Spirit of jam sessions inspired Syfy’s ‘Wizard Wars,’ a show about creation

August 10th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


Spirit of jam sessions inspired Syfys Wizard Wars, a show about creation

Rick Lax, like any magician, loves jam sessions. Every week he gets together with Justin Flom, Bizzaro and others for a creative crash. Those sessions were so crazy that they inspired him to create a reality TV show concept.

“Sometimes our jam sessions are more entertaining than the magic that comes out of them,” Lax said. “That got me wondering how to get people to care about the magicians’ creative process. And the reality competition format seemed like a perfect fit.”

That competition starts at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday, Aug. 19, with the debut episode of “Wizard Wars.” Featuring Lax, Flom, Penn & Teller, Shimshi, Murray SawChuck, Angela Funovitz, Nathan Burton and other Las Vegas performers, magicians will compete to create the best magic tricks possible.

The show will give a spotlight to the creators of magic, who are unheralded, unsung heroes, he said. Dan Hauss, Ekaterina Dhobrokotova, Blake Vogt, Gregory Wilson and others will be featured on the show, and Dan White and Johnny Thompson work behind the scenes.

Creation, not revelation

The concept of the show might raise questions about trick revelation among magicians. Lax said that’s not the case: The creative process is featured, not the end result of a trick.

Competitors will be featured in a magic workshop, charged with meeting a goal and developing ways to accomplish that goal. While audience members will get a peek behind the curtain, it doesn’t get pulled back completely. The only methods that might get revealed are ones that don’t get used.

“Let’s say the secret item is ‘tennis ball,’ and one magician does a trick where the ball vanishes from one hand and reappears in her other hand,” he said. “If the method she ultimately decides on is a duplicate ball, we’re not going to show the duplicate ball. But let’s say that before she figured out to use the duplicate, she tried to build an elastic contraption that would bring a ball up one sleeve and down the other. That’s something we might show.”

Each episode will feature the creative process — the unique thinking that leads to moments of brillance, resulting in the creation of a beautiful illusion. The competitive format will give creators the spotlight — names that magicians know like others know pop singers.

“(The concept) means so much to me because magic creators never really get the national spotlight,” Lax said. “Guys like Gregory Wilson or Blake Vogt. You see their tricks being performed everywhere, but you so rarely get to see them in front of the cameras. ‘Wizard Wars’ is their chance to shine.”

Spirit of jam sessions inspired Syfys Wizard Wars, a show about creation

Best network possible

According to a story on Wired.com, Lax pitched his idea to a bunch of networks. Syfy was the last pitch, and the one that picked up the idea. The pickup was double-sweet, Lax said — all because of a bunch of people who did movie makeup, and the TV viewers who watched them.

“I’m a huge ‘Face Off’ fan. Seen every episode,” Lax said. “And in ‘Face Off,’ Syfy masterfully got people who knew nothing about special effects makeup to care about special effects makeup. So the hope is it can do the same for the magic creative process.”

A magic reality show is different than other talent-based shows, because of the secrecy of methods. Lax said “Wizard Wars” focuses on laymen, but magicians will appreciate incredibly good magic and how challengers are treated with respect. The competition is intense and heated, but the featuring of quality magicians means plenty of respect between each other.

And magicians will find plenty to learn and apply to their own acts, Lax said.

“Note the show’s judging criteria: creativity, originality and deceptiveness. The best magic acts have elements of all three,” Lax said. “Think about how to make the trick your own. And think about how to make it entertaining, not just deceptive. Communication and connection are so important.”

Almost gone for good: Last of the Gold Arcane decks won’t be hoarded

July 20th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Products


Not everything lasts forever. One of the most treasured decks of cards on the market is about to be gone for good.

Almost gone for good: Last of the Gold Arcane decks wont be hoarded

“Hunger for gold is made greater as more gold is acquired.” Prudentius

There’s nothing like gold. The precious metal found in nature and forged in fire has become a symbol of beauty, desire, excellence, power and wealth. Wars have been fought over it, lives have been lost in pursuit of it. Part currency, part rarity, gold has been formed into all sorts of things, from coins to chandeliers. It is the ultimate allegory in stories and philosophy. The thirst for gold is unquenchable; the more we have, the more we want.

