Shock the World: A Profile on Jay Woodley

Photographer - Jessica Bassing
Photographer – Jessica Bassing

When you walk into the MOSH AfterDark event room, a table confronts you. On the table, is an array of horrific costumes, body parts, a box filled with immediating looking tools, and splattered blood decorating the otherwise pristine white covering. This is Jay Woodley’s introduction class into movie makeup, specifically – if you didn’t already guess – horror movies. Cue the lights, fog, and spooky music as an introductory video – done by Campus Voice’s own Craig Young – plays to the eyes of an eager audience of mixed attendees. From classic features, to more modern fare, the video sets the tone for what the class will be learning.

The special effects behind the monsters.

A curious sort of art that some may often take for granted. When we’re watching Friday the 13th, we’re not collectively wondering how the moviemakers made a person’s chest being sliced open look real, or how much corn syrup is being used in Carrie. We’re just enjoying the movie in all it’s blood curdling glory. But a lot goes into movie makeup. It’s not a simplistic job, and the transformation from a clean, healthy looking neck, into a literal cut throat, is fascinating to watch live.

Woodley and his assistance, Kate who has been with Woodley for years, play around with the crowd often. The room at MOSH doesn’t allow for much movement,IMG_7547 however, so their interactions with the entire audience at once felt limited. Even so, the jokes – while erring on the line of cheesy – were fun. The audience was engaged, and soon captivated by Woodley’s makeup magic.

Woodley would often pull an audience member from the crowd like a magician calling out for a volunteer. One woman was the lucky throat slasher, while others enjoyed a variety of grotesque features, from scars, to burns, to full jaw reconstructions. The beats in between Woodley working his makeup magic, and interacting with the audience were filled in with banter from the two hosts. It didn’t always work, but such is the growing pains of all new shows and outlets finding their feet.

What truly sold was Woodley’s skills – the audience excitedly took pictures of each other and themselves in their new horror movie getups – and Woodley himself. When asked, Woodley says, “I love it,” when asked about how he felt his Afterdark class went. “I think it went really well.” Woodley also explains that this has been his most high profile show to date, and yet watching him, you wouldn’t have known unless you were looking for mistakes. Which Woodley does acknowledge, “It could have been better, but I can’t complain”.

Those small beats of stillness while Woodley worked on an audience member, or the couple of jokes that fell flat are perhaps what Woodley is thinking of, but those missteps are a part of the growing process. A growing process that Woodley began when he was very young.  

At five years old Woodley’s Uncle introduced him to the horror classic, Creature from the Black Lagoon. “It scared me,” Woodley states echoing no doubt the countless others who were also terrified by their original horror movie monster. However, unlike many others, Woodley had his Uncle to not only reassure him of the monster’s reality, but also inspire his work as a special effects artist. “No look, this is just a guy in a costume,” Woodley’s Uncle had explained to the then terrified, and crying child version of the man now who barely flinches at the sight of movie blood. “The first thing that popped into my head was, you can make those?” Woodley had asked with all the childhood curiosity we only have at the impression ages of five and up.

Thus, the snowball began rolling down the hill towards becoming Jacksonville’s only officially licensed Special Effects Artist.

Woodley’s Uncle had a huge impact on his life, a Special Effects veteran himself – from what Woodley was told by his Uncle he was in the business for about twelve years – he aided in Woodley’s learning from the ages of five to seventeen. Making the career a generational aspect of their lives. Passing down the passion for the craft onto the next generation as it were.

Photographer - Sarah Gallinger
Photographer – Sarah Gallinger

The appeal of Special Effects is the vast amounts of creativity that stem from it. Woodley jokes, “This should have one eye! Or, this guy eats only peanut and jelly so he only attacks people made out of peanut butter and jelly!” Will there ever be a horror movie about a monster peanut butter and jelly eater? Well, Sharknado is a movie, so never discount the possibility. Dispute the exaggerated metaphors, the point Woodley expresses gets across. The lack of limitations, the staring at an open canvas, is the true magic Woodley feels when he’s working on his own art through the medium of special effects. “The options are endless on anything!”

Woodley doesn’t just do classes, he has his own Special Effects company, Woodley’s Special Effects, for three years, and has done freelance work for six. The company wasn’t something he had fallen into either, but always a part of his larger goals in life.

“It was always the plan,” Woodley assures, “My Uncle and I, my cousins, we were gonna do the whole thing together.” The original dream was the inclusion of the Woodley clan, a creation of a Mom and Pop style business that provided Special Effects to the locals of Jacksonville and beyond. Unfortunately Woodley’s Uncle passed away, and Woodley was left to continue that dream on by himself.

Woodley’s logo was drawn when he was seventeen, modeled after his then girlfriend, “my high school sweetheart,” he tells, showcasing just how long this dream has been in the fabric of his life. His high school sweetheart may have left his life, but Woodley’s plan of owning his own Special Effects business, and the logo he designed after her, remained.

