Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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

Thursday, February 12th, 2015


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.

Marked Dealers marked a new era for this card-reading utility

Monday, February 2nd, 2015


Marked Dealers marked a new era for this card reading utility

Madison Dealers, especially the first Erdnase Green version, are filled with advantages for the skilled card handler. The full-bleed back is reminiscent of the Bee decks long favored by sharps. The stock, discovered and tested by Daniel Madison at great lengths, is one of the finest we’ve found and provides superior strength and handling. And the shade of green is exactly the same as the first edition of S.W. Erdnase’s bible of card handling, “The Expert at the Card Table.”

But the biggest advantage is hidden in plain sight.

Dealers are marked, after all. Each card back clearly identifies what’s on the other side, as long as the secret markings are understood by the handler. It’s a TREMENDOUS advantage, whether the sharp is at a high-stakes, back-room table or in front of an audience.

But the Madison Dealers started something at Ellusionist. Consider these points about the marking system:

  • • It’s something that DM wanted for the price of a regular deck of cards. Before the Dealers, a working set of marked cards could cost $20 to $30, or even more. Handmade decks might have flaws that threatened the deception of the utility. But having a marked deck emerge for the price of a regular custom deck is, quite simply, a game changer.
  • • The philosophy is so powerful that it has been included in other decks. The Kings featured a new, unique marking system, and the 1800 Vintage decks were redesigned to include a marking system. In other words,
  • • The system behind the Dealers remains one of the strongest on the market, because of its minimal alterations. Consider a marked deck one would obtain from a big-box retail store. Those usually have a back that features obvious clock designs, with one “wheel” for suits and another for values. That means there are 15 to 17 points where alterations may be made. Alterations to regular Rider backs reduce that number of points to 9 or 10. But the Dealers have only six alteration points, and those points are small. And the back’s repeated use of the small dots make the alteration spots even more difficult to detect. That means the Dealers can withstand the scrutiny of more savvy laymen.

The Dealers mark a new age for marked cards. Use them wisely — these incredible cards give you much more than just a step ahead.

Syfy becomes a new home for great magic with TV lineup

Monday, January 26th, 2015


Syfy becomes a new home for great magic with TV lineup

Something amazing is happening at Syfy. The network known for so-bad-they’re-kinda-good B-movies such as “Sharknado” and for stepping up its drama game with “12 Monkeys” and “Helix” is finding a new niche for great magic shows — the kinds of magic shows that make us cheer, not cringe.

Look at this lineup:

  • • We’ve already told you about “Wizard Wars,” the show that transforms the spirit of a jam session into an “Iron Chef”-style competition. Featuring Penn & Teller as celebrity judges, the show is the brainchild of Rick Lax and Justin Flom, and starts its second season Thursday. The new season features even more big names in close-up, including Project Manager Adam Wilber, Justin Miller, Messado, Eric Jones, Nathan Kranzo and more. The second season debuts at 9 p.m. EST Thursday.
  • • After “Wizard Wars” is a new show that promises plenty of close-up magic just by the name. “Close-up Kings” features Johnny Blaze, Magick Balay and Loki performing magic and stunts during a cross-country trip. As the journey progresses, the illusions get more orchestrated and turn into “Ocean’s Eleven” kinds of capers. “Close-up Kings” airs at 10 p.m. each Thursday.
  • • Already airing on Syfy is a new show from Troy Von Majik. “Troy: Street Magic” features the UK magician in a David Blaine-style street setting. Interesting use of hidden cameras gets completely different kinds of reactions, and each episode features environmental effects, from breaking and restoring a pair of designer glasses in front of the shop owner to bowling in a unique way. “Troy: Street Magic” airs at 10 p.m. EST each Tuesday.

It’s a solid lineup for the kind of close-up magic we love and live every day. The latter two are our favorite kind of magic shows, where magicians take their art to the street and capture the reactions of amazed onlookers. And though “Wizard Wars” takes place on a stage with an audience, it has close-up and creativity in its heart, and gives one of the best looks into a magician’s creative process without spoiling the magic. Plus, Penn & Teller are the perfect judges to critique a show based on magic creation.

In short: All these shows are great for magic, and it’s awesome that Syfy is highlighting the shows that magic fans and magicians alike can enjoy.

Do you plan on watching? Let us know in the comments below.

Let the cards do the talking: Flourishes can speak volumes without words

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015


Let the cards do the talking: Flourishes can speak volumes without words

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” In a general sense, he’s right.

But that doesn’t exactly work for us magicians. At some point we have to speak — to introduce ourselves, deliver patter or respond to a spontaneous moment. But there’s ways we can speak less.

