Making it hard to believe...

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Morgan B, Sep 22, 2008.

  1. I am shaping a thought through my writing...because I realized something has changed.

    I am not completely sure of what it is, but magic on TV is not creating the same feeling for people. I am not sure if it’s the fact that the bar has been raised time and time again until magicians can no longer help but to jump below it, or if it is the computer savvy youth that can find the solutions within minutes of seeing it on TV.

    Perhaps…perhaps, it is the fact that magic on TV has been dismissed because of computer technology and animation - – as a perfect example of what I am writing about.

    Criss Angel has done SO much for magic, but has he also hurt magic a little? I am not knocking Angel, for he is only doing what we all dream of on a large scale – he has made a living doing what he loves. He seems like a really nice guy and it is wonderful to have magic with a big spotlight on it, as it can help us all.

    However, the basic elements to making an effect on TV truly magical don’t seem to exist any more. Not so “Random spectators” witnessing these miracles as a replacement for witnessing them ourselves – but let us be honest you can’t fake true reactions to something of this nature. I find these reactions like a women faking an orgasm – many men will be fooled by it…some won’t…but either way, you aren’t doing anyone a favor, as it is an embarrassment for both parties. I CRINGE watching the specials where they approach random people on the streets to see there poor acting jobs. Is Angel the first to use stooges or have the TV audience in on the magic? Nope, but he may be the first to try to sell their poor acting skills as a convincer to the legitimacy of the effect. I think many see right through this – and it really destroys the integrity of the TV magician. Now when they do see something that could have been done just as well live they will dismiss it as “those people are in on it”.

    For example, David Copperfield would spend much of the special convincing only those that mattered – YOU the home viewer – about the key elements to make what you are about to see impossible…rather than wasting our time hearing solely about the training, how hard it was, why he wanted to do this amazing feat, or how upset his mom was he is risking his life again. Copperfield might spend some times on those elements, but it wasn’t the primary goal, as he always focused on creating an emotional hook about the feat…not just about him. He would relate to the people about the topic, and the topic wasn’t about his life. Also, he would establish the criteria to make what you were about to see more amazing.

    Another thing I noticed – As of late TV magic feels a need to make magic visual. In the past, others wouldn’t, unless the method could withstand it (Copperfield floating illusion, for example). Is one better than another? Not for me to say, but I did notice that the walk on water Angel effect smelled fishy…and not just because there were fish around. It had that feeling of fake, too much editing. Copperfield, as our continuous example of dichotomy, walked through the Great Wall of China -– but used a veil to imply he was going through the wall – like a shadow box effect. When I was young, I didn’t think camera tricks – but I did imagine over and over again how it was possible, with no solution – where I see Angel, and I find it leaves no room for wonder. Like Copperfield says – Before there can be wonders, there must be wonder. So…in a way, I find this is the weakness to visual magic, as visual magic only creates curiosity, but not wonder as much. I just realized this appears like a Copperfield VS Angel essay – but if you believe that, then you have missed the point and should stop reading.

    Here is the thing – I am no stage magician nor have I ever done magic on TV. I can’t imagine how hard it is for Angel to put so many shows together with different themes and stunts – I just am writing about my feelings of where TV magic has gone and going from an observer stand point. As hard as it must be for Angel, I often wonder if less is more. If Angel thinks about things like the Too Perfect Theory and the value of creating wonder instead of just creating reactions. Is he building towards something better, or just building?

    What can we really do? Well, I think we should hold ourselves to that standard, before we command it of others. I am constantly doing my part to create magic that creates wonder, not just a momentary reaction. Often we can get the two confused, especially when we see a successful magician doing just that; nevertheless, it is a personal choice. Do you want to have your magic remembered in a way that jus thinking about it as a memory creates that feeling of wonder again, or do you want people to freak out until they become preoccupied with something else? If the feeling of magic is a gift, how long do you want them to have it? Now ask – are you willing to make the change in your magic to make that happen? We have an advantage – we don’t have to fool the unblinking eye of the camera – so we have options.

    I digress, while remaining on topic – so I guess this is the part I open it up for chat? So, what bothers you about TV magic? What bothers you about close up magic? What are you doing to make sure it doesn’t happen to your magic?

    Hope you enjoyed the read – cheers.
  2. That was a great post, you've raised some very interesting points.

    I think the problem with stunts such as walking on water (and excessively visual magic in general) is that they leave nothing to the imagination. I'm sure everybody has heard variations of the quote 'Magic happens in the mind of the spectator'. Visual magic leaves nothing for the spectator to think about.

    For example, if you do a colour change such as Shapeshifer it will probably shock your spectator but it probably won't leave any lasting impression on them. If anybody gives it any thought they'll quickly realise it the card was somehow flipped around. However, if you do a Top change (or any other switch) then it the spectator will probably give it a lot more thought, they may be thinking did he switch it?.. He couldn't have.. I was looking at it the whole time, Was it magic?

    When people see something such as walking on water they are immediately forced to either accept it as magic or reject it as camera tricks whereas the David Copperfield effect you mentioned, while still being an incredbile piece of magic, is a bit more subtle and plausible and leaves more options open to the spectator and gives them more to think about.

    I'd recommend that people have both visual and none visual magic in their routines. Visual magic is undoubtedly entertaining but after a while it can almost seem like your just showing off.

