Watching a magic show like a real person, instead of a magician……

•January 20, 2018 • 2 Comments

There are vey few things more uncomfortable than watching the average magic audience responding to a magic show.     We magicians tend to sit with a fairly combative look on our faces and are then more sparing with our applause than it is possible to believe. An impartial observer might be tempted to believe that we are hating every minute of the performance until after the show when everyone discusses how much he or she loved it! This general negativity is a curiously contagious approach to the business of being a magician spectator. I have certainly found myself staring glumly at a magician and primarily rewarding him with an occasional muttered “Nice.” However, this is better than making a spoken comment about a secret move during an effect, and I have seen that happen a time or two!

I know we are all primarily trying to concentrate on what is being done by the performer, however, there is a very definite give and take between a performer and an audience member, and it is important that we enter fully into our part of the allotted interaction. Sometimes I am tempted to think that there is actually a fairly meditated ungenerous decision involved in not fully responding to the efforts of our colleagues and peers. It is almost as if responding warmly to others might in some way belittle our own talents. It takes a bunch of nerve and courage to perform for one’s contemporaries, and I for one want to try and fully express my utmost enthusiasm for their efforts, rather than sitting in some form of stolid judgment.

 


 

A few thoughts on performing ethics: or things I’m saying that shouldn’t need saying!

•January 16, 2018 • 2 Comments

 

 

Nick

One of the most fascinating elements of being a magician is how much great material is published to assist you in developing your craft. Entire routines and comedy monologues are available to help you develop your show. However, this doesn’t mean that you can cherry pick jokes and routines from performers at will. Because the material is out there does NOT mean it is fair game for performers to steal. There are some definite guidelines that not only beginners, but also seasoned pros, like myself, need to remind themselves about on an ongoing basis.

If you buy a routine for cash that includes a book, DVD, script, performance footage etc. then, unless otherwise stated, you have every expectation of being able to use that material in your show. The seller is making money by selling that information and it is a fair exchange. Of course, if you have not paid for that information, and have just snagged an unauthorized dub of the DVD, then you don’t have the right to use it. In neither case do you have the right to repackage this information verbatim, or with minimal changes, and then resell it in the magic market.

All this applies just as strongly and immutably to things comedic. Just because you like a joke doesn’t mean you can take it and add it to your show. You could of course ask the performer involved if you can appropriate the bit for your own use. You might be surprised at how often he or she would be delighted by your courtesy and grant you the right to use the joke with their blessing. You might even find they help you develop and adapt the piece so that it works better for you, all of this merely because you had the good manners to ask.

Last year I removed a great many pieces of performance footage from YouTube that really served no useful purpose in being there. There is a strangely prevalent notion that if something is on YouTube it is in public domain and open for individuals to use at random. NO, this isn’t so. There are a new breed of magicians who make a living collecting YouTube clicks, however, this is not the case with non-YouTube vendors. Respect other performer’s rights and you will improve the industry. You wouldn’t go to a magic convention and steal props from the dealers table, so don’t do it with something less tangible like a comedy concept or a joke.


 

It is a new and more politically correct world. Adapt or become irrelevant.

•January 13, 2018 • Leave a Comment

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that the mood of the times has changed dramatically when it comes to the contemporary sensibilities of audiences. Much as we veteran performers like to bitch about the trend of politically correct attitudes that are currently so prevalent: this is what is happening at this moment in time. Nothing about this looks like it is going to change very much in the foreseeable future so you had better get used to it, or realize you are becoming a dinosaur. I have had to bite the bullet and discard several of my favorite routines and jokes in order to remain relevant in today’s market. It is no good railing against the new trends and it is much more beneficial to wake up and smell the PC coffee. The younger generations just have different sensibilities and ideas, and we have to realize that their viewpoint is more valid and important than ours. We are the ones who are out of touch with contemporary standards regarding such integral areas as sexism, racism, and other hot topics. In the words of my old friend Jack Goldfinger, “It is easier to wear slippers than carpet the world.”

The vital guideline to follow is that if you have any doubts about your material then cut it out. What was okay five years ago may

Caution – Politically Correct Area Ahead

not work today, and saying; “Well, it still gets a laugh,” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Take the time to edit and rewrite material that is outmoded. Even if the new version doesn’t get you as big a laugh initially, it will do when the line is adapted, developed, and broken in. Magic has a pretty well deserved reputation for generally being corny, dated, and sexist–don’t add to it!

I for one recognize that The Times They Are A Changin’ and want to put in that little extra time to make myself culturally relevant and acceptable. I have noticed a great many magicians huff and puff and take a righteous stance as though they are filling some vital role by fighting the growth of “political correctness” when in fact they are actually just being lazy and remaining mired in the past. I refuse to have that happen to me. As you can tell from the photo above with the great Kinky Friedman, my true heroes are not PC folk! I really think this is an issue that needs to come from the mind not the heart. The effect of ignoring it hits the wallet and the work.

 

Ready for a good read………..

•January 9, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I have a definite goal for 2018, and that is to re-focus on some of the amazing books that are sitting gathering dust on bookshelves in my magic library.

I have spent numerous hours reading, studying, and learning from these tomes over the years. However, recently I seem to have largely followed the current trend of learning my magic from DVDs–or to be more exact downloads. The process of reading and watching engenders a very different style of learning, and in my opinion, you end up with a quite different effect/move in your repertoire. A video can teach you exactly how someone else performs an effect, but the temptation is to follow the instructor’s visual example very literally. With a book, there seems to be a little more room for inserting your own individuality into the process of learning. While hard to fully explain in words, I believe there is a huge difference in the process of learning from reading and watching, I think it largely has to do with seeing something in your “Mind’s Eye” as apposed to observing it from the fixed camera viewpoint.