Better yet, we can let our cards do the talking for us.

During our recent podcast with Adam Wilber, the creator of Pyro, he proposed trying an experiment: The next time you perform, introduce yourself for one group with a good card spring, then for the next group, introduce yourself without the spring.

The results should be revealing, Wilber said, and skew toward the side of better reactions from the first group.

“The biggest thing for a crowd is to win them over quickly, so that you’re not the corny magician they have seen before. Something as simple as springing the cards from hand to hand can make you a professional in the audience’s eyes.”

Let the cards do the talking: Flourishes can speak volumes without words

We’ve talked about the balance between either showing or hiding proficiency with cards. Some magicians lean more toward Dai Vernon’s Erdnase-inspired philosophy of casual, non-flashy movement, others lean toward Paul LePaul’s idea that expert manipulation could generate magical reactions from spectators. Starting off with a flourish definitely puts you on the LePaul side of that line.

But think about what a flourish says, without speaking a word:

  • • Not everyone can do a flourish. Heck, not everyone gets to SEE flourishes very often. It’s easy for magicians to forget that, because we watch performance videos and cardistry displays like they are Super Bowl commercials. But most people rarely get to see such a thing live. That rarity is compelling, and is a tremendous advantage.
  • • Some magician’s disapproval of flourishes rests in the idea that a spectator, upon seeing a flourish, would instantly recognize it as a display of skill, then go on a Fezzini-inspired rant of logic to deduce that any of the magic they see from you CLEARLY isn’t magic, because you’re capable of such precise manipulations, etc. In our experience, a flourish wakes up an interest in spectators. They make the deduction that you are good at cards, but instead of discounting what’s to come, THEY CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT COMES NEXT. Like Adam said, they recognize you are a professional, and build interest in seeing what you can do.
  • • Flourishes can speak from across a room. We’ve been out in public, just fanning cards, then been approached by people who are curious about what we’re doing. Eight times out of 10, it takes less than a minute for them to ask, “Are you a magician?” In those cases, all the hard work of introducing yourself has been done by them.
  • • Flourishes aren’t limited to just cards. There are rolls and walks you can perform with coins or rings. Or maybe you have a favorite object, such as a lighter, cellphone, money clip, etc. Play with it. Manipulate it. Figure out a trick. Those are basically the same thing as a fan or spring, and can have the same effect.

There are even more ways that a flourish can speak for you, but we’ll let you discover those on your own. Adam and Peter McKinnon teach a series of basic flourishes in How to Do Miracle Card Tricks, and Daniel Madison goes next level with hardcore hand candy in Cardistry.

Magician characters on TV usually let us down, but we believe in NPH

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015


Magician characters on TV usually let us down, but we believe in NPH

Usually if a TV show features a magician as a charater, it’s a tribute to the old top-hat-and-tails type, ready to saw a lady in half, or a modern interpretation of a David Copperfield style of stage magician. The kinds of magicians we love to watch usually don’t get featured on TV shows: There’s no close-up masters, no deception artists, no guys who do their work just sitting at a table with a deck of cards. (That’ll change in a few weeks on SyFy — more on that soon.)

That’s why when we hear our buddies tell us about magician type of character in a TV show, we just smile politely, while inside, we get filled with dread and make no plans to record it on our DVR.

But “American Horror Story” is not an average TV show. And Neil Patrick Harris is no ordinary actor.

In one of his first TV appearances since “How I Met Your Mother,” NPH will play an illusionist named Chester starting tonight on FX’s “American Horror Story: Freak Show.” His character appears to have a psychotic drive right at home with some of the other murderers in that show, and also appears to have a creepy ventriloquist dummy that “relaxes him,” so in terms of a TV representation of a magician, we’re not that excited.

But Harris has a strong history in magic, and that gives us faith that this upcoming two-episode arc won’t be cringe-worthy (in terms of our non-magic buddies associating us with those kind of magicians, anyway).

His interest in magic is well-known: Harris is a former president of The Magic Castle, one of the finest performance venues for close-up magic in the country. He also was the director of “Nothing to Hide,” a stunning production featuring Derek DelGaudio and Helder Guimaraes — runs in Los Angeles and New York City drew critical acclaim.

Producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have been doing incredible storytelling on “American Horror Story,” and Harris is one of the best actors in the biz. He’s gonna fit right in with the freak show, and we’ll enjoy watching.

YOUR TURN: What’s been your favorite portrayal of a magician in a TV show or movie (besides “The Prestige,” because we all know that movie is awesome)? Let us know in the comments below.