    I have no idea if there's any truth in what i've said, it's just a few thoughts.
  3. Thanks Squ!rrel,

    Actually, I use that example all the time top change vs Shapeshifter (actually the Pirouette change) and I think that both have their place, but there are reasons to use one over the other and I think your post sums it up pretty well - although, not sure if I agree with the "showing off" part of visual magic - so let's void that and I will ask, as I was by Fisher - when would you use a visual phase versus an implied phase?

    I have my thoughts - but I wonder how every here feels about it. Good post dude!
  4. Another interesting question and a far more difficult one in my opinion.

    If we assume what I said has some truth in it and the power of an implied effect comes from the thought given to it by the spectator then I would believe implied effect will be at it's most powerful when you have your spectators full attention.

    I'm sure many of us would like to believe that spectators care a lot about magic and give it a lot of thought. Unfortunatley I don't think this is always true. In many situations you may not have their complete attention for various reasons. For example, a noisy setting with lots going on making it difficult for them to concentrate on the effect. If this is the case then they won't really be thinking about all the additional questions raised by an implied effect so the extra power or 'shock value' or a visual effect may be more appropriate.

    I'm not suggesting that an implied effect can't be done without complete attention but some of it's power may be lost.

    I think visual effects are more powerful in more casual settings and as openers and implied effects are more powerful later in your routine when the spectator is prepared to give it more thought. Of course I wouldn't suggest that you shouldn't do visual effects at all later in a routine but you could perhaps adjust the ratio of implied effects to visual effects at various points in your routine.
  5. I think that a big problem is that allot of magicians have forgot what a magician is, an entertainer who is here to make people smile have fun and just have a good time.

    An effect should not only be impossible but also entertaining.

    Watching Criss Angel talk about that no other magician have had as many viewers as his Walk on water clip has had and how no magician has done anything like it and how hard it is is not entertaining.

    Some impossible effects are not that entertaining really, i watched criss angel on tv with some friends awhile ago when he was walking on water, and they were like, "Yeah right"
  6. Great questions. Sorry for such a long post, but you have touched on something I have been thinking about myself recently. This is not my all inclusive thought but some thoughts that have been at the forefront.

    What I find interesting about the newest season of Mindfreak is that Criss seems to be spending an unusually large amount of time explaining that "What you see on TV is what you get in real life". Isn't that the purpose of magic? To create something so special, so unbelievable, that there is no other explanation? What you see is what you get. Criss’ presentations have become so outlandish that they leave no other explanation other than camera tricks, stooges, etc. He has been great at bringing magic to the public eye, but the problem is he has created an expectation for new material. I think that if he did what Blaine does (maybe 1 special/yr) his shows would be very strong. Right now with his constant need for new material he has to resort to showing effects that aren't as strong and/or are not plausible.

    I think in order for an effect to work there has to be a certain credibility as to what has happened, or the audience will simply right it off to whatever idea they can come up with that would semi-explain how an effect was done. The audience has to believe that something can happen in order for them to truly believe that something has happened.

    I think Criss has crossed that boundry but doesn't know how to return as the pressure to create is so strong. This weakens his show in my opinion.

    As far as other magic is concerned I feel there is a lot to be changed. First, I think that Youtube has opened up a whole new generation of "magicians" who learn an effect in 5-minutes and up-load it to show the world how great they are without truly understanding the performance aspect of what they are performing. This kills the effect through flashing, exposure, and in general makes us all look like a bunch of babbling buffoons trying to sneak one past the spectator without getting caught. A bunch of Video Conmen destroying the art.

    2. I feel that quality has been replaced by quantity. People are so caught up in learning the "next new big thing" that they forget about the "current big thing" and all the previous "big things" in their closet. It almost seems as if being good is a counter thought to knowing more. "The more I know, the better I'll be." seems to be the common theme, when in fact it is the complete opposite. Magicians need to spend more time perfecting what they know, so when they perform it, their skills will shine.

    3. Copy Cats. As with anything there will always be copycats that mirror exactly what someone else is doing. Criss Angel has them, David Blaine has them. It is unavoidable. The problem is this caps the creativity of the performer. "<insert magician here> doesn't do that, so it sucks!" is the common theme. Not only is it a problem with copying a magician, but some don’t necessarily copy a single performer. They have to do the effect exactly as it was taught. They don't even perform it with the sleights they are comfortable doing. This makes it suspicious to the spectator if all of a sudden the way you handle the cards is different than the way you handled them two effects ago. I think that a magician needs to learn how to perform an effect for themselves, in their own way. The magic needs to be adapted to them, they don't need to adapt to the magic.

    4. There is no accountability. Nobody wants to hold someone else accountable for what they do. To me a poor performance is the same thing as exposure as typically you expose the effect through your mistakes. We all make mistakes, but to blatantly consider yourself a magician without putting the time in is a slap in the face to those who have busted their butt to gain even the slightest skill. Anyone can join SAM or IBM. There is no performance or knowledge requirement, you don't even have to be a practicing magician. Even the Magic Castle will waive the performance standard if you belong to SAM or IBM and live out of the area, so how does that create an acceptable standard. If I call myself a doctor and want perform surgery on someone I would have to go through a rigorous training program (med school) and study under other doctors (internship) before they would let me touch the patient. I understand that this isn't realistic in regards to being a magician, but the underlying theory stands. There should be some sort of standard. We as magicians should hold others accountable for their actions. We need to create the standards that others want to aspire to.

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