Being a student of magic...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by William Draven, Jun 30, 2011.

  1. One of the most exciting, and equally frustrating things about being a student of magic is having the opportunity to sit before a master and have the humbling revelation of standing not at the top of the mountain, but rather on the small foothill beneath it. Never once believe for a second that your journey is done... there is always something to work on, and I'm not just talking about sleights.
  2. I'd be interested to hear what brought you to post this Will. I realized this almost a year ago to the day - actually when I had the pleasure of seeing you and Paul perform at AX last year. I had spent a lot of time working on sleights and refining technique, but barely ever worked on presentation and showmanship. Watching and listening to the staging and scripting you and Paul had, made me realize how short 5 (now 6) years of magic was. I've been studying since.

    I have quotes written all over my room that I like, motivational quotes I can look up and read to give myself perspective again. I try to exercise every day, I just completely changed my entire act and now I'm in the process of scripting and refining all my new material. I just got a regular gig every Saturday locally to do all that refining. Oh, and my reading list is pretty extensive - I have a bookcase dedicated to magic.

    I just realized - I owe you (and Paul) a long overdue thank you.

    Thank you.

    P.S. my current favorite motivational quote is - "Hey, remember that guy who tried something but it was too hard so he gave up? Me neither."
  3. To quote Damon Runyon, "One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to come to you and show you a nice, brand new deck of cards on which the seal has not yet been broken. This man is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear. Now son, do not bet this man, for as sure as you stand there, you are going to wind up with an earful of cider."

    In short there's always going to be someone doing something you are doing more polished than you're doing it, doing something you aren't doing and doing it more polished than you presume you'd do it, and/or doing something you aren't doing and have no hope in heck of ever figuring out - and doing it more polished than you presume you'd do it. Always.

    The flip side of that is not to sell yourself short either. Yes, all of us always can improve. We can always do better. We can always learn more (and learning more is that varyingly sweet and sour cocktail a serious student of magic frequently drinks - and sometimes has thrown in their face.) But all of us had to learn. The master you're admiring was once right where you are now. And here's another little secret: that person you're admiring may have invested the better part of a lifetime into everything they just showed you. In some cases "everything" means a huge repertoire; in other cases "everything" may be only the three things they just showed you. The fellow with the cider-squirting jack of spades? That may be the ONLY trick he knows and performs (granted, he may very well not NEED to know or perform anything else if he does that one.) A young magician visited Harry Blackstone Jr. backstage after his show and said "It's great to meet you, Mr. Blackstone! I'm a magician too and I know over 200 hundred tricks!" Harry replied "Wow! I only know those 12 you just saw me do." This echoes the other saying that an amateur magician does many different tricks for the same audiences while a professional does the same tricks for many different audiences. But it's the quality I'm focusing on here, not the number of "bookings" per se (although that obviously is a factor in terms of experience too.) In a different analogy, suppose you and I meet in the parking lot as we're arriving at a golf course. We strike up a conversation, learn that we're both here on vacation, discover that we're both amateurs and we're both looking for a person to share a round with and that we've both been playing golf for 20 years. So we go out on the course and you absolutely wipe the greens with me. Why? We really are both amateurs and we really have both been playing for 20 years. But the thing I missed was that you're from Florida and I'm from Minnesota. So while you've been playing for 20 years, you've been playing for 12 months/year x 20 years whereas I've only been playing for 6 months/year x 20 years. Same number of years, but you actually have TWICE my experience.

    So all we can all do is to enjoy that journey. While there are many similarities en route, it's ultimately unique for all of us.
  4. While I'd known some sense of "success" during my teens one of the most nerve racking moments in my life was at the Magic Castle. I was all of 21, straight out of the midwest and auditioning for membership by doing my Cups & Balls, some Sponge & Card stuff. . .filling in on the committee that night was God himself... Dai Vernon.

