Hardly any WMF writes back to me, Wayne Phelps did and this led to this statement, which I am posting right here with Wayne Phelps permission. I urge you to read the whole thing, as it puts matters into a much needed perspective.
The entire expert village video nightmare began probably close to four years ago. Maybe closer to five by now. I'm sure you can understand when I say it's something that I try to not think about very much. I was fairly new to the professional scene of magic. Sure I've done gigs for pay, but I had just moved to California with the intent to make a name for myself. I was also in my mid twenties at that time too. So young and stupid, make a horrible combination. I had just received my membership to the AMA/ Magic Castle around the time those videos were filmed, so I was on a bit of an ego rush.
I was approached by a film maker and producer for a project that would "put my name out there on the internet." They said they saw me perform out on the street of Hollywood and Highland (a famous area for street performers and costumed characters in Hollywood) and thought I'd be perfect for the job. I went to their office for a production meeting. I had never done anything like this before, and I was generally very excited to have the opportunity. When I got there they explained to me that the video project was for a new website called "expert village" and they wanted me to teach people how to do magic, and then presented me with the video shoot dates that would include three days of production and involve up to 30 videos each being about 3 minutes in length individually. They presented me with the contract, I signed. I would report to the studio for filming the following Monday. I knew that exposing magic was wrong. But this wasn't exposure. This was educational. To me, at that time, that made all the difference.
I knew that I could easily fill 15 video's worth of card tutorials blind folded. I was after-all at that time a card guy. Coins though was going to be a problem. I wasn't a coin worker. Sure I owned Bobo's, but the closest thing to coin magic that I ever did was a French drop for my niece. I had 15 videos to fill on that subject too. I knew I couldn't teach other magicians private domain effects like Leathal Tender or Strange Travelers, so I opted to teach very general things such as shuffle control, a double lift, and popular coin gaffs that made coin magic "easy" for a beginner. This was where I made my second mistake. The first being agreeing to do the video in the first place.
The production days came and they went. The video's went up online, and were getting a lot of hits. Then about two years ago, the nightmare started. A member of the Magic Castle whose name I won't give, outed me on the Magic Castle forums. He linked the expert village videos and called together what would become a modern day equivalent of a witch hunt. In the following months from that point in time I would lose several friends, be harassed by email, I received one death threat, my name (Wayne Phelps) become synonymous with "that video guy", and if I ever renew my membership at the Magic Castle they'll pull it and ban me for life.
I tried to fix the mistake. I didn't realize at the time that I made the video's just how much shit I was going to get myself into. I wasn't thinking. I called the production company that made the video to see if they would remove it. As it turns out they were middle men. They were contracted by Expert Village to produce my video series along with a couple of others. Expert Village paid them for the property, so they in turn own it. I tried to contact Expert Village by email but I didn't get a response. After a month of emails and no replies, I did research on the company. Found that they are based out of Texas and owned by a different media group. Through a little digging and a few phone calls I got the contact information for their CEO. I called thrice, and left voice mails, and emailed him directly. I explained my problem. I told him I was being black balled by the magic community, that it's cost me my job (basically), my friends, it's damaged my career, and I would like the video's pulled down. I even offered to pay him to buy the videos and rights back from him. He didn't respond to me, but he DID respond. He marketed those specific videos harder. Within a short time they were up on Youtube, and multiple other websites. Now if you Google me, they're one of the first things that pop up. I took that to be the cyber equivalent of "Fuck You."
Ruined, the only thing I could do was start over. Feeling jaded, I looked to the darker side of my emotions and found a character in there that I could perform as. I started to learn side show, built up a Goth wardrobe, and created the character William Draven. I knew I'd destroyed my shot at using my own name, Draven was the next best thing. So there you have it. I can't say I'm proud of myself. If I ever get the chance to meet the younger version of me, I'd be first in line to strangle him. I've learned several lessons about the professional world of magic that I didn't take seriously when I was younger. I've also learned a few hard lessons about contract negotiations, and understanding what people plan to do with your image, and likeness once they've got you on film. I've learned how damaging exposure can be on the internet, and the difference between what is exposure and what is education. Never, even when I filmed these videos, had I wanted to expose magic. IF I would have realized that it was exposure I wouldn't have done it from the start. I was looking at it from the educational side. I had good intentions, but then again good intentions pave the way to Hell too. It was wrong of me to expose those coin gaffs, and card tricks. Despite the card material being available in the public library, it was wrong to put it out there in a form that is viewable for free. (Another aspect I didn't know about going into the project. It wasn't explained to me how the distribution was going to work. I knew it was for a website, but I didn't know the video's were going to be free. I assumed a membership to the site or something would be required.) I've issued several written and verbal apologies to the magic community by now, and I've been trying to move on with my life this past year and change. I've taken up a strong anti-exposure position, and currently work within the online magic communities that I belong to such as theory11.com, ellusionist.com, exomagic.com, and penguinmagic.com to combat internet exposure and encourage better video production from younger magicians trying to make their names known. If anything, to prevent them from making the costly mistakes I did. I'm not proud about what I did. It sucks horribly. The only thing I can say is I'm sorry (a statement that I can't seem to stress enough), and let my actions from here out show that my lesson has been learned. I am grateful for those lessons though. I needed to learn them.
Thanks for hearing my side.
Let this be an example what could happen to you overly eager magicians who's rise to fame cannot be quick enough.
We all make mistakes, some grow upon them, some don't. I feel Wayne Phelps not only learned his lesson, but needs our help too. Does anybody know how to get rid of those videos?
I sure made a mistake by not fully researching the matter and letting my anger out too much. I am sorry for Wayne Phelps and wish my words could be unmade. I could delete them, but in the end I think it is better to have them there, so people can compare and see what kind of asshole I am.
I am sorry, and I guess I learned my lesson too. I revoke Wayne Phelps titel. He is no longer a Weekly Magic Failure.