Digital Magic

“Jordan takes the time to get it right.  I will recommend him to everyone I know.  He exceeded my expectations!!!”  –  Kevin James

I have just returned from Reno where I was filming Dirk Arthur’s Wild Magic show at Harrah’s. Dirk is just finishing up a 3-month run in Reno. His show features big illusions and big animals! One of things I enjoy most about working with clients is that each project presents a new challenge to create a video that matches their vision.

About a year ago Kevin James approached me about creating a new promo video to promote him to the corporate market.  He said he was looking for this to be the best promo video he’s ever had. I told him I would love to create that.  And throughout the time working on his project I always kept that in the back of my mind; wanting to make something that exceeded his expectations while staying true to conveying the epic sensory experience of Kevin’s show. Ever since i was a kid I have always admired Kevin’s work as a performer and creator of magic. So it was a real honor to work with him on creating a video campaign.

This is the :60 second sizzle video that we created:

As you can probably imagine a lot of time went into developing and creating this. As with every project I always try to push my limits and expand my skill set. Here’s an interesting fact, the logo and first five clips are actually still (flat) images that I animated to look 3D. I think this technique makes, otherwise stagnant, images all the more powerful. Of course, having great footage to work with is always a plus too!

If you are in New York, or will be in New York July 23 – August 29, one of my pieces of video art will be on display as part of the “Digital Magic” exhibition at the BJ Spoke Gallery in Huntington, NY. This was a juried exhibition, adjudicated by Laurence Gartel, known as the “father” of Digital Art. I feel very honored to have been selected.

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Video Projection Mapping

Combining robotics, projection mapping, and a choreographed actor, this performance tells a story of the principles of magic. This is a performance unlike any I have ever seen!

And here’s a Behind the Scenes look:

It’SURREAL Fine Time – Episode 7

For the past year I have been creating a monthly web series with the intention of opening up the world of Surrealism and filmmaking to everyone. The goal of this half-hour web series is to increase the appreciation and understanding of these powerful art forms.

In this episode I share highlights from Mr. Right and Bizzaro’s two-man show at the Magic Castle. Plus a Surreal activity you can do!

10 Essential Avant-Garde Films

I recently spoke at the annual Magic & Meaning Conference held in Las Vegas.  In my presentation on Cinema and Magic I spoke of my love of avant-garde films their filmmakers. That is to say, filmmakers whose objective was to introduce new, experimental ideas and imagery through film. Avant-Garde films by nature are not the typical plot-driven, action-packed movies, but rather use film as an artistic medium for exploration and introspection. For those interested in seeing films in this genre I thought I would share my compiled list of what I think are 10 essential films to start with…

Unchienandalouposter

1.) Un Chien Andalou (1929)

A film made by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. These two artists set out to make a film with no conventional storyline or meaning. Focusing instead on creating dream logic within a collection of strange situations, this film features such imagery as an eyeball being sliced open by a razor blade, ants crawling out of a hand, and a man’s mouth disappearing. Without a doubt this film was a landmark in cinema, influencing many contemporary independent filmmakers.

 

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2.) Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Maya Deren’s first short film. This film documents the experiences in a dream of one individual. It reproduces the way in which the subconscious of an individual will develop, interpret and elaborate an apparently simple and casual incident into a critical emotional experience. Maya Deren has been the biggest influence on my work and ideas in film. She completely revolutionized film technique and form. Through creative editing she was able to depict internal psychological processes on film. Though she made only six short films in her lifetime, each one is distinctly unique. 

66_orphic_original3.) The Orphic Trilogy (1930, 1950, 1960)

Directed by Jean Cocteau. This is actually three films all tied together by the classic Greek myth of Orpheus.  The trilogy includes The Blood of a Poet, Orpheus, and The Testament of Orpheus. All three of these films are amazing in the way the stories are told and the magical visuals Cocteau creates. The special effects, while primitive, are quite clever – paintings coming to life, characters passing through mirrors into the world of death and back into life.

