SFX Creative Makeup Director, Freelance Artist, R.I.P City FX, The Fear PDX
Feeling those spooky Halloween vibes? Are you getting that itch to experience some hair raising fun? The American Halloween industry has been thrilling people and raising hell for years. When we think of what excites and engages us during the Halloween season, our minds fill with images of haunted houses, horror films, hellacious characters and all the gruesome things in between.
Every year the spirit of Halloween takes October over. What is behind all of this? Who creates these frightening scenes and the theatrical characters that seem to scare us every single time? There is a dedicated professional network of people that devote their lives to the industry, keeping us elevated and excited year after year.
Taelor Cansler, SFX Creative Makeup Director, took time from the busy Halloween season to talk with us a bit about her profession. Taelor lives and breathes the SFX world. Typically, a special effects makeup artist uses a variety of tools to enhance and transform the way one looks. They manipulate the human skin to give a whole new, sometimes unrecognizable appearance. Oftentimes, people are made to look like monsters, zombies, animals...a variety of characters. Special Effects makeup artists have a unique ability to create the unimaginable into reality. Much of what we may see in drawings, animation or even our own nightmares come to fruition, in our real world. By using products such as cosmetics and prosthetics artists enhance actors and models' appearances to transform their appearance.
So how does one get into this niche industry? From a young age Cansler was always Halloween obsessed. She grew up in a household where Halloween was the most celebrated holiday and in a neighborhood that was flooded with kids. There was never a dull moment; Taelor was always playing and creating art with her peers. At 19, she found herself as a young mother and an aspiring artist, unclear on what career path to take. She saw an ad to work at a haunted house, and it just kind-of clicked. Combining her passion for Halloween with her artistic capabilities made it the perfect profession. Taelor became heavily involved at work, and in her free time she began to network amongst professionals and find online tutorials wherever she could.
“Out here in Portland there is a wonderful community of people that love to trade for work.”
Cansler has worked very hard to establish a name for herself in the haunted house attraction industry. From the very beginning, she had a lot of support from her mentors and colleagues. She understands the value in consistently, working on your craft, and taking opportunities when they arise. In the state of Oregon, in order to work on human skin you need to have your Esthetician License. Cansler completed her diploma all while raising her child and maintaining a job! She always knew that she would find a career doing what makes her happy, through what she loves.
“Halloween is the perfect opportunity for all the scary, off and unusual things. That you know; I live for, I feel more myself on Halloween.”
Currently, during the Halloween season she works at a haunted house called The Fear PDX. Here, she handles the costuming, props, makeup and special effects. Year round she works for a SFX company called R.I.P. City FX. She travels to national trade shows and performs educational demonstrations. They also sell their products to places like theme parks, movie sets and anything in the haunted house attraction industry. If that doesn’t make her busy enough, Cansler is a Freelance Artist, where she acquires jobs on her own and also is a licensed Esthetician, hustling at a salon giving spray tans, eyebrow waxing and applying traditional makeup methods.
“I really enjoy creating a creature that I have complete creative reign to - I love the whole process.”
Cansler takes pride in being able to turn someone into a creature, all from her imagination. It is also very rewarding to create a perfect representation in real life, of characters from a client's vision. She says..
"Creating something that can also scare the crap out of somebody never gets old.”
She is very passionate about her current professional life, but she plans to solely focus on SFX makeup in the future. While there are a lot of incredibly talented women in the SFX industry, but it still remains primarily male dominated. Over recent years, she has seen a shift in the culture and a lot of women are rising to the scene, becoming masters of the craft. Being both a woman and a young mother, she has definitely had her fair share of tribulations, but she does not let that discourage her.
“It's not about proving you can do the same thing, it's literally just knowing you can do the same thing but even better.”
She stresses how important it is to do what you love, work hard at what you do, and not let anyone get in the way of your dreams. Maintaining a positive mindset and always believing in yourself will carry you far.
