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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Last night on Mystery School Monday we discussed the topic of Preparing for a Show. How do magicians prepare? What is the process a performer goes through to ensure their performance is a success? This great short film by Joe Larue shows exactly that!

Trick with an iPhone

These days it seems so many people have found clever ways of integrating magic with their Apple iPhone or iPad.  I have a profound appreciation for people’s innovative ideas when it comes to using new technology to create magic.

However, one of the questions that always comes to mind when I watch these videos is “Why?”.  Besides the fact that it looks VERY cool and probably took a lot of time and practice to map out the handling and choreography, I still cannot help but wonder what the motivation is behind doing it. In response to this question I have created my version of a “trick with an iPhone” in hopes of bringing purpose to the trick.  Here is a short video of Mr. Right at the Mirror (a.k.a. iPick).

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

Finding Inspiration Outside of Magic

It is no secret that many of us have too often seen multiple magic shows with performers reciting the same jokes with the same cliché lines or even performing someone else’s routine. We often make mention of how troublesome it is to go to a magic convention and see every act in the competition perform another card manipulation act or another linking ring act the same way as it is currently being performed by so many other magicians. Many of us out there become so enthralled in magic, and the magic community, that we often forget that there are other great sources to find inspiration for things like our “magical premises” and our style. It is very easy to become so wrapped up in our “magical” way of thinking that our shows and performances often lack depth. So my question to you is what are your sources of inspiration? What is it that inspires you?

Are you only modeling your style after the contemporary stars in magic? Or do you look to some of the great magicians of the past? Many magicians fail to seek other sources of inspiration to set them apart from other magicians.

One way to do this is to take things you do that are non-magic related. Maybe you play an instrument or read books or like to fish. It can be any number of things but finding other interests that you have will allow you to draw from those sources and develop a framework for your magic.

For example I enjoy traveling so I wrote a story for Richard Sanders’ Extreme Burn about going to foreign countries, I tell this all while turning magazine papers into foreign money. But had I not drawn from my experiences of traveling, then the story would have almost certainly been about how amazing I am that “with a wave of the hand” I can turn one dollar bills into $20’s and $100’s.

It is not quite this simple however. This is something that will take conscious creative effort to achieve. In my opinion, one thing that cannot be taught is creativity. But perhaps I can help put creative thinking into perspective for you. Most of us consider magic to be an art form. One of the best ways to inspire your art is to have other mediums of art as your creative sources. Perhaps you enjoy movies or books or photography. I personally watch a lot of movies. I love the way movies convey a story or message through words and images. I love the way movies can alter my emotional state. There are many movies that, by the end, make me reflect the same way I want my audiences to after they see me perform. As a result, I am constantly drawing on elements and themes from movies, both current and old, to bring into my magic routines. Sometimes some of the best ideas for a routine exist in sources that are not referenced in today’s culture. I never would have expected to get an idea for a rope routine from a 1945 silent film that I only saw because of my interest in surrealism. But it is these two interests, film and surrealist art, that have inspired almost all of my routines now. So if you want to begin finding your own original style, first consider looking for inspiration in your interests outside of magic.