Like most other magicians, I am now more than somewhat addicted to the ease of acquiring the latest $10 download. The trouble is that I just seem to watch these various downloads a couple of times, learn how the trick is done, then file them away in a folder on my computer before totally forgetting them. I remember the excitement in years gone by of purchasing the latest Paul Harris or Harry Lorayne book and working through it chapter by chapter and trick by trick. There was an accumulative learning process involved when Lorayne taught you a nifty new move and then took the time to teach you to really put it into application. To be sure, the recent video onslaught has added many wonderful things to our learning curve as magicians, but I want to go back for a year to the non-digital school of learning. I suspect I will amaze quite a few magicians with the “new” tricks that I come up with!

Incidentally, if you are looking for a new book that might introduce you to an entire new magic career— check out my book “Cruise Magic 101: How To Make A Great Living Performing On A Cruise Ship.” This compact little source of information has led many performers into a career making great money and having fun working in the fastest expanding magic market in the world. You even get to learn a REALLY great trick that is truly (no joking here!) worth the price of the book.  

To see what some knowledgable magicians and reviewers think about the book (and to order it)  CLICK HERE

Talking Heads and Donald J.

•January 7, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I realize that over the years I have neglected the music side of my interests! There is more Remarkable Magic in life than just card tricks and finding dollars in lemons!

Here is a rather brilliant clip Swedemason created of The Donald co-ordinated with a Talking Heads video. Pretty darn cool. Even if you are not a fan of our president it should give you a smile or two. For about 3 decades I have featured Talking Heads music in my show, I consider “Life During Wartime” the ultimate performers road song and have closed every show with it since the week it was released.

 

Saving our brick and mortar magical foundations….

•January 7, 2018 • 4 Comments

The only things that seem to be vanishing faster today than a non-partisan spirit in politics are the brick and mortar stores that were once the foundation stones of the magic world. When I was growing up, the advice and mentoring that we received as part and parcel of the hometown magic stores existing in nearly every city, was a glorious thing. Sure magic catalogues were fun to stir one’s imagination; in fact, they were essential if you lived at too great a distance from a major metropolitan community. Times have changed though, and the old fashioned magic store is now becoming a more endangered species than some poor African critter with a highly valued horn or tusk. Like the song says, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til its gone,”

The owner of those local magic stores was able to advise us on our purchases, monitor our progress, and help direct our development, and that just doesn’t happen on a website. I recently visited with Denny Haney in his wonderful magic store in Baltimore. I spent a few hours in the store and thoroughly enjoyed watching him dispense advice and magic with the precision of a magical MD. Unlike the current trend of focusing on the latest trend effects, with the sharpest video trailers, I re-witnessed how things used to be, and I realized how much our younger magicians are missing out in this new digital age. It is very easy to click on a website and send a PayPal payment for a prop to a digital business. However, an awful lot is missing without the personal touch. Next year I am going to make the effort to really visit and support our remaining old school magic dealers. These vendors/mentors deserve our participation and financial support; there is a specific role that they fulfill that has NOT been replaced by YouTube, and it never, ever will be.

The Wonders of iMag and Video Assist…

•October 22, 2017 • 2 Comments

The Wonders of I-Mag.

It can be a wonderful blessing to have a video camera blow up the action that is taking place on stage, but there are a few points I would like to make.

1       The only point for video support is to supply close-up shots of the action, important props, selected cards, facial expressions etc. If the video is just a long shot then it does very little good. In fact in my opinion it can do harm, as the audience’s attention is split between the live action and the screen(s) and you have split the focal point of your audience.

2       The best way to improve the quality of your video assistance is to write a short, clear and simple script for the videographer. Let him know what you are going to do and when the close ups will be most useful. It is also important to make clear note if ant particular effects need to be shot from specific directions.3       If there is more than one camera involved, find out which one is going to be used for the close-up shots, and play the appropriate action to that camera. Play it just a little slower than you would if there were no cameras present, because he needs time to focus.

4       Try and work from the center of the stage and twist your body from side to side to display the props/action to the live audience. If you keep striding around from one side of the stage you will find the camera misses your actions and it looks bad on screen—which is where most people will be watching.

These last two points can best be acted upon by imagining you are performing on a live TV show. You are playing to the camera, which is relaying your actions to the crowd. Concentrate on making eye contact with the live audience and then occasionally really blasting the camera with your eye contact.

5       Sometimes this video assist is projected without a copy ever being made. However if it is recorded make sure that you request that they make a dub for you. This could be your next promotional video waiting to happen. Usually, if it is a corporate event, they will keep a copy for their records, though it isn’t always easy to get your own copy, but give it a try. It is usually the case that they edit the cameras on the spot for use during the live event. However, you can always request that they run ‘iso’ on the cameras, and that way you will get footage from all the cameras shooting plus the line edit. Offer to pay for any additional cost.

It is always useful (actually, almost essential) to get some audience reaction shots in order to edit your promo tape later. A few friendly words (and sometimes a $100 bill!) can work wonders in obtaining co-operation. You might just end up with a three thousand dollar video shoot almost for free!

These are just a few basic but important things to think about when endeavoring to get the maxim benefits from the application of video to your magic. In a future article we will address the issue of performing magic especially for the camera.

 
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