Halloween Special Edition: With Halloween right around the corner, I’m really excited I had the opportunity to interview Taylor Wilmering, moulage and role play artist. When she’s not making zombies with realistic effects, her unique services are integral in the simulation of emergency response exercises. Read our Q and A below, to learn more about Taylor, her offerings, and her GoFundMe campaign.
- Q: Please give us a brief description of your company/services.
A: My name is Taylor Wilmering. Since June 2007, I’ve been a role player and moulage (realistic injury makeup effects) artist for training exercises for emergency responders and the US military. I use my personal life experiences and my skills to provide training that is as realistic as possible. As a role player, I am a live character (as opposed to a manikin or rescue dummy) for them to interact with and react to. As a moulage artist, I provide realistic-looking “injuries” for them to assess and treat.
You can find more information and photos of my work on my website HERE: www.taylorwilmering.wordpress.com
- Q: You have a pretty unique business. What inspired you to get into Moulage?
A: I am the daughter of a former police officer, and have spent a lot of my life around police officers and first responders.
In June 2007, local police and EMS used my high school campus for a training exercise and asked for some students and staff to volunteer as role players. That exercise was great training for them, and a very valuable learning experience for all of us. However, even when role players are VERY convincing actors, it can be hard for responders to get fully into the scenario when role players don’t have any visible “injuries” for them to react to. Saying “Imagine that I have a gunshot wound to my leg” works fine, but we can do better… I brought a small container of stage blood to the next exercise, just so we would have SOMETHING to look at and work with.
My interest and skill level, as both a scenario role player and a moulage artist, grew and took off from there. I’ve watched YouTube videos, studied photos and articles, and observed and learned from people who are wonderfully talented. Over the years, I have gradually added more supplies to my moulage kit, and learned quite a lot!
Since that first exercise, I’ve participated in more than 55 others. I’ve gotten to work with my local police, SWAT, EMS and hospital personnel, fire departments, CERT groups (Community Emergency Response Team, civilians trained in disaster preparedness, small fire fighting, search & rescue, and first aid), and the US Army National Guard and Air Force in 6 different states. It’s been a fantastic experience!
- Q: A lot of your clients are emergency 1st Tell our readers why your services are critical for their training.
A: “I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.” –Confucius. More than 80% of responders use some type of simulation and scenario training, instead of just relying on lectures and reading material. Live exercises are incredibly important and useful.
Lifeless plastic dummies can only be so helpful. Real, live people, who are responsive and can realistically portray characters, are much more effective.
We’ve had role players who speak foreign languages (so the trainees have to figure out how to communicate with them), are deaf, in a wheelchair, and even used real amputees in tactical and combat medical scenarios.
I’ve played roles including a hostage at gunpoint, an unstable psychiatric patient, a domestic violence victim, and an injured patient in car crashes, storms, explosions, and more.
My degree is in International & Cultural Studies, and I speak some Spanish, Arabic, and a little American Sign Language. I was born 4 months premature, and faced many challenges in my first few years of life. I lead a normal life (walk with a slight limp, wear a leg brace, and have some scars, but otherwise function normally), and put all of these experiences to use in a variety of scenarios.
Moulage effects are also incredibly important and effective. It’s one thing for a victim in an exercise to be a rescue dummy wearing a tag that describes them as something like, “19-year-old female patient with open compound fracture” or “23-year-old male soldier with shrapnel wounds and blast injuries.” It’s another thing entirely for responders to actually be confronted with a young female with a bleeding compound fracture or a soldier with traumatic injuries from an explosion (creatively made from makeup and stage blood), and have to figure out how to handle the blood and gore and serious injury. Using moulage allows responders to see what a wound would look like, so they will be more prepared and not caught off guard when they encounter it in a real emergency.
Role players and moulage have been used to train pretty much everyone – civilians in first aid classes, members of the CERT program, Boy and Girl Scouts earning first aid and disaster preparedness merit badges, EMT’s and paramedics, doctors, firefighters, police officers, and members of the military.
I’ve run into people who I helped train, and they’ve told me about situations where they remembered a scenario that we’d done or something that was taught, and were able to use that knowledge to help someone or to save a life. THAT is why I love what I do!
- Q: Can you describe your most challenging project/job?
Well, first of all, accuracy. Moulage isn’t just about creating bloody, gory injuries. If it’s being used for training, it SHOULD be as realistic and accurate as possible. I’ve had some first aid and medical training, learned a lot from my own life experiences, and also done research. I think about what I’ve seen and experienced, study photos and videos of actual injuries and illnesses, and read about signs, symptoms, and presentation/portrayal. That helps me understand the moulage effect that I’m supposed to create, and also gives me information to give to role players about how something would affect them and how they should play a role.
