prosthetics and SFX to everyone, regardless of the budget.  I have been doing so much work with Indie films lately and it’s been amazing.  I have always taken great pride in my work and I love the challenge of finding a way to create the SFX needed for a particular film or TV show, especially for projects that might not have the kind of high budget resources that a major production studio would have.  With ANImakeup, I love that Cosplayers now have available to them prosthetics and props of the exact same quality that you would find on a movie set.  The most challenging thing is always keeping up with the networking and promotion of the products available.  People have to know you’re there and that usually means 24/7 marketing of both www.michelemulkeyfx.com and www.animakeupfx.com

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cTaylor_tagMichele, looking back at your 12+ years in the industry, what’s your favorite created effect, prosthetic, or prop?

mMulkey_tagThat’s a tough one to answer…LOL!  There have been so many great movies and TV shows in the 12 years I’ve been working in the Industry, but one that will always stick out in my mind is Charmed.  It was just such a great experience and the make-ups that I got to do for the show were amazing to help create.

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cTaylor_tagI’ve read that you’re a fan of Ve Neill, the Academy Award winning make-up artist whose work appears in Beetlejuice and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Neill’s work – which has appeared in over 6,000 projects – is amazing. Do artists in the industry ever get together to talk shop, share tips and secrets, or to just plain vent?

mMulkey_tagI LOVE Ve Neill!  She is such a role model for every woman working as a SFXMU artist and her work is phenomenal! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ve on several occasions at Industry events and she is just lovely in person.  And yes, we share tips and shop talk every chance we get.  One of the things I love most about working in this industry is meeting new people on each job because there is so much that we can learn from each other.  Little tricks and tips that everyone’s learned over the years, and passing that information on to others in the make-up field.

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cTaylor_tagMichele, I’d like to thank you for taking the time out to speak with us. I wish you much deserved and continued success in the future. If there’s anything else you’d like to share with the readers, the floor is yours.

mMulkey_tagThank you so much…!  It was such a pleasure speaking with you today!

there's more to explore

Get Connected!  Media and Social Network Links for Michele and ANImakeup:

Michele Mulkey FX Studio:  www.michelemulkeyfx.com

ANImakeup:  www.animakeupfx.com

Twitter: @Michele_Mulkey

Michele Mulkey’s IMDb Page

Cutting Room Floor: Interview with Jonathan Chance and Michele Mulkey

Michele Mulkey set to work on upcoming Something Like a Phenomenon

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Get involved in independent film making!

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One response to “Michele Mulkey on Blood, Sweat, Cosplay, and the Future of Indie Filmmaking

  1. Pingback: My Indie Year | c.taylor·

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