Establishing Credibility

When creating any type of promo video one of the biggest challenges is to grab the viewer’s attention and hold their interest. A good promo video should make us care. One of the most effective ways to make people care is by establishing credibility.

This month I would like to share a set of videos we have recently completed for magician Bill Cook.  Bill is a very talented performer with skills as a close up magician as well as a stage magician.  One of the things that makes Bill such a talent is his personality and energy, on stage and off. Bill has been a very good friend of mine for years and recently approached me about putting together a new sizzle video and demo video of his current show. I flew out to Chicago to film two of Bill’s performances and shoot some card flourishes to be used for transitions.  I also worked with some of the existing footage he had to show an even more diverse repertoire. In addition, Bill also had several clips from news shows he had been featured on.  TV appearances are always great for building status. By choosing to open the video with those clips cut to a rhythmic sequence, we get a very impactful opening that immediately establishes Bill’s credibility as a professional magician.

After piquing someone’s interest with a sizzle video, a longer demo video can help convey more of the unique selling points.

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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:

Expect the Unexpected

On Saturday, March 22 I was part of the 30th annual “Evening of Magic” at the High Street Arts Center in Moorpark, CA. The show, an annual fundraiser for student scholarships, also featured performances by Jonathan Levit, Paul Dwork, Ron Saylor, and juggler Michael Rayner.  Unexpectedly, this is the photo that happened to make the front page of the Ventura County Star:

 

 

 

 

 

While in LA I also began shooting the first round of interviews for my new documentary film project. In one day I managed to interview Christopher Hart, magic creator Don Wayne, Rudy Coby, and Max Maven.


It was a wonderful experience having conversations with some of my magic idols.


Suffice it to say that I am very excited to have begun production on this project! The topic, you ask? In short, it’s a discussion about performers who have had their acts or material copied, or “ripped off” by other people. This is a problem that we are seeing more and more frequently these days. Back in December, as I was putting together a side-by-side video of Turkish magicians performing (on television) signature routines of other performers I was struck with the urge to raise awareness of this issue. And, hopefully, resolve the distinction of copying someone versus being inspired by them. I still have many more interviews to get with fellow performers so I will have more information to share with you about this project in the coming months.

Finally, my last couple of days in LA were spent with my friend Rick Gerber.  We began shooting some videos for a secret project. I have worked with Rick on a few different projects now and one of the things I always enjoy is seeing what creative things we come up with while shooting. This particular project took me back to my experimental film days.
At one point during the shoot, this happened…

Mr. Right in Seattle

Last week I traveled to Seattle, Washington for the first time to visit my friend Aaron Tuttle and perform in The Holiday Show at the Bainbridge Performing Arts Center. The theater was located on the island of Bainbridge, about a 35 minute ferry ride from Seattle.

BPA Playhouse

The display board

I was there for 4 days only, with a show on Thursday night and Friday night.  I wanted to see as much of the city as possible in my short amount of time.  Of course there was Pike Place Market, the Space Needle and all the classic landmarks that I had to visit. With Aaron as my host and tour guide we set out each day to take in the city before heading to the ferry around 4 pm to take us to Bainbridge Island.

First thing first – I needed to stop off in one of the many cafés for an afternoon tea…

That night we got to the theater a little early as it was opening night.  I was so excited I got all dressed up about 2 hours early and then realized I had not eaten dinner.  Befuddled, I decided to walk to the nearby Town & Country convenience store.  I walked in, ordered 3 corn dogs and a cup of broccoli cheddar soup and walked back to the theater to eat backstage with my fellow cast members.

That night, opening night, I found out my friend Ariel Bravy, who I had not seen since middle school, was coming to the show.  Having gone to the same elementary and middle school and being in the school band together, it was wonderful to reconnect with him after so many years.

with Ariel Bravy

The next morning, Aaron and I set out to Pike Place Market…

This was a marvellous place with fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, spices, teas, and more.  They even had a stand that sold freshly made mini doughnuts (of which I bought six).

While we were there we also stopped by the original Starbucks where I managed to get an authentic Starbucks tea!

