Tuesday, October 16, 2018

In tents...

I have talked a lot about creativity. Not only on this journal but in my lectures and to anyone who would ask (and some who didn't really). However I haven't really gone into a lot of detail about a process on it.
I'm getting there calm down you creepy %$#&.

One of the biggest things you can do to be creative is to place restrictions upon yourself. This means doing, or not doing, certain things. More accurately, it's creating within certain parameters. When you have a framework to operate in it's MUCH easier than having an open field of possibility at your disposal.

Having TOO MUCH freedom can lead to Overchoice or choice overload. Whenever someone hires me as a consultant for a TV show or to create something for them I always ask for the details. It can be something as simple as "I want to do X with B". Mind you that's if I create for others. What about creating for yourself? I find it best to start with asking questions. What is the main goal? Why am I doing this? What are the props? What am I trying to say/do? What is the ending? Asking questions is a very important to the creative process. This allows us to erect Tent Poles.

Much like a real tent, these ideas give everything else structure. There is a reason you hear certain films from a studio referred to "tentpole movies". It's what gives that studio a structure. It's a different type of structure than trying to create magic, but the concept is still similar.

You need the main ideas that will support everything else that you will be doing. Take this routine for example:


When I decided I wanted to do tricks with duct tape I made a list of the things I could DO with that tape. Once I knew how it started and how it ended it made everything else find it's "natural progression". I also knew I wanted certain visuals. Smiling through the roll and then the tape appearing over my mouth was one of those moments. I almost always think of the effects first and worry about method later.

Sometimes you add more poles as a routine progresses. I didn't plan to split the rolls initially but I felt the act needed "something". When I decided on that happening, up went another structure to support the other parts of the story to make that happen. Having those moments and a story, either obvious or subtle, really helps. You don't HAVE to have a thread pulling you through the act, but people respond better to some sort of structure or theme because we like what we know. Humans are easy that way.

So if you are trying to make something new, or change something you have that already exists, just try to give your routines some framework with certain ideas/moments/effects/etc. It will force you to focus on what's important and cut the wheat from the chaff as it were.

PS: I hope you appreciate how difficult it was for me not to make any dick jokes while talking about tents and poles.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

I decided to remove my pants for this post...

Lets talk about magic demos. There are more or less three prevailing kinds.

Filmed Live during a Show : These might be the most preferable for the serious professional entertainer. You can see how it works in front of a normal audience and hear/see the impact. Scott Alexander is pretty good about doing this as he pretty much lives on a cruise ship it seems.



Sometimes it's a teaser, sometimes it's a full performance, and sometimes he is black. regardless, it's likely he has done these routines more than thrice and it shows. His stuff does tend to be on the expensive side but at least you know these tricks have seen battle.

Filmed using random people who said yes to being on camera:  This is the kind of demo you see usually for the bigger stores like Penguin, T11, E and so on. They walked up to someone and asked if they wanted to see some magic (or more likely lied to them about filming for a TV show and testing out effects on camera all without signing film releases). This kind of editing usually cuts around the important moments and might even splice in some reactions from other magic effects or jokes. There is no real way to know.



You have to be careful with these videos as what you see may not be what you get, especially if it's chopped all to hell and you don't see how they get into or out of the effect. I wish more of these demos would specify if it was for your social media feed or for real world performance.

Filmed in your parents living room a studio for just the camera: This one you tend to see for solo releases and kids who own a smart phone and don't tend to see sun light too often. This one tells us the LEAST of the three. You don't see real world reactions, handling, or practicability (I'm not entirely sure that's a word). If the ad copy sounds too good to be true it likely is. Here is an example:



On the website it says "Examinable Box has been Blake's GO TO opener for years" and yet there is no live video to be seen. You'd think after all these years he would have recorded at least one of those shows right? For the price tag of an effect like that, I'd like to see real people reacting to the prop to see if it justifies the price tag.

There are hybrids of all of these and some outliers obviously.  Just make sure you educate yourself.

Buyer beware.






Sunday, September 02, 2018

Follow up...

Relevant to my last post:

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

This post will not cut away...

Magic on TV/internet/etc has evolved a lot since... well since screens became a thing. Georges Méliès started with trick photography in films like "A Trip to the Moon".

 Over time we went from that to live performing with magicians like Mark Wilson. As time went on, magic being performed like it was onstage was the norm (nielsen). Doug Henning, David Copperfield, Harry Blackstone Jr, Paul Daniels and so on. In the mid 90s Gary Ouellet dominated the TV scene with shows like World's Greatest Magic and Champions of Magic. Eventually David Blaine and the street era would crash the party and companies like Elluionist and Theory 11 would glorify it to no end.

Now we are in the time of internet magic. TV specials have been replaced with netflix specials. Spectators are now voyeurs with shows like Carbonaro Effect (and pretty much any other show). Have you ever heard the phrase "it all comes back around"? well we started with tricky editing and we have come back full circle to it... or have we?

There was a time when every magic show was prefaced and even INSISTED there were no camera tricks. Many of those shows were live which would have prevented that from happening anyway. When taped recordings started to be a thing, it was stressed EVEN further. Eventually that warning tag fell away when it started to become a lie for certain performers (you know who you are).

