White Magic: My Review

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Scott O.(4), Dec 25, 2013.

  1. Of course you would want to be that person - but that doesn't actually mean you get to be that person. You have to be able to handle the negotiations so that happens and a lot of times a new personality just getting a TV show doesn't have the clout to be able to pull that off. Television and movie producers are not generally very adventurous - they want to sell something they know will sell, which is why we see so many shows and movies that are basically just like every other show and movie out there, but just slightly different.

    This is why it's good to learn the business side of show business. Someone who is super eager to get a show might let the executives pull some crap that a more experienced person wouldn't.
  2. It's a commonly used method in magic - I think you need to hit the books :)
  3. Agree at some extent...

    About all the stooges talk and so...I agree that if you are on television, you are entertaining the people watching tv, not the people in the street with you... I would have used stooges if the effect required it..

    but I feel he could have done a lot more... my father said when watching the show "that guy dynamo is better..." he also said I did some nice tricks that would look great on tv...jejeje... I guess we won´t know what kind of pressure he had from the channel and so... but I still feel it could have been better...

  4. Exactly. I think there was a level of compromise on both sides. Each had to give a little and the result is what we all got to see.

    Either way I say congratulations to Dan on scoring another television special!
  5. Is DB not an example of how much you can do without that kinda stuff though? Wildly successful, and Dan White has personally worked on his show? Is that not enough clout to convince execs to at least give legitimate magic a chance?

    And I just realized one significant reason why stooges are not cool in my book. Because with a stooge, where is the limit? Someone with ZERO experience in magic, and a lot of skill in acting, could go out and perform the most ridiculous mind blowing miracles if he used a stooge. It removes the bar of skill and cunning that is what in my mind, makes a magician a magician.

    If I used a stooge I could go around and do an act where I make a "random spectator's" car blow up with my mind, or go around and act like I could go up to random people and tell them the entire contents of the phone. I mean there is literally no limit to how ridiculous your tricks can be with stooges. It removes the entire bar for deceptive skill, and leaves only room for acting. I watch movies if I want to see staged situations. I watch magic when I want to see legitimate deception.

    ^the above is not my coherent argument, just some thoughts^
  6. The simple answer - no.

    David Blaine is a very special case. David did his first special before the "reality" thing really caught on to what it is today. At that time he did not have the same type of obstacles that he would face today. He did not have to compete with dozens of reality shows, and therefor producers and execs with a similar mindset....at least not like today.

    Fast forward to today and we see David still doing what he does best. He is now able to pull this off due to his past successes. He has that status and know how to make his shows closer to what he personally envisions.
  7. So ... A good job of acting with an accomplice is crap, but a good job of acting with a big box is skill?
  8. If you are referring to a big box as in premade stage illusions, it still took a serious amount of deceptive ingenuity to create the box in question. However no, I do not see magicians that use other magicians stage props (that are 100% self sufficient and require only acting) as having any more skill than someone using stooges or camera editing.
  9. You are probably correct. I simply don't have the experience to know the reality of that situation; my question was not entirely rhetorical.

    However this does not change the sour taste that such "reality" style performances leave in my mouth, and I honestly would be more proud of him had he simply turned down the show in favor of not using stooges.
  10. So it's a slippery slope then? Usually the thing that makes the slippery slope fallacious is that there is no comparative data to show that the dire predictions will come to pass, or if the precedent is already set then the predictions have failed to come to pass despite a great amount of time and opportunity for it to happen. It's not that these conceptions are impossible, just improbable enough to be a Douglas Adams joke.

    Furthermore, the slippery slope in this case breaks down because such a prolific career of stoogery (if that wasn't a word, it is now for the sake of the discussion) invokes an old truism: Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. This is also the fundamental flaw in most conspiracy theories. Take the moon landing for example. Think of how big an undertaking the Apollo Project was. You had not only Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Alan Shepard to keep quiet, but also the thousands of scientists and engineers at NASA who were credited in the project. And assuming it was filmed in a sound stage, you had the director, cinematographer, carpenters, set designers, prop designers, lighting techs and a host of other individuals who would need to be kept quiet. Our modern politicians can't even keep their mistresses a secret. The possibility that in the 1960's the government would be able to orchestrate a conspiracy so massive in scope and under such intense public scrutiny and keep everyone involved quiet long enough for every single one of them to die is laughably infinitesimal.

    So if we had a magician who built his entire career on stooging, he would have to have the most kickass NDAs in the history of law. Think of the sheer number of people who would need to be kept quiet for decades on end. And mind you, this is also in the era of social media where Michael Phelps got sold out by a buddy who snapped a picture of him hitting a bong at a party and Gawker was willing to ****ing pay crack dealers for a video of a Toronto mayor smoking crack just so they could say they broke the story first.