    You tell me how you'd feel when faced with such a setting (hahaha)

    I did very good and at the end the Professor actually asked me to do the Cups over again for him. . . I ended up doing the routine three times only to have him shake his head and pat me on the back for being clever. Seems my method for doing the final loads threw him off a bit because it wasn't the typical "elevator" technique and had a novel "flourish" that completely removed the idea that any kind of naughtiness was going on. Needless to say, I may have started off as a frightened rabbit but walked away with the biggest grin and puffed up ego one could imagine.

    We will always come face to face with things of this sort, one evening in Las Vegas the shoe was on the other foot; a young magician full of spit & vinegar saw me doing Readings for people so he began doing "Mind Reading" using a Center Tear and more or less speaking negatively about me. The talent buyer as well as casino management pulled me to the side to ask about things; the kid revealing the CT and claiming that this is what I was doing. I followed with a series of short revelations for the management team that totally dusted their mind (as well as the kids), the kicker is, I actually used a CT as part of the presentation and absolutely no one in the group, including this hot on fire psychic debunker lad, realized such.

    This isn't a boast but rather an example as to how people are in our world that know the technique as well as the nuances around it that make it far more than a "trick" and more importantly (in mentalism) make the technique vanish from the mind. This is a very important part of billet work and why such routines are effective. . . similarly, why it takes DECADES of doing the work, in order to be seamless and clean.

    25+ years ago I went into the Magic Castle as one of the eager kids grumbling about those old curmudgeons that kept correcting me on things. Today I'm one of the curmudgeon that is obliged to do the corrections and encourage the novice to pause here and there, and look at what they do in a way that goes beyond the "trick" -- to think outside the proverbial box, as it were.
  5. I hope I never reach a point in career or ego that I believe I know it all. If I should ever get there- please someone either punch me in the face, or ask me to retire.

    That being said I just recently had the pleasure of sharing the stage with Jeff McBride in Las Vegas at his monthly Wonderground. Having grown up watching Jeff perform on TV I was practically beside myself with nervous excitement. I had everything in check, and had planned it out months in advance.

    1) Magician looking costume - Check.
    2) One set of magic: Run time between 6 and 9 minutes. - Check.
    3) Makeup, script, pacing, and patter. - Check.
    4) All necessary props set up well in advance, and packaged to carry on, and off quickly and easily. - Check.
    5) Music cued, and double backed up on CD-Rom & Thumb Drive. - Check.

    I was ready to roll. I got up on stage, I delivered a performance for an audience of professional names I knew, and others I didn't. I thought I did well enough, until I got off the stage and spoke with a couple magi whose names I knew and held in reverence. No misdirection could spare me, no smoke and mirrors worked in my favor. The minute I took the stage, I was transparent as a sheet of freshly cleaned glass. In what was probably about a 20 minute conversation I got schooled in presentation and character. An experience I'm thankful for, but it did cause me to re-evaluate myself. I know where I came from, I know where I want to be going, I just feel like I'm lost on the path to get there. Sort of not being able to see the forest through the trees kind of deal.

    In short Beans... I've got a hell of a lot of work left to do on myself.
  6. From this point Will, 2 things can happen and you know what I'm talking about. You either do the things mentioned to improve upon yourself or you throw you crap in a drawer forget it. It takes a big person to take constructive criticism and know how to grow professionally. I know which you will choose.

    Your post is very interesting because many of us (myself included) think we are getting up there in the ranks and then we get a rude awakening when something like this happens. It is good for us and keeps us in check.
  7. Mr. Draven -- CONGRATULATIONS!

    You impressed these people enough to inspire them to reach out and give you some pointers -- LISTEN! Suck up all they are willing to share with you and experiment with it.

    I'm an information junkie when it comes to magic and especially when it comes to learning how to improve my presentation. I'm always asking people I know to not have a favored view towards me, to give me a brutal overview to the act they may see me do. I want to hear from them because they aren't "friends" per ce and will not blow hot air up my kilts, they'll call a spade a spade and that is what we all need but rarely seek out.

    There's a handful of you younger guys on this forum and over at E that give me a great deal of hope when it comes to where magic is heading and why. Thanks for being one of them

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