We also found what is known as the “gum wall”, which is literally a side of a brick building full of pieces of gum.  Some people have even gone so far as to made shapes and designs with their gum.  So I decided to make a small contribution of my own…

my contribution

After chewing an entire pack of gum, I needed a drink. We headed to a wine tasting room to sample different wines from Italy and Washington state.  After everything I sampled, I think my favorite new wine is a blend called Vixen Red.

By now the time had flown by and it was time to head to the theater for the Friday night show.

snapshot from my performance

The next day, Saturday, was my last day there. I was flying out that night so we had to make the most of my down time before heading out.  We went to the Space Needle where I bought some awesome “Space Needle” souvenirs. And right next door to the space needle was the EMP building. The Experience Music Project is a 140,000 sq. ft. building designed by Frank Gehry that houses a museum and concert hall. Like all of Frank Gehry’s work, the building itself is quite a sight to see.

Space Needle

EMP Building

After this I took my friend Aaron out for a bite to eat and thanked him for being such a great host and friend. In addition to showing me around, he had kept his DSLR camera at his side the whole time to capture video of Mr. Right visiting Seattle. This will make for a great video for sure!

After a deep conversation on life and happiness, it was finally time to collect my cares and woes and head on home to sunny California.  As I sat at the airport I was thinking, as I normally do, about what a great experience this week was. I made so many new friends, reconnected with old friends, and got to perform my show for a new group of people all in just 4 short days .  It’s experiences like this that make me truly thankful for what I do. As usual I was left feeling like I did not get enough time there. There were, after all, things I still did not get to see and do. But I suppose some things will have to wait for the next visit!

Shows at the Magic Castle, June 6-12, 2011

Last week I performed almost 20 shows in seven days at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California.  This was my fourth time performing at the Magic Castle but my first time performing my show on the “big stage” for a week in the Palace of Mystery.  This was a special week for me as I knew four of the other performers. Sharing the Palace stage with me was my longtime friend Adam London, a comedy magician from Las Vegas and Christopher Hart, whom I have worked with the last couple of years at the Magic Castle performing the weekend brunch shows.  Also, my friend Simon Coronel from Australia was performing in the Close Up room.  So it was already bound to be a fun week!

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I arrived on Monday afternoon and immediately went to get my haircut with Richie the Barber, who I had been told was the best barber in LA.  One of his perks is giving free beer and/or shots of whiskey while you get your haircut. (Being that I was performing that night I limited my intake to one shot.)  Richie is a very funny, chatty guy who truly loves cutting hair. He has been doing it a long time and I would agree that he does give a great haircut.  Upon leaving I realized that my meter was about to expire so I bolted down the street to where I parked only to find that two minutes after the time ran out I had already been given a parking ticket for $58 for an expired meter. 58 dollars?!  I couldn’t believe it. I had been in LA not more than two hours and already received a ticket. Ugh….

Mr. Right and Richie the Barber at the Magic Castle

It was now time to drop off my things at my hotel room and then head on over to the Castle to set up my show and tech everything for the first night.  The first night of shows went well enough I suppose. The major pitfall for me was having my lamp (the finale) stop working during the first show of the night.  I had tested the wiring/lighting out during rehearsal that afternoon and everything worked fine. Now jump to the first show and the end of my act I go to turn the lamp on and it doesn’t turn on. Not a huge problem – I can still finish the routine but one of the great elements was now missing. Immediately after my set I take it apart to find that the wires had completely snapped off from the switch. I would now need to solder the wires back onto the switch. Just one problem, no soldering iron…

It’s a nice thing to know so many magicians and artists in the area. I was able to ask around and by the end of the night find someone who would loan me their soldering iron. The next day I came in early to fix the wires back to the switch. Having never done this before, I was a bit hesitant to do it by myself. Luckily, Bizzaro was in town at the Magic Castle for this night only. He knew how to solder! With the help of Bizzaro, we got the wires soldered back and the light was once again working!

The rest of the week went pretty smoothly – no major mishaps for sure. One of the best things about performing at the Magic Castle is being able to invite your friends to come out. Since it is a private club, getting in is an exclusive thing. (You have to be a member or know a member to get in.) The experience for your guests is almost otherworldly. I always enjoy inviting people who have never been and watching them meander through the halls, find the secret rooms, and be awed by all the magic.