Now Woodley notices just how many other businesses in Jacksonville use a zombie pin-up girl in their own designs and happily exclaims, “Cool I’m a trendsetter!”. But his real goal behind the business?

“Acceptance.” Woodley says serious and stern. The life of an artist isn’t an easy one. The market isn’t screaming for employees, and the mindset of “get a real job” still permeates our society as a whole. Working as a Special Effects Artist – or doing anything creative – is treated like a pipe dream, as something delusional kids think up and must grow out of. Woodley understands this stigma greatly.

“I started my business with twenty dollars, and a shoebox filled of really cheap makeup from Party City, and no one really supported me in it,” Woodley explains

Photographer - Dawn Church
Photographer – Dawn Church

somber now. It’s the story of many others who find themselves lost in their own creative dreams of being an artist, or a writer, or the pursuit of anything that doesn’t appear “safe” within the parameters of society. Punching a clock offers stability, a shoebox full of makeup and a dream, doesn’t.

“You’re gonna fail,” Woodley says recalling a former girlfriends words to him when he was just starting out, “you’re gonna have to be in the real world, get a real job, whatever it is that’ll pay the bills”. Words Woodley had heard from his parents as well, and no doubt countless others on the path to pursue his seemingly unrealistic dream. “You can’t just do what you want to do,” she had told Woodley.

Woodley explains that he had to get passed all the negativity surrounding him. The constant self-reassurance of, “this is gonna happen, I know it’s gonna happen,” repeated like a mantra to himself. It sounds lonely, almost, listening to his story. Yet Woodley doesn’t appear lonely at all, in fact, even recalling the harder aspects of his tale, he speaks only with passion and confidence in his life and choices.

“Uncle Mike said, I’m gonna shock the world,” a phase Woodley often repeated during his Afterdark class. A phase he’s lived by that has helped him keep going. Woodley’s Uncle Mike also did special effects in his earlier years. After starting a family he quit the industry and worked as a lithographer for 15 years, with plans to return to the industry but he died before that could happen. Eventually even his parents were convinced, his father even modeling for him once. A symbol of how far Woodley had come, and the respect he had earned. 

“He never wanted any part of anything did – special effects wise – and for him to model and for my mom to go, ‘oh my son just build the number one rated haunted house in Jacksonville’ it really meant a lot to me.”

The dream isn’t over, Woodley still has plans for expansion beyond what he’s already done and achieved. “I want a workshop anywhere in Jacksonville,” Woodley says noting that his current workshop is his backyard shed. “I want a huge warehouse where people can come and see the ‘Shock the World’ on the side of the wall”. Shocking the world is what Woodley wants to inspire others to do. To hear his story and say, if Jay Woodley can do it with twenty dollars and a shoebox, so can I.

“Ultimately that’s what I want, I want to inspire people”.

The medium doesn’t matter, Woodley explains, art, writing, politics even, Woodley just wants others to see what he did, and feel confident in pursuing their own dreams as well. He talks about wanting to help others not lose their childhood dreams of grandeur. It’s an interesting ideal Woodley has, that to some, may seem delusional. Society has a strong concept of reality, specifically as far as the job market goes. With inflation seemingly always on the rise, student debt a constant black cloud hanging over many, the thought of pursuing a dream that isn’t 100% guaranteed is frightening.

But Jay Woodley did it, and he wants others to do it as well. “I could never work in an office,” he says, “I could never do anything other than special effects”. Woodley isn’t blind to the potential struggles either, as noted previously, he’s gone through many of them himself. “It sucks for five or six years, but after five or suck years of sucky crap, good stuff happens!”

Woodley acknowledges that not everyone’s struggles are going to be the same either. For women, he notes, will have a different set of struggles than men who wish to pursue Special Effects. Woodley explains that it’s a bit of a man’s world, in the industry of Special Effects, so for women, they have to sometimes be three times as talented or driven as the men to make it. But as long as you have the drive, and hit the streets screaming, look at me I’m talented, you can make it.

“I started out of the trunk of my car doing makeup for two dollars a person,” Woodley recalls, “and now I can charge fifty dollars an hour for my makeup”. To make it this far, you have to, “bust your [expletive]” as Woodley states. No matter if you’re a man or woman, that’s the crux of the situation, you have to work hard, be determined, and never give up.

Speaking with Woodley was an experience, just as much as watching him work. He embodies the sort of passion you see in movies, a larger than life character almost. Yet never comes off as immediately intimidating. Rather, energy appears to radiate out of him that he channels into his craft, his dream, and his desire to inspire others. Much like our favorite horror movie monsters, Woodley hopes to leave behind a bloody disgusting legacy of new bodies who will shock the world.


For more images of this event please visit the Facebook Galleries located on our Facebook page.  –

Photographer: Dawn ChurchDuval Creative PhotographyThe Campus Voice FSCJ

Posted by The Campus Voice FSCJ on Monday, December 7, 2015

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