    I will concede however that part of your prediction has already come to pass, the idea of the guy who's low on sleight of hand but high on acting. We call it Uri Geller. What do you think most psychics are? They're magicians who never break character and only do one or two things. They have a couple of different methods for it, but fundamentally it's still the same stuff.

    But what you describe, NSA-style clairvoyance and vehicular pyrotechnics, wouldn't make for a tenable career anyway due to the fact that this is what we refer to as spectacle creep. The bigger the explosion the first time, the bigger the next one has to be. This is what sinks many movie and game franchises and is also one of the problems afflicting the sci-fi/fantasy genre. There's a rant for another time in there, but I'm going to try and stay on point. Where I'm going with this is that such a magician would last a couple of years at best before completely burning out.

    This is why Copperfield had to space out his truly massive illusions like vanishing the Statue of Liberty or walking through the Great Wall of China. If he did them in too quick a succession after one another, he would have to keep topping them year after year until finally he just plain ran out. By spacing them out, he was able to avoid that sense of spectacle creep, that desire to be bigger, faster, more visceral in order to retain people's attention. David Blaine does the same thing.

    On the opposite side of the coin, Criss Angel in having his own episodic series inflicted the spectacle creep problem on himself while simultaneously burning out his best material in the first couple of seasons. He ended up becoming a parody of himself because he didn't pause long enough to let the excitement die down enough that he could keep the spectacle on an even keel.

    All of these problems compound one another to a point where only the most foolhardy narcissists would ever attempt anything like this, and indeed they do. But they come and go so quickly most of us never notice that they were even there in the first place.

    Now in regards to executive interference, I believe Brian has already touched on most of the relevant points. TV is a notoriously conservative medium, especially now that it's hegemony is being challenged by streaming video and DVR. Large networks are so monolithic and unwieldy that the decisions that come down from the top are pretty far divorced from the attitudes among the general viewing public.

    For a quick history lesson, the first reality show as we think of them today was COPS. This was created by hte same producer who gave David Blaine the greenlight. He moonlighted as a manager at a McDonald's to get a feel for what the street-level sentiments were about TV shows at that time. When the writers' strike hit, he came up with the idea of COPS as a way to get some cheap, emergency programming on the air until the strike was settled. It could be shot, chopped, scored and aired in comparatively little time, all the drama was built right in, and it was a novelty that hooked people because these cops weren't idealized sleeping giants like John McLane. They were ordinary working schlubs just trying to keep the peace among the kind of lowlifes that we've all had as neighbors at some point. For the time, it was pretty groundbreaking. It was a documentary-style TV show unlike anything else.

    What happened next is a bit debatable, and I can't weigh in for certain as there are gaps in my knowledge base on this one, but my hypothesis is that MTV saw the success of COPS and decided they wanted a slice of that pie. In creating The Real World, they arguably codified many of the conventions and practices of modern reality TV. Think about it for a second. No one on The Real World could be described even charitably as a stable, functioning human being. They picked the people they believed would be the most likely to incite drama amongst themselves. It was televised schadenfreude. It made the show a hit, and it was also dirt cheap to produce. That's how reality TV still persists. Ratings are still down because of streaming and torrents, but it's so cheap to produce that it can be counted on to reliably turn in a profit.

    And here's where it comes back to executive meddling. Thanks to shows like The Real World, reality TV is anything but. The level of executive interference in these shows is downright Satanic. They lie to the cast in order to stage "comical" "misunderstandings," they deliberately orchestrate bizarre happenstances, edit the crap out of the sequence of events to manufacture drama where none exists, and perhaps most frightening of all will psychologically abuse cast members in order to engineer emotional meltdowns while the camera is rolling. There's obviously more lying and obfuscation, but those are some of the big points.

    Dan White's a nice guy and everything, but he hasn't directly made any network executives enough money to buy their own spaceship powered by cocaine and prostitutes like David Blaine has. David, as Malcolm Gladwell would explain, was an outlier who happened on the right idea in the right place at the right time. He got in before the crap I just described became par for the course in the glut of reality TV and since he has made so many people so much money, he has now become a linchpin. They will let David do what he wants, though they will try to sneak some shady bull**** past him whenever possible, because they know he can be counted on to make them money. Dan does not come with that guarantee.