People often wonder how we can do so many shows in one week without feeling “drained”. One of the joys for me is that each night, each show will be a little bit different. Certain elements of my show are dependent on my energy or the audience’s energy being a certain way.  The way the audience reacts to something can steer the show up or down. Though everything in my show is rehearsed and each piece looks the same each night, there is one piece of my show that is VERY dependent on the audience – the Courting.  In this piece I select a woman from the audience to come up on stage. Sometimes they are very relaxed and open to giving in to the moment and other times they are very timid and self-conscious about being on stage in front of a room full of people.  The latter, of course, don’t get as “into it” and the routine ends up looking just ok.  Other times, with the “right” woman the routine can be magnificent because she feels safe and plays along so well. The audience loves this too because not only are they reacting to me but also to her, and to us together.  Then it really is not just about the trick we are doing but about our interaction.

By Sunday night everyone was exhausted from the demanding schedule of shows. But there is also that great feeling of success, of having been introduced to and seen by so many new people that will hopefully be left with a positive memory of their night at the Magic Castle.  Overall, the week was a success and it was so much more enjoyable sharing it with good friends, creating good memories for ourselves in the process.

Adam London, Christopher Hart, and Jordan Wright

How Do You Handle Failure?

In (show) business we often measure a person by their successes. Perhaps they have appeared on television or in movies or are household names. Aspiring artists often try to measure up to these icons by setting high standards of perfection. We work so hard to be perfect that we rarely think about what might happen if things, as they inevitably do, take a turn for the worse. The late Channing Pollock once said, “you can judge a great magician by how well they cover their mistakes.” That’s right, it is not only about how technically skilled we are but how well we handle failure. The way in which we stand up and move on from these obstacles will often determine how likely we are to succeed.

In my mind there are two ways to handle the inevitable obstacles. One way is to react to what has happened with disgust and irritation, thus treating the circumstance as a negative reflection on you. The other way is to analyze the circumstance (“why did it happen?”, “what actions led to this outcome?”, “how would I handle it differently next time?”) and use the answers as a learning experience. It is important not to dismiss the significance of learning from the mistakes we make to gain an understanding of what we can improve upon. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, talks about 10,000 hours as the magic number to achieve mastery. If this is true, it can take many many years and many hardships before we master a skill. The problem is many of us are afraid to make a mistake because we perceive it as a lack of ability. The truth is, most failure only reflects the absence of a learnable skill. We will never know our limits unless we push ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them. While it is easy to excuse a bad performance by blaming the audience, it is more beneficial if we can look at what we might have done to make the audience unresponsive or unreceptive to magic. We should always be ready to ask ourselves “What can I do better?”, “What can I improve upon?”. Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, once wrote “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” By learning from our mistakes we prepare ourselves for the next time a similar situation arises.

Mr. Right’s Weekend at the Beach


I love becoming Mr. Right. No matter what I happen to be going through or feeling at the time, when I put on the derby hat I just feel “different”. And it’s wonderful.

Saturday was such a beautiful, sunny day that it made perfect sense to be outside. So Saturday afternoon, my fiance (the girl) and I went to Pismo Beach. Just south of San Luis Obispo, in Arroyo Grande there are beautiful beaches. What makes Pismo Beach so unique is that you can drive on it. In fact, you can even camp on the beach overnight. Knowing this, I planned a few days prior to do a photo shoot on the beach, as Mr. Right, for an upcoming short film. So I drove the MINI, loaded with all my gear (and Shannon), and parked on the beach. Many people take advantage of this privilege as well, so there is a constant stream of cars and trucks coming and going on the beach. Luckily, we were able to find a perfect spot close to the water.

I was dressed in a red shirt and black tie (mr. Right casual wear) with my derby hat. As soon as I stepped out of my car I got a honk and a wave from car passing by. I smiled and waved back. Shannon got all “dolled up” in her outfit and we proceeded to shoot some stills and video of us posed together on the beach. The family that was parked closest to us kept watching us, wondering what we were filming. As we were finishing up another car was driving past and, just as it passed in front of the MINI the driver looked back smiling, then saw us sitting beside it on the blanket and he began laughing and waving. It was as if we were an attraction – a performance art installation. But what the hey, I love performance art.