Thursday, May 15, 2014

Your own spin!

Maybe last post came across as me thinking that the failure lies with not crediting the creator of the magic trick. No! In a performance you don't credit the creators. The performance is about you.

However... if you do any TV work, or any work actually, I think you need to do your own material. It's okay to use classics but you better put your own spin on it. And making it your own doesn't mean it is your own thing, when you perform it.

And in that regard many fail. Here is my theory: If you see someones routine that is for sale. And you can imagine doing that routine yourself without any changes, then your character is either undefined or very, very bland.

Changes have to happen. Be it premise, plot, patter or method!

And just in case you have a problem figuring out what the four things mean:

  • A premise is an assumption that something is true. For example: Coins can be hung in the air invisibly on sky hooks.
  • A plot is what happens, within the premise that is set up. For example: one coin will be hung on the right, one on the left side. Then they are picked up again and become visible again.
  • Patter is what you say. Preferably it states why you are doing it. For example: "Hanging them there is the best way to protect yourself from thievery!"
  • Method is the thing that magicians are obsessed with.
So if you change the color of the handkerchief you vanish from red to blue, you are not changing any of the four points, ergo you change nothing of value. 

Changing the premise can often do great things about a routine. Maybe the cards are not switched, but change into one another. If that is the premise, an ambitious card becomes a totally different trick. As the card does not jump to the top, but the top card will turn into the spectators card. For whatever reasons.

Changing the plot does change everything up as well. Imagine the card not going to the top every time, but instead it sinks to the bottom and eventually even further down through the table. Just changing the direction of the effect logically dictated the climax. So it is no longer an ambitious card, but maybe a shy card....

That brings us to the change of patter. What if the card really is shy. And tries to get away. "You signed the card, that makes the card feel embarrassed a bit. The card tries to get away."

And finally changing the method is what magicians love to do most. So instead of a DL as the main modus operandi we use the glide.... wow, what an accomplishment!

Of course whatever element you change you change to fit your character. And that requires to have a defined character to begin with.

6 comments:

Mike King said...

Surely you realise that the vast majority of magicians out there are just trick regurgitators with no personality.

The success of the likes of Sankey show that most don't have the requisite intelligence to think of the most basic effect for themselves.

There was a bit of a spat on the WPR thread at the Cafe and Mr Petty took exception to some mild criticism and mentioned how he was an award winning stage illusionist.

Firstly when you look at the links to his performances you'll be amazed to see that it's him and his partners dancing around hugely familiar box illusions, nothing new to be seen here.

Secondly, he's won awards !!!

This is the standard of magic Roland.

Mr Kelly in that Ellen clip, is us !!!

Sad eh ?

Michael Jay said...

Okay, I get it. We, as magicians, need to be like any other production out there. But have you ever looked at the credits that roll at the end of movie?

Here's a small list of what it takes to put together a production: unit production manager; first assistant director; second assistant director; director; executive producers; associate producers; producers; production supervisor; supervising art director; art director; script writer; script supervisor; property master; assistant property master; costume supervisor; costumer; makeup artist; hair stylist; production coordinator; assistant production coordinator; production accountant; assistant production accountant; set designer; set dresser; transportation coordinator; creative consultants; sound system supervisor; sound system techs; lighting supervisor; and, finally, lighting techs.

We, as magicians, have to do all of that ourselves. We don't have a staff of people taking care of that for us.

I'll tell you what we do have, though, is a bunch of other magicians grousing at us when don't make the grade in their eyes because we aren't a unit production manager; first assistant director; second assistant director; director; executive producers; associate producers; producers; production supervisor; supervising art director; art director; script writer; script supervisor; property master; assistant property master; costume supervisor; costumer; makeup artist; hair stylist; production coordinator; assistant production coordinator; production accountant; assistant production accountant; set designer; set dresser; transportation coordinator; creative consultants; sound system supervisor; sound system techs; lighting supervisor; and, finally, lighting techs.

Rather than saying, "Hey, look, there's a likeable young man on Ellen giving magic exposure and doing a good job of it and maybe helping me to get gigs," we say, "Hey, look, there's a stupid kid doing a trick right out of the box. Let's all pick him apart and express our disdain that he didn't do things the way that we expect him to."