    Will Draven posted a thread a couple weeks back about awful cliches he's had to deal with from clients up to and including having them suggest last-minute changes to the act under the delusion that they know better than you how to script, block, rehearse and perform a show. I can vouch that this goes all the way down to the bottom tiers where you're lucky to get $100 for a full performance. When you've got 7 or 8 figures of investment on the line, you better believe that they are going to **** with you believing they know better than you how to get a return on investment and what their audiences want.
  11. Steerpike, I concede/agree on every point. I like to use extremes in arguments, and it is not a good habit. So how do you feel about the merit of deceptive vs staged scenarios, and the idea that people go to magic for one and to movies (as an example) for the other?
  12. I believe as long as the participants don't know it's staged, it's fine.

    I don't think you could keep doing magic without learning any skills for long though (as has been said, it is near impossible to maintain this), but someone who spends years studying and practising to be able to achieve an effect may be upstaged by someone who simply gets lucky and has a rare opportunity for magic.

    Obviously, while this is still valid (if not the best kind of) magic, it's hard to sustain as it then can't be followed up with other effects at a later stage which would eventually result in the spectator's realising it was luck.

    That's why I believe a mixture is the best method. Using whatever methods are available to you to create the magic for the audience.
  13. I think you're getting the language of the media crossed. Every medium is consumed by the audience according to the conventions associated with the respective medium. In other words, a book is a book and a movie is a movie. What one does well, the other may not.

    Magic is a form of theater, and thus is capable of moving across several different media provided the performer is capable of making certain changes to his delivery to compensate along the way. Magic is presented differently on TV than on a stage for example. If I were draw a ven diagram with each circle representing a possible medium through which magic can be consumed, the space where they all overlap would be where the performance theory and methodology remains effectively unchanged. One of these elements is acting.

    Now here's where it starts to get interesting. Live magic is different from any other medium in that it offers a degree of interaction with the audience. Not to say that's always the case, but it does offer more than any medium outside of games. The magician on TV or in a film can only interact with the audience by addressing the camera and trying to coax an unknown number of participants into following along with a self-working effect. Max Maven has done this on several occasions. But especially in close-up magic, the performer directly interacts with his audience.

    Conversely, film and TV are far more voyeuristic in nature. We are watching a story unfold from afar. This distance can have the unintended side effect of making it harder for us to care, which is why well-crafted screenwriting tends to use a specific set of tools so consistently. For example, the Refusal of the Call in the Hero's Journey. It's a moment that allows us to take a character that may ultimately be nothing more than a power fantasy and allow us to empathize with them as a person because we can understand the desire to refuse the call to the realm of danger and trials in favor of the safety of our normal lives.

    This alters the dynamics of what the magician can afford to get away with. Stooging is more difficult to pull off in TV because the temptation to misuse it is going to be strong and it also runs into the problem that in a pre-recorded scenario audiences have been conditioned by special effects to always have some form of out. David Blaine understood this better than most. He designed his character around the idea that he was going where the traditional magician wouldn't think to go. Prior to him, most people still considered magic strictly a children's form of entertainment. Tony Corinda even said that there was a common perception that mentalism was just magic for adults. But by breaking down that stereotype, David got people to question their assumptions, which made it easier for him to sneak in the occasional stooge or camera trick if he thought it would make the performance play better on camera. You have to remember, he grew up spending his time with artists and bohemians. He knew the language of TV extremely well before he ever even concocted his pitch.

    On that note, the reason David chose the format for his first special that he did is deceptively simple. Look at the old World's Greatest Magic TV specials. Be honest, most of them suck. They point the camera at the stage, then go off for a snack while the magician does his thing. It's like watching a bootleg of an off-Broadway production. We're being asked to watch theater as if it were TV, but as I illustrated in the first paragraph, they're not the same thing and the producers of the specials had no clue how to make it look good on camera because they weren't artists themselves.

    The essential divide is in the perception of time. Even when we are watching a recording of magic, we feel as though we are watching an event in real-time. Film has conditioned us to feel that we are watching something in the past-tense. These rules are not iron-clad, and truly great artists have always found ways to make exceptions. For example, the filmography of William Castle successfully shattered many of the conventions of film.

    It is not the method of stooging itself that is inherently problematic, it is the misuse of that method. Howard Thurston built one of his signature performance pieces in his Wonder Show of the Universe around an impromptu stooging of a child, but Thurston was also a master showman with a powerful grasp on stagecraft. That is the distinction between a good magician and a bad one.