Having said all of that, let me ask you a question. Where do we draw the line on what is a "camera trick"? It used to mean altering the footage somehow or using technology to "enhance" something. In a lot of modern magic shows the magical effect is made in the edit. They change the order of things and get "pickup shots" to enhance the magic. There has been editing and camera cuts to make the magic appear better in past shows for sure, however it was liberally sprinkled around. Like a spice girl.

There are now magic shows where every trick, every shot, every other minute has been altered in some form or fashion through quick cuts and time remapping. You could pretty much hire an actor with NO magical skill and the outcome would be about the same. (I'm not saying they should. If any TV execs are reading this forget you read that last line)

So where do we take a stand as a magical community? Well, we don't. We never have and likely never will. There will just be a group of us standing in a corner muttering to ourselves. If any of you younger magicians are reading this, try to be better. Don't let the asshattery of the current social media magicians affect you or your ethics or devotion to magic as an art form. You can... and SHOULD be better.

And now a word from your sponsor...

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Deep like a hole in the ground...

I was having a conversation with a younger magician today about helping him flesh out some of his routines. At one point he said this - "I just want to be great" to which I replied:

"You gotta be bad first, then move to ok, slowly get to good and let others decide you're great."

I was pretty proud of that so now you get to see it too.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

JISM

And once again we send American competitors into an international competition unprepared...

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Accidents happen...

Today I was driving and thinking about how some of the best art is not usually intentional. Those who set out to create something that is marketable and interesting usually comes off forced. A lot of brilliance just kind of... happens.

Totally intentional I am sure...
Of course one man's art is another man's dismissal but that is the beauty of it all. It's subjective. Mind you there is a lot of universally accepted great things that have been created but NOTHING has 100% mass appeal.

This applies to magic as well. You can set out to make a new routine or magic piece but by the end it has likely become something else than how it started. It evolves through performance and practice (or at the very least should). This is where sticking to a script someone else wrote can be the death of a magical effect. It needs to evolve naturally. If you do it like everyone else, it stagnates. You are quite literally killing it and yourself by not feeding it new random life. It's like a tamagotchi. It needs nourishment.

Clearly it was fed too many cups and balls

So remember that a lot of great art is unintentional and unplanned. Inspiration comes from everywhere and you never know when or where it will strike.


It's like being mugged by a muse.


Saturday, June 02, 2018

Clearly Improbable..

Dear Magicians,

Slapping the word "Omni" on something clear is not clever nor does it make the idea good. (also I doubt you have permission or give proper credit to the originator of that term/ idea)

Please be more creative.

Thanks,

The Mngmnt.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Too much, too soon...

Today I was having a conversation about magic and why there is so much turmoil and infighting in the magic community at large. Be it the internet, conventions, or even your local magic club there is always people butting heads over this or that. The reason is an interesting one.

You see, the best thing about magic might also be the worst thing about magic... it's diversity.

There are so many options, so many ways to look at and perform magic. There are so many  branches magic can take and that means that many more opinions about it. Couple that with the damaged personalities that magic attracts and you end up with a lot of beef.


It's usually on the Magic Cafe

Vernon vs. Marlo, gimmicks vs. pure sleight of hand, stage vs parlour... it never ends. Add to that the fact that humans feel the need to have a winner in an argument and you get turmoil. Sometimes everyone just has an opinion and there is no winner. The problem is there are a lot of "experts" who would gladly tell you otherwise.

In the end we should celebrate our differences and diversity not punch down on it. Will it happen? Hell no. However, you can try to help not fan the flames if you can help it. Help others where you can but leave your bias and agenda at the door.

Good luck.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Let's talk about death shall we?

Magic has been hit hard the last few years. We lost a slew of people in the industry including Tom Mullica, Eugene Burger, and today Harry Anderson (Spoiler Alert).

Here is my thoughts on today's news. For those wondering, I did not start wearing a fedora because of Harry. I was doing it before I even knew he wore one. My introduction to him was from Night Court. I never saw him do much magic til' later. (aside from what he did on TV)

When I was in 7th grade I bought his version of needle through arm and performed it. (My parents were hippies and pretty open minded) Flash forward MANY years later, I got to meet and hang out with him at his magic shop in New Orleans. He was pleasant and put up with us just hovering around when not street performing. I have heard various stories from he was great to he was terrible and a bit in between. One thing I know for sure is he was a sharp guy who had some great ideas, was an excellent performer, and had the fucking WORK on magic square. (I hate magic square but I can admit when it's good)

Do yourself a favor and get his Penguin Magic lecture and watch it. It's a lot of stories and some good thoughts on tricks.

There was no one else like him was there?


Now in a more general sense, we are losing our legends and no one is stepping up to take their place. Magic as a performance art is slowly taking it in the neck from all of these youtube kids. They can do great tricks, but can't entertain an audience and i wonder what will become of the art form when those guys fall away to get real jobs. The world does not embrace the unique or talented like it used to so it's not being fostered. What are we going to say in 20 years? "Man remember that one guy who had all of those Youtube hits? Wasn't he great?"

The answer is no... no we won't.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Door to the mind...

This should be app lied to more magic efefcts on the market...


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Oh bugger...

When I watch a video like this all I see is a bunch of kids who are gonna have to get real jobs one day...