The funniest part is that after all of this bullshit, we wonder why people think magicians are schmucks. It's not a mystery to me.

Marplots said...

You are kidding yourself if you think audiences aren't as sophisticated as magicians. They might not know all the ins and outs, but they can certainly tell entertaining from not.

And it's exactly exposure we are complaining about, exposure of less than stellar magic. We absolutely do need to demand more, and expect more.

Michael Jay said...

Alright, so we must expect and demand more. How do we do that? Show up at any given magician's door that appears on Ellen who has not measured up to our expectations and beat him up? Kill him, maybe?

And who is in charge of deciding what we expect and demand? What if your expectations and mine are different? Do you decide to put a contract out on that magician or do I? What if I plainly disagree with your assessment of what is expected - do we still kill the magician for not meeting that expectation based on one person's opinion?

From where I'm sitting, I figure it's Ellen's show and she's the final arbiter in good or bad magic on her show. She appears to be reasonably pleased with Kelly's performance...So do we show up at Ellen's door and give her a lecture on what is good and bad where magic is concerned? And whose opinion do we go with in regard to lecturing Ellen on what is good, and what is bad, magic?

Feel free to beat your breast and bewail the state of magic today, I guarantee you it didn't put a stop payment on Kelly's check from Ellen. I'm also guessing that he was happy to take that money regardless of your petty criticisms of his performance.

Like it or not, magicians don't get to choose what the public believes is good magic - they get to decide that on their own. Based on Ellen's reaction to Kelly, it is Kelly who is in the driver seat and not you or any other naysayers.

Marplots said...

How do we do it? We do it first by not lying to ourselves and our fellows. If something stinks, say it stinks. So step one is to throw kiss-ass out the window in favor of honesty.

It's a spiral of virtue here. The more good magicians the public is exposed to, the better they are able to judge the difference.

Of course our expectations are different and we all judge based on our own preferences. But surely there is a collective opinion - after all, there's a huge difference between a Garrett Thomas and your nephew who just got a magic set. There's enough of a difference we won't be arguing nuances, but actual entertainment value.

This idea that 'good' and 'bad' are unreachable standards is nonsense. We do it all the time, across a broad spectrum. So what if I like hotdogs? I'm not about to argue that hotdogs are better than a five star meal.

The plain fact is bad magicians harm public perceptions. If someone were thinking about hiring a magician based on that Ellen bit, would they be hiring with a realistic idea of what a solid entertainer can do for them?

What puzzles me is the apparent acceptance of the status quo, especially from those who've seen what excellent magicians can provide. Why wouldn't I want better representatives of my craft?

Michael Jay said...

The problem is that I don't think Kelly did anything wrong on Ellen. I think he did a fine job. Could it have been better? Absolutely.

Did he hurt magic? Not even by a long shot.

And the fact of the matter is that whether he hurt magic or not, there is nothing that you can do to stop those lesser magicians from doing what they do. Blunt honesty never stopped them before, what makes you think it will now?

Anyone can learn a couple of card tricks and call himself "professional magician" and so it has always been. Even moreover, many of the names from the past who were excellent magicians were terrible entertainers...Try watching Derek Dingle - it's like watching paint dry (unless you're a magician - magicians drool in their drawers just at the thought of
Dingle) and I sure as hell wouldn't want him representing magic to the laity.

It all boils down to opinion as to whether or not a magician is good or bad and while we, as magicians, can vomit forth any thoughts and ideas, it comes down to the laity to decide what they like and what they don't. You are the one who told me that the audience has more sophistication than I give them credit for and now you tell me that they don't know Kelly isn't a good magician. Ellen thinks he is, I guess she's not as sophisticated as you give her credit for...

On a side note, Thomas says that if things like this continue to happen, then these pros are going to stop publishing their stuff. Two things: 1) No they're not - they are very happy to continue selling their stuff and making money off of the idiots who buy it and 2) I really wish they would because it would cull the heard of bad magicians copying good by, probably, 90% (and then we wouldn't even be having this silly conversation).