New to the Forum, any advise?

All beginners in magic should address their questions here.

Postby Guest » 03/12/07 09:02 PM

I'm thrilled to have found this forum. I have been dabbeling (by dabbeling I mean obsessing)with magic for a couple of years now. It has become my number one hobby.

I started out with Now you see it, now you don't! by Bill Tarr. I found that the illustrations were great, and the instructions were reasonable to understand.

Since then I have read several books by a myriad of distinguished magicians, and have devoured several videos. Some things come very easy to me, while some things are like pulling my own teeth without novacaine.

For instance, I have put hundreds of hours into working on the basic pass, and have barely begun to be even mildly proficient at it. I started mostly with cards, and then coins, and have worked alot on magic with everyday objects. I work around kids in an impromptu environment alot, so these things have served me well.

I would like to branch out a bit more into some basic stage effects, and perhaps some of the more fantastical magic. Most of all I would like to become more "well-rounded" as a magician. I am a decent performer, but have a tough time with routining and transitions. Are there any standout resources that cover this area?

Also,I would like to start looking into performing professionally, but I have little or no knowlege of the business end of Magic? Where do you begin? How do you market yourself? Is it possible to range from kids shows, to cabaret and parlor, to stage shows all at the same time?

My exposure to the world of magic has been minimal, so I feel at a slight disadvantage. Any advise from working professionals would be greatly appreciated.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/13/07 08:57 AM

Hi, CrazyJ, and welcome to the Forum.

You may have noticed that your post has not generated any replies, and one of the reasons may be that it was all in one enormous block of text. I've taken the liberty of inserting paragraph returns to break it up.

Now, I hope some Forum members will answer a few of your questions.

I would suggest that you go to a few magic conventions and meet other magicians. The closest to you this year is the IBM convention in late June in Reno, Nevada.
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Postby Guest » 03/13/07 09:07 AM

Thanks Richard. I hope I can learn enough about the protocols of the forum to be competent. DO you know of any local clubs or organizations for magicians in the Seattle area?
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Postby Guest » 03/13/07 09:24 AM

CrazyJ,

You wrote: ". . .I am a decent performer, but have a tough time with routining and transitions. Are there any standout resources that cover this area? . . ."

There are several such resources and I want to mention one of them to you. It is called "Designing Miracles -- Creating the Illusion Of Impossibility." This book is unique in articulating subtle elements of routine construction that distinguish magic from other performance crafts. By the same author is "Strong Magic," an excellent guide to presentation. Google them.

Happy magic-ing
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/13/07 10:52 AM

For instance, I have put hundreds of hours into working on the basic pass, and have barely begun to be even mildly proficient at it.
The problem with the pass is that it is easy to get too focused on the action and on the hands while practicing it - and doing it like that in performance is not always the best way. Remember the whole body during the practice. Find the off-beat, and do it in the transition from tension to relaxation.
Best moment to do it is when no one is looking - and those moments comes more frequent than what you would expect, if you just keep an eye open for them.

Try to practice the pass cold as well - meaning, do the pass instantly each time you pick up the deck.

I am a decent performer, but have a tough time with routining and transitions. Are there any standout resources that cover this area?
"Impro for Storytellers" by Keith Johnstone is a good start.

You will gain from thinking in plots and subplots. This perhaps sound difficult - but only until you see that everything is a story. That no presentation also is a presentation, and that you as a performer is a part of the plot.

Meaning - someone who does card tricks with no thought to presentation at all... that is the story of "Suddenly this weird guy turned up and interrupted our meal for no reason, and did card tricks until we asked him to go away".

That is a plot, no matter whether you think it is a good plot or a bad plot. Everything that happens is a part of the plot.

You can work from both ends. Easiest is to make a list of the tricks you want to do, then weave them together.

For example: Let's say you want to do a thing with coins, then something with a silk and then something with a newspaper. Three separate numbers without any internal connection.

A simple weave is to introduce the newspaper as early as possible - so its presence is established at the time you do an effect with it. Anything works - it can be placed on the floor beforehand, as litter, causing you to be slightly annoyed when discovering it. Or it can be a wrapper for the silk, or something else...
..so that feels familiar and logical when you later return to it.

Then, try to feed back what you've already done in the following pieces. If the coins vanished at the end of the coin trick - let them appear again in a later piece, weaving the first trick together with a later one. You don't have to think about motivation yet, just try to weave the tricks together. Establish before, and feed it back afterwards.

If you are familiar with graphics - view your act as a photoshop composition. A tiny stroke or touch on each layer. Each layer on its own might seem unimportant, weak or primitive - but with all added together, the result can be spectacular.

Then, bring yourself into the composition, your emotions and reactions. You are human, right - make use of that. Bring the whole bag of feelings into it - fall in love with someone in the audience (openly or while trying to hide it), try to impress her, notice the guy beside her, jealosy - try to make your rival look bad. Fail, sadness, find comfort in your art - end happy.
Bring phobias into it. Or do something against your will, while pretending that you enjoy it.

Conflict - resolution. Both in the small aspects and in the big. You struggle to find a card - and the sound engineer hates you, and put the wrong music on everything, and you must keep face; Struggling to find the card, while dancing Lambada against your will.

Contrasts. Slow/fast. Happy/sad. Easy/advanced.. anything works.

Then, try to adjust the methods to take advantage of your reactions and feelings. You slam your fist against the table in anger? Well, load something there. Etc.

Small steps, small additions and small changes. Many small layers - and the result will appear as something well thought out and complex.

Remember the whole body. Many are magicians only from the waist upwards. That might work in close-up, but not on stage. As Bob Read said "Good magic begin in the feet".

I know - this is fragmented advice. Still..

Also,I would like to start looking into performing professionally,
First of all, your plans must involve the paperwork. The more you love paperwork, forms and such things - the easier it will be. The business side is extremely important. If you don't have any love for the business side - find someone to handle it for you. I myself dislike those things, and everything is difficult because of my lack of interest.

Then, it's mainly a matter of getting exposure. If you are good, you will always have work, as long as you get exposure now and then.
Track down all kinds of "Open Stage"-shows, all amateur theatres (they often have small shows with odd artists), student organisations, local TV. Make sure that your name is mentioned everywhere you participate - to be advertised as simply "a magician" does you no good.

Well, I hope that you find anything useful in these ramblings. Trust your instincts though. Every single word I've said might be wrong, from your perspective. You make your own rules.
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Postby Guest » 03/13/07 12:59 PM

The theory part from Card College 2 will teach you a lot about routining and building a performance.

Best,
Chris....
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Postby CardFan » 03/13/07 01:17 PM

Thanks, Tom! That was great.
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Postby Guest » 03/13/07 04:44 PM

Thats Great Advise Tom! Thanks so much.

I have watched several Videos of magicians who looked like they were great at routining, but I think I will likely get more from the written material.

One of the difficulties, and perhaps one of the best aspects of the area in which I live is that there very, very few working magicians in my town. I have never heard of a resturaunt performer nearby, and only once or twice a year do I hear of a magician performing in the immediate area.

The downside of this is that in getting started professionally I will be "plowing unbroken soil". And the upside is I will be "plowing unbroken soil".

I am currently in the process of researching possible venues. Right now the best place to start seems to be in schools.
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Postby Guest » 03/13/07 09:11 PM

Forgive me, but I'm always a bit bothered when someone with minimal time in magic decides that they want to go out and start performing professionally.

Truly, my favorite quote pops up again, "The confidence of the amateur is the envy of the professional."

Before you think you're qualified to charge money you need to become educated in the history and theory of your chosen field. Then you have to decide what sort of market you want to work because each market has different requirements and skill sets.

If you've just discovered Genii magazine, I would observe that you have a ways to go in your education before you start charging for a performance. I'm not trying to beat you up or pick on you, but to instill some respect for those of us who have been in the business a long time and do make a living out of it.
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Postby NCMarsh » 03/14/07 12:06 AM

Crazy J,

Let me second what David Alexander has said above. I have only performed professionally for less than four years, and what I don't know about magic would fill libraries. That said, prior to ever thinking of charging a dime for my magic, I spent ten years as an amateur studying magic.

David hits on the most important reasons to crawl before you try to fly...but let me add this:

being an amateur magician is a lot of fun!

Jump into the world of magic for money without a foundation and you not only run a high likelihood of embarassing yourself and reducing the perception of magic in the culture...

You lose the time when magic is just about fun and excitement!

Now is the time to learn about magic, to find out what you enjoy, to see what works and what doesn't before there is any pressure...

Enjoy it!

Right now, the time I spend on magic is spent performing, building my business, and refining my act. I greatly enjoy all of those activities, and wouldn't do this if I didn't. But...

with the demands that magic as business puts on my time and energy, it is rare that I have the chance to "play" with magic just for the fun of it. And I miss that.

If a magic trick isn't something that I can use professionally, I don't get to explore it much. I don't get to choose tricks on the basis of how much I enjoy them, or how clever they are, I have to choose the material that fits the needs of my audience and my venue.

When I am feeling frustrated with business -- maybe I've had a slow month or I didn't close a contract that I thought I had -- I will spend a few hours by the river near where I live with a magic book that is full of enjoyable material that I strongly suspect I will never perform professionally. I give myself a break to read and practice magic for the sheer pleasure of it.

I come away relaxed, refreshed, and re-energized. It reconnects me with the enthusiasm and excitement that I had for magic when I was an amateur.

I think that a mature professional performer needs a "magical childhood" at the begining in the same way that a healthy adult needs to have had a childhood.

You need a time when you are free to make mistakes. You need a time when learning your craft is just about having fun.

Point Two

Becoming a professional magician is a serious decision, and it needs to be an informed decision.

You need to know what you're getting into. If you don't enjoy this job, you will be miserable.

Many young amateur magicians look at the fees that top professionals get and fantasize about an easy and glamorous life.

The reality is that full-time professional magic is a difficult and uncertain business, even at the highest levels (cf. what happened to many successful performers in the immediate aftermath of 9/11). You need to be as prepared as you can be!

Best,

N.
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/14/07 05:14 AM

David Alexander wrote:
Before you think you're qualified to charge money you need to become educated in the history and theory of your chosen field. Then you have to decide what sort of market you want to work because each market has different requirements and skill sets.
I don't think it is the money of the professional that is the attraction here - but rather the venues of the professional. :-)
I think it is about enthusiasm - who else but a professional can live magic, breath magic and perform magic all the time?

CrazyJ - go for it! Get exposure and experience. Do good magic. Charge nothing, just do it. Work at the parties your relatives and neighbours arrange. Charge nothing - if you are good, someone will slip a few bills into your pocket afterwards. If that happens, save and keep those bills separate from your "private" money. In a shoe box or something.

If you're good - the rumours will do the "marketing" for you.
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Postby Guest » 03/14/07 07:33 AM

save and keep those bills separate from your "private" money. In a shoe box or something.
Tom, your advice so far was excellent, but please don't tell people to put money in a shoe box. Please put it somewhere where you get interest. Even Paypal has an option to have your balance in a money market fund which gives about 5% interest. Even if it is only a little. Soon it will be a little more.

Best,
Chris....
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/14/07 10:18 AM

Chris Wasshuber wrote:
please don't tell people to put money in a shoe box. Please put it somewhere where you get interest.
Of course, if you mean profit, that's the way to go. I mean learning to avoid the temptation to mix "magic" money and private money - and to practice that, it is easier if you actually have them where you can see them.

An example: It's been a slow month, and 2 gigs have been cancelled. The sum of the rent and other bills are more than what you've earned. But on your bank account you have enough to "save" the month - it's just that the money on the account are meant for taxes etc. It's sooo easy to be tempted to "borrow" from that account to get out of trouble - but... as soon as you do that, you are doomed.

Can you suggest a better way to practice resisting the temptation to mix money, than starting in the small scale as early as possible?
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Postby Guest » 03/14/07 10:39 AM

Tom,

Profit and 'learning to not mix money' do not need to be mutual exclusive. My suggestion is to open a new account that you only use for magic. Many banks, at least here in the US, even give you a bonus when you do so, say $5 in the account or some other perk.

Or maybe even better start a new paypal account with a special email address that you use only for magic. You could then use the money you earn from your magic to directly pay for magic stuff online (of course ebooks from Lybrary.com would be a fantastic way to spend your money :-)

Such a Paypal account is separate enough from your other assets, carries interest and is available whenever you need it.

Best,
Chris....
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/14/07 01:23 PM

Chris Wasshuber wrote:
My suggestion is to open a new account that you only use for magic.
That would work as well.

Chris, what can the shoe box be used for instead? :)
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Postby Guest » 03/14/07 04:06 PM

Nathan makes good points. One other is that a large portion of magic that is published and sold simply isn't useful from professional work, no matter what the ads may claim. Knowing what is and what isn't takes lots and lots of time to learn, unless you become extremely lucky and find a mentor, as I did many years ago.

The difficult thing about professional magic is that, generally, the budding pro is on his or her own to learn and develop their act. It is one of the more difficult tasks in show business.
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Postby Guest » 03/14/07 04:55 PM

Once again thanks for the great advise all! This is the kind of interaction that I have needed.

I feel I should let you all know a little more about myself and my limited background in magic. I developed an interest in Magic due to another involvement in my life. I am a childrens minister, and have been for about 4 years. A couple of years ago I was invited to go to a church in Baltimore, where I met another childrens minister by the name of LLoyd Squires. He took my to a small magic shop where we had a ball for about 3 hours looking at all of the tricks, props and gimmicks, and discussing their application to childrens ministries. I went home with the penny to dime, a d-light set, some sponge balls, and a thumb tip.

That experience took me back to when I was a kid and a group of jugglers and magicians came to my school and amazed me. I have always watched the magic specials that occasionally show up on TV, but after that day in the magic shop I realized that magic could be a powerful tool in the area of my calling.

Since then I have become obsessed. I practice at least a couple of hours per day with the limited supplies I have. (thus the interest in sleight of hand with regular objects). I read every article I can, and aquire new knolege whenever possible.

I have used many effects in my m inistry, and I have found that magic provides and INSTANT rapport with most kids. I always carry a few Items around in my pockets to "play" with kids wherever I go, whether it be in a restaurant, the store, or at my church. I have adapted many of the effects I have learned into a tool for teaching. Last Easter I did a 20 minute routine about the miricles of Jesus using sponge balls, a lotta bowl, a torn and restored heart, and the Zombie ball. I use the penny to dime to teach on the spot one on one lessons about personal value.

I LOVE working with kids. But I also love the grander type of magic designed towards other audiences. The Idea of doind magic and ministry for a living is a dream I desperately want to see come true. I I don't want to limit myself strictly to churches. I want to avoid being a one trick pony.

Objectively, perhaps it is too early to seriously consider Magic as a full time career. I would hate to reflect badly on an industry that I have come to love so dearly. But I will continue to work diligently toward realizing my dream. Once again thanks to all.

P.S. What are some of the best effects you know for kids?
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Postby Guest » 03/14/07 07:48 PM

Interesting that you list your occupation as "Children's entertainer," not "children's minister."
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/14/07 09:14 PM

There's a lot of already established Gospel magic out there from folks like Dwayne Laughlin that you might find helpful in your work.
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Postby Guest » 03/14/07 09:21 PM

David
(sheepish reply) Sorry. I didn't want to cause confusion. I have found in todays world it is sometimes best to take a cautious initial approach to avoid any preconcieved notions as to who I am. Sometimes beginning "vague" as to certain things allows people to make a more objective judgement.
PLease dont assume that this means that I am in any way ashamed to be a childrens mnister. I will fight tooth and nail with anyone who will trivialize the importance of kids. They get alot less credit than they are due. Especially in the realm of ministry.
In short, I intend to update my profile directly. Thank you.
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Postby Guest » 03/14/07 09:27 PM

Richard
Are you aware of any videos of Mr Laughlin?

I can find alot of his tricks, but most of them are stories with cards and paper, and lack the visual punch I would really like to see. I like tactile magic.

I'm sure there is more to Mr Laughlin though, and I would love to find a video of a performance of his.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/14/07 10:10 PM

Dwayne has many DVDs on the market. Not quite sure how to locate them. Have you tried Google?
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Postby NCMarsh » 03/14/07 10:12 PM

CrazyJ,

Thanks for offering the broader context, it helps tremendously.

As for children and magic, David Kaye's Seriously Silly is an amazing book. He writes with tremendous clarity about how children perceive magic and how to adapt your work to the very different needs of different ages.

It is available here from our host.

Best Wishes,

N.
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Postby Tom Stone » 03/15/07 05:44 AM

It's true - David Kaye is well worth listening to. I have not read the book (yet), but his lecture is among the best lectures I've ever seen... and I'm not even interested in doing kid shows.
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Postby Guest » 03/15/07 03:36 PM

I have seen this book on my many wanderings through the 120 or so magic sites on my favirites list. While the price is no doubt worth it, my dad raised a bit of a cheapskate. I think I will buy it, I just need to get over my spendophobia. I wonder if there is a companion video??
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Postby mics74 » 04/20/08 12:09 PM

I think the book is great and i've given it as a gift to my other friends who do magic too.
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