    Magic and mentalism share the fundamental appeal of wanting to pierce through the veil of the mundane once again. We don't actually care how the performer does it, just so long as he does it well. Film is the voyeuristic feeling of observing drama. In terms of escapism, we watch the trials and triumphs of others to relieve ourselves of our burdens. In more artistic films, we hope that observing the story of another will teach us something. In watching a magician for one of those two motivations, we want the same end result but we accept that it will be delivered to us in a slightly different sort of presentation. To look at it from Joseph Campbell's perspective, the magician is analogous to the supernatural aid in the Hero's Journey or embodies the Jungian archetype of the Magus, the bearer of great, profound secrets who enables us to take in the broader picture of the world around us and everything in it by preserving our love of mystery.

    All this is mind, there really is no fundamental difference between deception and lying as they ultimately accomplish the same end goal. The distinction that you're attempting to draw is arbitrary. It has little to no relation to the medium and honestly comes across mainly as a pretentious effort to avoid having to use the word "lie." To continue the Jungian track, my guess is that you are concerned with falling into one of the two types of the Shadow Magician archetype, the Manipulator moreso than the Innocent Denier. The latter does not want the responsibilities of the Magus archetype, nor does he want anyone else to rise above him. So he uses his knowledge and secrets to sabotage others while also making it appear as if he is not at fault. He hides his envy behind a veneer of false innocence. The former on the other hand does not lack for ambition, but rather than trying to be the bearer of knowledge who helps his fellows, he uses his secret knowledge as a weapon to advance his own goals even at the cost of others. The way you speak of deception as opposed to lying, you see the magus who uses stooges and camera tricks at all of falling into archetype of the Manipulator, which you struggle to avoid becoming yourself. Now I could be totally full of **** on this. I'm just saying that's my impression thus far.
  14. Sorry to come in late on this thread but when I read this line I rolled my eyes in total disgust -- this is an asinine comment in that using "creative editing", CGI, etc. IS NOT MAGIC! Not in the sense of what this craft is about. If you want to do that kind of stuff then go to film school, that's where it belongs but stop mixing it with our craft!

    Again, this is pure ignorance. . . if the public suspects something it is all the more reason to not use it and present only the kind of material you can do in real life, in real time.

    I've already addressed this concept. . . it's ignorant and reeks of being an amateur.

    Again, this thinking reveals an individuals lethargy when it comes to creating a legitimate performance scenario; any jerk with the money can look like a magician using the parameters and permissions you are suggesting and that's nothing but insult to our craft. Why don't we simply show re-runs of Bewitched or I Dream of Jeanie if we're going to say that trick editing and camera stunts are just as legit as someone that's invested hundreds of hours developing their skills or more so, those that drop tens of thousands of dollars on grand-scaled illusions that can be presented live yet, you end up with some punk trying to replicate such effects via CGI, Editing, etc. because they're too damned cheap to do it the right way.

    Henning, Blackstone, Wilson and several others did Magic on Tv that was featured in their touring shows; a "teaser" if you would, that would inspire people to want to see their shows when they came to town. THAT IS WHAT TV MAGIC SHOULD BE ABOUT. But no, we get 40 year old egos that are trying to act 25 who end up in Vegas and unable to do a real show that meets the public's expectations because the helicopter won't fit in the show room. . . he can't support enough stooges . . . and he seems to not be able to deal with angle situations. . .

    If you are going to be a "Magician" then learn how to do magic and leave the video based elements out of it; BE A MAGICIAN! Aspire to have the kind of reputation the yesteryear masters had, such as John Calvert and Blackstone, Sr. were known for (being able to do a 100% impromptu show using little more than some borrowed hanks, a deck of cards and a bit of rope.

    As to the actual Review given on this program. . . well, there are some legit ways to do certain of the things you describe but give your knowledge base, I will accept your call. It disgusts me that someone that wants to build a name for themselves in this industry would choose to not use a legit "real time" approach and actual skills. . . the Book routine is legit but he left out a part of the effect, you can find it in Ted Lesley's PARAMIRACLES but it's an effect that's been around a very long time. My problem comes with the faux Muscle Reading; I know Criss what's his face did the same kind of bit a year or two back and he has no excuse given his ties to Banachek, but at the same time CMR is simply too easy to learn and there is no excuse outside of laziness, to not develop it. But then we have a bigger rub in this situation -- mixing Magic with Mentalism . . . it's not a good thing!

    Pardon the rant but as everyone knows, it's not wise to poke at an old grumpy bear. . .
  15. Scott, the deeper I've gotten into this thread and some of the alternative views on the show the more I think you need to open your horizons a bit; you are very opinionated but without basis. This statement is a great example in that multiple outs typically give you the miraculous and too, there is that old saying of "What if the String Breaks?" what do you do? If you aren't prepared to step up to the plate and cover your butt, you loose. Having an "out" is one of the things that separate the wannabes from the working pros.

