Promotional Videos for Magicians. Part One.
Something that I get quite a bit of correspondence about is the topic of video. There are actually several aspects normally covered in these emails, so let me try and blend some answers together into a couple of concise blogs.
Unless you have achieved a great deal of name recognition and respect for yourself you need a good promotional video. Time was a client was pleased as punch if you even possessed a videotape of your show. Now it is a must, and the DVD had better be good if you expect it to get the job done and the date booked.
The simple rule of thumb is that a contemporary promotional video should not be longer than four and a half minutes. It is also generally agreed that if it doesn’t get the job done in the first thirty seconds then it is unlikely to receive much more interest. This presents quite a challenge!
Thirty seconds—-wow, that makes America’s Got Talent’s ninety seconds seem generous! However, don’t panic, as long as you hook the buyer’s attention in those opening moments—you’ve got an extra four minutes to ‘reel’ them in. Not a lot of time—but enough.
Here are some general tips. Your opening 30-second sequence should be a fast paced and dynamic montage that captures the mood of your entire show. It is an excellent move to make it a non-verbal sequence that is orchestrated with some lively and upbeat music. Key graphics such as your name/logo/title of the show etc should be added to the segment. This way it becomes somewhat like an opening title sequence in a movie or TV show.
In many ways, the remaining four minutes should function in much the same manner. You will need to cut to the ‘reveals’ in the magic and feature them as the body of the video. Chose a few of the funniest and most original clips of the verbal comedy in your act and mix them up into an attractive blend. Three key words Cut, Prune and Tighten.
While the material on display should be representative of what you do in your show, the tricks do NOT have to be in the same order that they appear in your act. On a promotional video you are not saving up for a big finish/finale as you do in a live show. Your job when you produce/direct your ‘showreel’ is to hit the viewer hard and fast. There is often a stack of videos for a buyer to view and they can get very jaded after the first couple viewings. Hit hard and fast.
Needless to say, in this day and age, your promotional video needs to be available on the Internet, as this is where potential buyers will most likely view it. Booking agents will probably embed your video into their own web pages if they are really interested in selling you. This is an ideal situation; so let me give you a couple of hints to increase the efficiency of your video as a sales tool.
Don’t plaster your contact information all over your promotional showreel, as this can be a huge red flag and deal breaker to agents and producers. If you are sending out the DVD to a private booker then it is a different story. With the unit cost of DVDs as reasonable as they now are, have two versions produced—one with contact information and one without.
In the same vein, it is now not uncommon for successful performers to have two web sites: their regular (booking information supplied) web site, and a ‘ghost site’ that contains no contact information and is totally agent/producer friendly. In this way a producer/agent can happily direct his clients to your website as a direct link from his own corporate site. Keep your ‘ghost site ‘ short and simple and business like.
Once in a blue moon, especially for private engagements, such as house parties etc, you may find someone wants a full version of your show. My technique to cover this was to have a DVD that contained both the short ‘showreel’ and the full-length show mastered as two separate chapters. They had their choice on the initial menu.
Be aware however; that a 50-minute video of a really great show can appear as slow as mud oozing when viewed ‘cold.’ People are used to the razzle-dazzle that is presented to them on television and you are likely to be very unexciting with a 50-minute block of video that is devoid of visual ‘wow’. If they get bored watching your video, how likely do you think they are to want to book the act?