Cansler has a strong social media presence. This is where she feels the effects of criticizing comments the most. She gets a lot of feedback and reactions, both positive and negative, but oftentimes, negative comments only come from men. Cansler says with being a plus size woman, she is consistently getting hypersexualized by men, no matter what she does. Still, the toxic masculinity and dismissive stereotyping she faes are not successfully crushing her ambitions. These demeaning comments only push her harder to make a more positive impact. Amongst the negativity, she does have motivating moments, and people DO leave comments of pure encouragement, which always helps. Visiting her Tik Tok, and seeing 500 comments on a video post really brings her morale up. She is so thankful for how encouraging her community and her fans can be. It is those moments, and those comments that really push her to continue what she does. She says it is so important to not hesitate in life..
“Keep a strong mindset even when you are struggling and believe in yourself. ‘Fake it til you make it’ is a real thing!”
Sometimes you know more than you think you do, don't doubt yourself. Throughout the years, Cansler has offered others Apprenticeships, helping troubled teenage girls that are interested in the field of SFX Makeup. She educates them about the industry, and teaches them hands-on training. Many of these girls don’t have supportive women in their lives. She loves being able to encourage and lead by example; show them why it’s important to be a strong woman.
One day she hopes to set up an apprenticeship program. Mainly, young women seek Cansler out through social media. "It is a great experience to be able to help, teach and give them an opportunity to develop their portfolios."
Halloween is year around for Cansler and her colleagues. The industry comes with long hours, demanding work, and a competitive nature. In order to be in this industry, you must have real passion. Cansler says if you believe in what you're doing and also put the time, effort and energy into it, you will get some type of successful outcome..
“Find what makes you happy. If you are consistently doing something in your life that makes you feel good, no one can tell you you're not successful.”
Taelor Cansler is proof that if you follow your dreams, they can become a reality! You need to work hard and not allow negativity to get in your way.
Still feeling like it’s getting a bit spooky out there? Looking for a good scare? Please, if you get an opportunity follow our links in this article to see her work! If you want to experience some thrills in preparation for this weekend's festivities, you will not be dissapointed!
Q + A with Taelor Cansler
Q: How do you take your coffee?
A: Daily, she drinks drip with cream and sugar and goes out for coffee quite often considering the insane hours she works! When she is feeling a bit fancy she loves her Salted Caramel Mochas!
Q: What is Halloween like in your house?
A: “Its a pretty big deal at our house, it literally makes me feel like the spirit of Christmas in a Halloween way.” She loves the creativity that comes with it. Every year she asks her son what he wants to be and they make it happen. Last year her son was a Zombie Mario! "The whole month it's more acceptable for me to drive around with a skeleton in my front seat!”
Q: What advice would you give to someone trying to do what you do?
A: "Youtube is free education!"
She highly recommends Stan Winston School - School For Character Arts. There are online courses and hundreds of videos on makeup, prop building, set design and animatronics. (www.stanwinstonschool.com) & You can always message her! She loves helping and giving advice.
“SFX is such a niche thing - I like to be open and transparent about the growths and struggles of what it takes to be an artist.”
Q: Who or what inspires you?
A: Her mother! She has always taught Taelor to be giving and to give back to the community. The close friends of hers that are artists, also inspire her.
“I think it’s important as an artist to surround yourself with other people that ‘art.’ Not only will it help you lift one another up but motivate you to keep creating.”
Q: Who inspires you in the industry?
A: "Milicent Patrick - The designer for the monster in “Creatures Of The Black Lagoon.” One of the first women to have a large impact/role in the Horror Genre. She was a pioneer for artists and women. Sadly, she wasn’t recognized for her work in “Creatures of Black Lagoon” until recently.
Ve Neill - Very established SFX artist. To name a few productions, she worked on Beetlejuice, Mrs. Doubtfire and the Hunger Games.
Some other inspirational women in the industry to note: Jackie coon, Eryn Krueger Mekash, and Christina Kordum (local to Portland, OR)."
Q: Any last words?
A: “Follow your god damn dreams...literally - as long as you're doing what you want and you're happy no one can tell you you're not successful.”
Written & Curated By | Krysta Kearney, Moxxi Coffee Co.
Keep updated on Taelor Cansler! Follow the links below.
WORK WEBSITE: www.ripcityfx.com/