 

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4.) Ballet Méchanique (1924)

This is a Dadaist/Cubist film by  the artist Fernand Léger. Léger made this film as more of a collection of images brought to life by using film techniques to add movement. In this film, much like in his paintings, Léger uses a lot of still images and distorts them one way or another, juxtaposing them in a unique order and sets the entire montage sequence to music making for a beautiful spectacle.

LastYearMarienbad_original5.) Last Year in Marienbad (1961)

A fascinating classic film by Alain Resnais. The plot is basic, a man meets a woman at a European hotel and tries to convince her that they met last year in Marienbad. But what continues is a thought-provoking exploration of memory and imagination told through visual dream sequences. The Cinematography is some of the best of its time. The non-linear storytelling leaves much to be interpreted by the viewer. In the right mindset and setting, this film can be a stimulating exploration of memory.

6.) The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989) CookThiefWife

Peter Greenaway weaves a visually striking tale of revenge.  After watching this heavily stylized tale of a cook, a thief, his wife and her lover, you will never see Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) the same way again.  I consider this to be one of the most beautiful, horrifying movies ever.  The film features lavish set designs with room color tones and costumes that change as the characters move from room to room. The costumes (designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier), set design, cinematography, the acting, and the soundtrack are stunning in and of themselves. The hypnotic musical score by Michael Nyman perfectly suits the visual imagery. In an age where many movies depend on special effects and CGI to create characters this film is a testament to how color can be utilized as a character.

6441-eraserhead7.) Eraserhead (1977)

This was David Lynch’s first feature film. This film is very abstract but, as with many of the movies on this list, is something to be experienced rather than interpreted. David Lynch’s combination of industrial landscape and  sound with dream imagery creates a dark, disturbing waking nightmare.  It may seem very slow and tedious at the beginning but stick with it as the story builds. This film is best viewed with the mindset of film as abstract art.

Angelexterminadore8.)  The Exterminating Angel (1962)

Directed by Surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel, this film is a surreal satire of upper class society, the bourgeoisie.  While this film has a distinct plot and message in a narrative story, there is great symbolism and underlying messages in the story. The basic plot follows a group of high society friends at a dinner party who become trapped in a room in the house. Though there is nothing physically trapping them they cannot physically leave. Buñuel expertly mocks social class and social and political norms.

 

Conspirators9.) Conspirators of Pleasure (1997)

Made by the Czech surrealist Jan Svankmajer, this film displays the strange fetishes of several different individuals. While there is no dialogue, we are witness to characters, everyday people on the surface,  who meticulously, painstakingly and creatively invent methods, tools and constructions for fulfilling their bizarre fantasies.  Jan Svankmajer is a master of storytelling well known for his intricate stop-motion video in his films.

 

8_1_210.) 8 1/2 (1963)

Being a fan of Federico Fellini, having seen most of his films, this is still my favorite. This story follows a director who, stressed and overwhelmed, retreats into his dreams, fantasies, and memories to cope. At its core this film is a commentary on the nature of creativity, art, mid-life crisis, and the stresses of being a director.  This film does a great job of blurring the line between what is reality and what is fantasy.

Proteigon

Here’s a wonderful piece of CineMagic for you dealing with manipulations. The concept of material manipulation or transformation has always interested me. Steven Briand uses clever stop motion photography to create brilliant animations with a (seemingly) single piece of paper.

 

In Your Arms

I have always been intrigued by music videos as an outlet of filmmaking. Perhaps because music videos lend themselves so well to abstract imagery. Many would agree that Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer video was the greatest music video of all time, certainly a breakthrough at the time.  This past Monday on my weekly CineMagic segment, broadcast on mcbridemagic.tv, I showed a newer music video that is perhaps equally as innovative. It’s a music video for Kina Grannis’ song “In Your Arms”. It consists of 288,000 jelly beans, animated through stop motion. Enjoy!

I cannot imagine the careful planning and attention that went into making this. To give a little insight, here is the making of: