FOUR POINTS: Snow days are bonus days you can use to better your magic

March 2nd, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

FOUR POINTS: Snow days are bonus days you can use to better your magic

Ellusionist is a worldwide company, so we know about the different weather our customers deal with. For North Americans, snowfall has been a problem, especially in the New England area, where Boston has dealt with record amounts. On the other side of the globe, summer has hit particularly hard in Australia, marked by the second-warmest February on record.

Whether it’s extreme cold or extreme heat, what those two things have in common is that you’ll be stuck inside. And maybe that means you get a day off. Classes canceled? Boss tell you to stay home? It’s a surprise extra day that you can use to veg out or catch up on work or a TV show.

Or you could use it for your magic.

A weather-related vacay day gives you the perfect chance to level up your game, and get ready for when the weather is better. And that shared cabin fever between you and your neighbors means the community is primed for your performance. Here’s four suggestions: Read more

FOUR POINTS: Remember these when trying to get media coverage

February 25th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

FOUR POINTS: Remember these when trying to get media coverage

Check out this story about magician Jay Shatnawi, of Windsor, California. It’s a great piece with an amazing photo, a good write-up of his performances at a Petaluma steakhouse and a a ballsy performance for Criss Angel and his “Believe” audience. The Press Democrat isn’t the New York Times, but that doesn’t matter to its readers. It’s a great story about one of their own community members, a rising star with talent to share and a story to tell.

That should raise the question: Why not you?

You live near a newspaper, or TV station. You perform magic. You have a story to tell, and you’d make a great subject for a story! You’re gonna start writing press releases right now, right? Wait, no! Just drive to the TV station! They’ll put you on live instantly!

Slow down. In addition to writing for Ellusionist and a performing close-up magician, I am the features editor for a daily newspaper in the Midwest, and I can tell you exactly what happens to most overly aggressive news seekers. To put it in magician’s terms, there’s a lot of ditching involved.

That doesn’t mean I’m a heartless editor. My position as features editor means I’m a little more accepting and flexible for a variety of stories, because I’m in charge of the sections people WANT to read, not what they NEED to read. I’m always looking for stories about people in our coverage area, and your story may be quite newsworthy.

So you should definitely pursue media coverage, if you think it will benefit you. But you should have reasonable expectations of the reception you’ll get from the media, and what — if any — kind of coverage you’ll get. We could dive into how to write a good press release, how to ask for coverage, etc. — but for now, the best thing to know is a little bit about the media business. I’m happy to share these four points, and hope they help you get good local coverage. Read more

FOUR POINTS: Reasons why practice is just as addictive as performing

February 19th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points

FOUR POINTS: Reasons why practice is just as addictive as performing

Magicians quickly learn that when they dive into magic, they have actually picked up two activites: The art of practicing magic, and the art of performing magic. At Ellusionist, we are musicians, actors, photographers, speakers, athletes, crafters and more. Our staff members do a variety of things that require practice or rehearsal.

But none of those other arts or activities have such a clear separation between practice and performance.

We all know this. It’s why we recognize how the thrill of mastery is completely separate from the thrill of entertaining — but just as addictive. It’s why hobbyists sometimes practice just as hard as pros. It’s why magicians get together in groups and jams more than any other field of art we’ve seen. It’s why we have decks of cards specifically for shows and other decks specifically for practice sessions — and those decks are nicer than the performance ones, aren’t they? (We imagine you’ll keep a healthy stash of Black Kings for yourself, just for that reason.)

Dai Vernon was a relentless rehearser. And even S.W. Erdnase wrote about the thrill of learning:

“The enthusiast will not rest until every sleight in the calendar has been perfectly mastered, so that he may be enabled to nonplus and squelch that particularly obnoxious but ever present individual, who with his smattering of the commoner sleights always knows ‘exactly how it is done.’ Acquiring the art is in itself a most fascinating pastime, and the student will need no further incentive the moment the least progress is made.”

But the WHY behind it is fascinating, and gives us clues about how tightly magic gets tied into our way of life, in such a way that other arts can’t even touch: Read more

Network debut: Adam Wilber, Justin Miller featured in Syfy’s ‘Wizard Wars’

February 12th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General

Network debut: Adam Wilber, Justin Miller featured in Syfys Wizard Wars

Tonight is the night. Two of magic’s boldest performers will appear on one of their biggest stages yet: A prime-time cable network show.

Ellusionist General Manager Adam Wilber and longtime performer Justin Miller team up and compete for $10,000 on the Syfy show “Wizard Wars.” Developed by Rick Lax and Justin Flom, the show gives a “Chopped”-style spin to magic shows: Pairs of magicians must develop magic effects and routines based on mystery objects given to them before the show.

How do Adam and Justin fare? Do they advance past the preliminary round and take on the show’s pros? We have high hopes. But no matter how they finish, Adam said the experience was a blast.

“We were pretty comfortable about the challenge because we set out to make our performance as entertaining and fun as we could with what we were given,” Adam said. “I’m happy with the way it turned out and, most importantly, we had a blast putting it together.”

Both Justin and Adam have reputations for performing fearlessly in a variety of situations. A performer with Ellusionist since the company’s early days, Justin recently completed filming The BOLD Project, which featured one of the craziest, riskiest performances we’ve ever captured on video — and he KILLED. Before Adam’s promotion to general manager, he had cemented his reputation as a worker by performing for anyone, anytime. He is the creator of The Working Man and the author of Creative Magic.

Adam said they were approached by Syfy to appear on the show. After a Skype interview, he was on a plane to Los Angeles for filming, he said.

But those are in close-up, street situations. How did the two interact on a stage, working as a team? Pretty well, Adam said.

“Justin and I are very close friends, so working with him was like second nature,” Adam said. “Two minds make the workload easier, for sure. Justin and I have a similar style of magic, so there was not a lot of teaking that had to be done. It all felt pretty natural.”

The performance went… well, you’ll see. Audience members reacted well, and connected with the two afterward to say how much they enjoyed it. Reaction elsewhere has also been overwhelming, he said. And some of the best performance feedback came from two of the show’s celebrity judges, Penn and Teller.

“It’s always great to get criticism from artists you respect,” Adam said.

“Wizard Wars” airs at 10 p.m. EST Thursdays on Syfy.

DEEPER LOOK: Lock Stock & Riot shows style is filled with possibilities

February 9th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Products

DEEPER LOOK: Lock Stock & Riot shows style is filled with possibilities

Magic and style go hand in hand.

Especially since the start of this new era of street and close-up magic, performers have not been content to wear the tried and true tux-and-tails type of outfit. They instead incorporated parts of their own sense of style into their presentation. David Blaine wore T-shirts in “Street Magic” for a reason: He knew he was going to perform for people in public places, and needed to dress appropriately.

Here’s the best part: Our style can be incorporated into our magic. How many of us say we’re just card guys? How many of us think that the only way to express our magic is through a deck of playing cards?

The best of today’s magicians don’t think that way.

Production director Peter McKinnon didn’t think that way. He kept a leather notebook filled with ideas that he would perform regularly. And he didn’t stick to cards. He used coins, gimmicks and much more for his performances.

DEEPER LOOK: Lock Stock & Riot shows style is filled with possibilities

Some of those ideas were published for the first time to the magic community in Lock Stock & Riot. The six-routine project includes a tie production from the act of taking off a hat (Suit Up) and an intensely visual ring disappearance (Pantheon). Even the card work in Lock Stock & Riot has a wide range, from a pure flourish in Breakdown to a beautiful piece of magic in Pandora.

Lock Stock & Riot reveals P:M at some of his creative best, because he looked around at the things that inspired him and gave them new magical meaning. These are ideas inspired by the things around him, and they likely would have stayed in his notebook if it hadn’t been for prodding from Team E. The video, in addition to teaching six incredible routines, teaches that everything about you can inspire something your spectators will love. What do you see? And what can you do with it?

If you don’t have Lock Stock & Riot, now is your chance. Dive in.