    I've been involved with magic for almost 50 years now, professional for 40 of those those years. I'm more than familiar with grand illusion as well as mentalism and I can assure you, after looking at some of the footage, that there are legit ways for doing most everything in the show. I'm not saying he used those methods, but I'll given him benefit of the doubt.

    Your critique seems to be slanted by personal bias (opinion). . . the Post Card routine can and has been done in a number of ways and yes, there is a big part of the bit that you didn't see a.k.a. the set-up. If I'm not mistaken a version of this routine is also in the book PARAMIRACLES that I mentioned in my previous post.

    Many years ago I worked for a martial arts dojo owned by Frank Dux, my job was to teach people stealth techniques and how to obfuscate their presence. One of the strongest lessons I taught was how to vanish in broad daylight. . . it's actually simpler than you might think in that the typical human body requires less than 12 inches of space to be concealed. Even with my big belly I can hide behind a telephone pole so someone that's in shape and not yet plagued by age & gravity should have an even easier time concealing themselves and with the right misdirection, make an appearance.

    Is it "practical"?

    Depends on context, sometimes such a stunt could be very practical in that it generates word of mouth/intrigue; it's reputation building.

    I'd strongly suggest that you expand your personal library a bit when it comes to understanding some of the things you think were camera tricks, stooges or "impractical". Though you're entitled to your assumptions (opinions) I think a lot of it stems from not having studied certain aspects of the craft. I'd encourage you to get the Ted Lesley book that I've mentioned as well as Gary Darwin's Book of Inexpensive Illusions in that I think you've find some answers in there when it comes to things like the appearance (which I strongly believe used an element of Harary's PERSPECTIVE system, to be honest with you).

    I still hold to my rant above but I also owe it to Dan and everyone here, to point you towards some resources that can answer your questions. One last thing to understand is "pre show" and the fact that the production simply cannot allow for the time involved with such things. Many years ago I did Card Thru Window at the Marina Casino, a tall tower like building with a rotating club at the top. I accomplished this in real time due to the pre-show arrangements I'd made the day before with the window washer. . . so yes, the card on street sign can be very legit in that people don't see things most of the time, until you point them out.
  16. To expand a bit on what Craig was saying about how easy it is to hide and 'appear' even in broad daylight - a personal story.

    I worked at a haunted house this past October playing a Jack the Ripper character. I had a very simple scene which was basically a hallway that turned slightly to the right halfway through. Not a major turn, maybe 5 degrees. Just enough to conceal a small doorway in which I stood. I cannot tell you the number of people who thought I simply appeared out of thin air when all I did was take one small step forward when they weren't looking. That haunt saw about ... well, I know one day we got 10,000 people and we were open for 20 days. At least 90% of people were surprised by my "appearance" and of those, I got at least a half dozen people a night specifically saying, "He came from nowhere! Are you a magician!?" Which always gave me a chuckle.

    Knowing where to stand, and when to step into view is an incredibly practical method of producing oneself.
  17. Perhaps we have different definitions of what magic is. I personally don't think it's limited to effects achieved using sleight of hand/practised skill over many years. In most cases traditionally it is, and must be practised and honed, but not in all.

    Whatever personal opinion I have of TV Magic and magic done with camera tricks etc., it is still magic. It provokes wonder in the audience - it's not my place to judge it as not being magic when it achieves the goal.

    And if it doesn't provoke wonder (because edits etc. are suspected or similar), then it's bad magic. Then it's like doing a terrible double-lift and the audience clearly sees the two cards. That's why I think it's best to use whatever methods work best within your chosen medium and mix them well to be deceptive enough to achieve the desired outcome.

    I think you're limiting magic to a very specific style/medium. I've seen magic in many aspects of life and across many mediums. Films, music, theater, technology; none are less valid than traditional, straight-up magic effects.

    The "craft" of magic is a much wider spectrum and I don't think we should be imposing limits on it. I don't think that's ignorance.
  18. I Was very Exited to Watch this show because of my love for some the tricks Mr. White Has taught, but I was very disappointed with the show itself. Really Hope it Gets better.

  19. Magic is not CGI. It is not editing. It is slight of hand. It is large stage illusions. It's not Avatar or the Matrix. It's not Clapton's greatest hits or Mozart's fifth. It's not the working of a smart phone or a TD52 steam trap.
  20. Are playing cards only for poker and black jack and are coins only for spending or collecting?

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