Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Did you know? I sure didn't!



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.
Wayne Phelps


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.

10 comments:

Trickster said...

Screw that, he's a WMF without a doubt. All his statement says is that he was desperate to get known when he was a few years younger and prostituted himself and his art to the guys with a cheque book and a bit of cash.
Had he not been harassed by the magic community I doubt he would ever have been sorry or apologized, he'd have just lapped up the fame and attention, and probably produced a few more videos.
It's so easy to say sorry now, when it has all blown up in his face, but I have doubts about his sincerity, is he only sorry because it got him in trouble?

I'm not saying he isn't sorry, but I have no proof that he really is, and if he is, I would question why exactly.

jason said...

I have to agree with Trickster's comment...too little, too late. No matter what name he goes by, he is still a Weekly (and yearly, for that matter) Magic Failure.

Roland said...

well I do make a difference between fucking up and trying to fix it and fucking up and not giving a damn.

Technically speaking it is ExperVillage who host the videos and not Wayne Phelps. (unlike Dirk Losander)

I tend to take back the title WMF once the issue that I rant about is fixed. (see chris Brown, Bill Abbott or Steven Warren)

I agree that this particular matter is a somewhat grey area I have stumbled across. I am not sure what to do, as demonizing someone who is openly remorseful is not really a constructive path.

And believe it or not I try to be constructive. Wayne Phelps is a bad example for other magicians and as such he should be treated. I agree on that part.

But imagine we could help Wayne to get those videos taken off ExpertVillage. That would be constructive.

William said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trickster said...

Hmmm, a guy makes exposure videos, and you blame those who host them? Should we forgive all the others and blame YouTube then?
Wayne made a choice, it back fired on him and now he wants the slate cleared because of his so called remorse. Perhaps if he had voiced that remorse before he was hounded by the magic community it might be different, but it seems his remorse is about the damage it has done to his career and reputation more than anything else, or perhaps it's just coincidence that his remorse was so neatly timed to come out after it went bad for him.

As I said, his remorse may actually be sincere, but his word is no where near enough proof, I wouldn't rely on it, would you?
Maybe Wayne can find a way to be a force for good in magic and over time people may think differently about him and even forgive him, but that can't happen based solely on some letter he has written.

Let's also not forget that he wasn't some dumb kid, he was a grown adult, doing payed gigs and mature enough to move to California to "make a name for himself", which he did, by big noting himself online with exposure videos.

descartes84 said...

@trickster

I just wanted to chime in here on a couple of points.

As I said, his remorse may actually be sincere, but his word is no where near enough proof, I wouldn't rely on it, would you?

At least based on what I've seen of him on Theory11, I'm confident that he will no longer make such a mistake. Of course, I don't know him personally, but the guy is more serious about performing good magic than you give him credit for.
I think this exposure thing was just a stupid mistake like he says.

Let's also not forget that he wasn't some dumb kid, he was a grown adult, doing payed gigs and mature enough to move to California to "make a name for himself", which he did, by big noting himself online with exposure videos.

He admits all this in his letter. Maybe you can forget and forgive this transgression just this once? I mean if such a thing happens again, by all means bring out the pitchforks, but are you really unwilling to give a second chance?

I'm impressed with Roland for seeing that it is not constructive to permanently demonize someone for an old mistake.

I'm also impressed with Draven both for his apology and the fact that he has learned from his mistake.

William said...

I don't want to stir a fight here. Thats why I deleted my last statement, but I do want to point a few things out here in my own defense. My reply is aimed mostly at Trickster's comments, and I'll quote so there is no confusion.

1. "Wayne made a choice, it back fired on him and now he wants the slate cleared because of his so called remorse. "
-No I don't want the slate cleared. I want the mistake to remain, so others can learn from it. To clear the slate I feel would send the wrong message. It's not okay to expose magic, and that should be one of the lessons learned from this.

2. "Perhaps if he had voiced that remorse before he was hounded by the magic community it might be different, but it seems his remorse is about the damage it has done to his career and reputation more than anything else, or perhaps it's just coincidence that his remorse was so neatly timed to come out after it went bad for him."
-No actually, I had made several apologies once this entire thing blew up a year ago, going on two now. This isn't a new subject, it's one that I've had to deal with over and over.

3. "As I said, his remorse may actually be sincere, but his word is no where near enough proof" No you're right. But it's all I can do for the moment. As I said, in time I'm going to have to rely on my actions speaking louder for my words. But for now, I think that letter serves as a good down payment.

4. "Let's also not forget that he wasn't some dumb kid, he was a grown adult" Nope, your right. I wasn't a dumb kid, I was a dumb adult. Although there are those who would argue that a mid twenties is no better than a late teen, but that is philosophical, and you don't strike me to be that type. The bottom line is children, and adults share something in common; they both can make mistakes. Age is irrelevant, what is important is if you can learn from them.

Look I can tell you want to crucify me. I'm not saying I was right. I'm not saying that at all. What I am saying is I paid a steep price for my mistake, a mistake that continues to haunt me to this day. This is something that I think will be a project to overcome in the years to follow. I just don't know exactly what more you want from me, or expect me to do.

Roland said...

This blog is nothing but a modern day version of a good old witch hunt. Hunting down a member of our community who did not obey the laws the members of the magic community have set for themselves. And that is a good thing. But burning them on a bonfire is a bit out of date. Especially since Wayne has tried to fix his errors BEFORE this blog even existed.

He cannot take down the video, he would like to have them taken down; ExpertVillage is to blame. Not true for all those YouTube exposers who could take down their videos if they wanted to.

This matter could have been resolved years ago with much less harm being done than today, because a single stupid man was unable to get rid of the sins of the past.

I am saying this because I have my own corpses in the basement. I tried covering them, but sometimes they come back. So I know what Wayne has been and is going through.

That doesn't mean we should forgive him, no... but a constant reminder is less effective than taking down the fucking videos. And that should be the goal here, minimizing damage than pointing fingers. (although there is nothing wrong with finger pointing to start with)

So here is my question, do magicians have there own Chuck Norris to fix things, or must we move our own lazy ass?

Nick said...

Out of his whole response I love this sentence:

"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."

So he knew everything besides the card material was exposure.

Also, he is still subtly trying to argue that it isn't exposure since you can get it for free at a library.

I see remorse and guilt for being caught, not for exposure. Especially since he is still quietly arguing that it isn't.

However I am without a doubt the forgive and forget type. I dont care much, and I will use this as a learning device for myself. He obviously learned his lesson the hard way and stuck with it to overcome this, so in my book that means he's proven to be highly devote to the art.

William said...

@Nick, Please don't assume that I don't feel bad for the exposure. I do. I feel a great deal of guilt, and it is in no means just because I got caught.

When the videos were filmed I didn't think it was exposure, but that's where I was wrong.

Believe me, I have a better understanding of that now.