The long hours and days of work in some exercises can definitely be challenging. It is fun and interesting work, and I enjoy it, but it can be exhausting. In some military exercises, the soldiers run 24-hour operations during a 4 to 14 day training session. One day during one of these, I was on site for 17 hours. I had time to eat, and there was down time where I was able to nap or relax and read a book, but the second moulage artist and I had 6 different groups of soldiers during that shift (the smallest group was 3, and the largest was 10) that we had to prepare and moulage with a variety of different injuries. It was pretty crazy!
The majority of exercises that I work on are not that intense and long (thankfully)!
Most of my character roles have been interesting and dare I say fun to play. The intensity of some scenarios are a huge adrenaline rush. The role players and supervisors are usually wonderful people who are great to talk and joke with (there is usually a lot of dark, morbid humor… that comes with the territory and is normal for working with emergency responders and military personnel!). We take our work seriously and do what we are supposed to do, but there is a lot of fun and laughter too. I’m always up for a challenge and a new role to play!
Some of them can be intense and difficult (physically and/or emotionally), though. Physically: There have been times when I have cried and screamed so loudly for so long, that I’ve lost my voice! Emotionally: One that comes to mind is a disaster response exercise for the Army National Guard, where I was a young mother whose child had been killed during an earthquake. They gave me a bloody and badly battered baby doll/rescue manikin to carry and cling to. I was in denial, hysterical, begging the medics to help and save my child. That was emotional and exhausting for me to play, and difficult for them to watch and react to.
- Q: Halloween is just around the corner. Do your friends request your services to “liven up” festivities?
A: Yes, they do! I’m popular at Halloween. 🙂 I’ve created zombies, vampire bites, animal bites and claw marks, burns, gunshot wounds, you name it! When I was in college (graduated in 2013), I was in charge of the character makeup for our haunted house on campus. Our local fire department runs a haunted house and a “haunted trail” every Halloween (proceeds go to organizations in the community, and organizations that provide support for first responders and their families) and I do the makeup for their characters.
I also provide instructions on how to find and use relatively inexpensive materials to create your own “injury” and “zombie” effects for Halloween costumes. (See below, my answer to the next question, for more information on that.)
- Q: Right now, you’re in the midst of a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for supplies. Tell us about how that’s going and the plans you have for your business for 2016.
A: I’ve already been invited to work on several exercises in 2016, but I need to get some new supplies to be able to work.
I use a variety of different materials, since the requirements for a 4-hour CERT exercise are completely different than what is needed for multiple 8 to 12-hour days for military exercises. In some cases, the moulage needs to last for hours, and hold up under all conditions (waterproof, smudge and smear-proof, able to handle being repeatedly bandaged and “treated” by responders, etc), so that requires specific supplies.
Most of the organizations that I work with don’t have any moulage materials or anyone trained in how to use them, which is why they rely on me. I purchase my own supplies for my work. Since I work with so many different organizations, asking all of them to provide materials for me for all the exercises simply isn’t practical!
My family has had a lot of difficult situations over the last few years, and I don’t currently have the money to get these supplies.
I’m “between a rock and a hard place”. Working on these exercises is a GREAT source of income for me, but I need to work in order to have money, need supplies to be able to work, and need money to be able to get supplies!
I’ve raised and earned some of the money on my own, and have applied for some artist grants, but haven’t had any luck with those (I’m not eligible for most of the artist/art project grants out there, for a variety of reasons, and so far I haven’t receive any of the ones that I was able to apply for). That’s why I turned to GoFundMe. The campaign link is HERE: www.gofundme.com/taylor-fx
There are rewards for people who contribute! You can use your imagination to create a scenario for us to use, have a character named after you or someone you choose, or even come and play a part in one of our exercises.
I am also offering “do it yourself” instructions on how to use simple and relatively inexpensive materials to create your own “zombie” and “injury” effects – perfect for Halloween costumes!
Once Halloween season is over, in November I have 2 large disaster exercises that I will be working on with our local CERT teams. Things will quiet down during the holiday season, and then I’ll be back to work in early February 2016.
So far, we have 8 CERT training courses already scheduled for 2016, and may have more.
The US military is always involved in operations (humanitarian aid, disaster relief, conflict resolution, and more), so there are always training opportunities. There are 7 exercises already scheduled between May and September, and I plan to work on at least 3 of those if the opportunity presents itself.
I don’t know exactly what 2016 will have in store (more opportunities will come up as the year goes on), but I’m sure it will be as interesting and exciting as usual! I’ve loved all of the opportunities that I’ve had, and I’m looking forward to another great and fun year!