In 2010, a few months after the release of the Arcane deck, we teased our fans with a glint of gold on a playing card. Soon after, we released the Gold Arcane deck out into the wild.

The creation of the deck was just as much a challenge as its predecessor. While printing the original black Arcane in 2009, decks and decks were destroyed because the quality and color wasn’t exactly right. The incredible level of detail on the Arcane deck challenged the staff at U.S. Playing Card Co., who rose to it and printed what they call one of the most stunning decks they had ever printed.

There was only one way to up the ante: Gold ink.

We added gold details to the back and slathered the indicies and the pips of the hearts and diamonds of the faces with gold, using metallic ink. The result was one of the most stunning decks ever printed by USPCC — the first casino-grade deck ever printed with such a look. Because gold should be a treasure, we had only 5,000 decks printed. After that, the printing plates were destroyed.

Almost gone for good: Last of the Gold Arcane decks wont be hoarded

“Mystery is a resource, like coal or gold, and its preservation is a fine thing.” Tim Cahill

Since then, the Gold Arcane deck has been one of the most sought-after decks of playing cards in this new era of custom playing card creation. A quick scan through ebay.com reveals that it’s hard to find one for less than $100. But the deck has never been up for regular sale at Ellusionist. For a while, it was the subject of a contest series on our Facebook page: A lucky winner on Gold Wednesday would claim one for themselves. The deck was also a prize for other contests, and was given away through other promotions.

Those days are nearing an end. Our supply of Gold Arcane decks has been reduced to less than 500. But unlike others, we don’t plan on hoarding our gold.

Your last chance to secure a Gold Arcane deck from Ellusionist is coming soon…

FOUR POINTS: FIFA World Cup filled with lessons for magicians

July 3rd, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points


FOUR POINTS: FIFA World Cup filled with lessons for magicians

The 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament is getting close to its finish. As of now, eight teams remain in contention to call themselves world champions in a game played in virtually every country of the world.

This year’s tournament has been especially thrilling. Football is close to a religion in many countries, and the game’s popularity has surged even in the “soccer”-shy United States.

Because we have magic on our minds almost all of the time, we haven’t followed much of the action. Our staff is international, but there hasn’t been much trash-talk between us. We can’t help it — the things we are seeing in the magic world are just too awesome to ignore, and we have so many incredible irons in the fire.

But there are a few things about this year’s tournament that inspire our sleight of hand. It might seem counterintuitive for something played with feet to influence an art that depends a lot on our hands, but we found some important lessons that the beautiful game can teach the beautiful art of magic.

PATIENCE

Haters point to the low scores of matches and think the sport has no excitement. Obviously, they’ve never sat down to watch a game, and understood the thrill of watching a successful defensive stand or a brilliant scoring shot.

Magic is much the same way. If we hurry through a trick and rush it past our spectators, we risk losing the impact needed for that incredible reaction we crave. The old saying of how the hand is quicker than the eye leads us to assume that speed is king in magic, but that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Slow down. Let your play develop. The perfect opportunity for maximum impact will present itself.

MISDIRECTION EVERYWHERE

One of the daily Google searches we check is for “magician,” and we can’t tell you how often that terms is associated with players. We didn’t really understand why, until we watched a few highlights from the tournament. We saw top players displaying a dizzying level of proficiency moving the ball, whether they moved into position or took a shot on goal. They are always juking, dodging, faking and making other moves to make defenders think the ball is headed elsewhere.

Every move we make has to be similarly structured. We must display the same amount of proficiency, in order to keep spectators guessing about where we are going. The advantage we actual magicians have over a player on the pitch is that we get time to plan and structure everywhere we want to go, everything we want to do.

INCREDIBLE SAVES

Even before Tim Howard’s record-setting performance in the U.S. loss against Belgium, we have been impressed with the efforts of keepers. Goofs happen to us, whether it’s a dropped card or a lippy spectator. Those are shots on our goal. Part of our skill as magicians is to deflect those shots on our goal. We learn how to cover a goof, how to handle a rowdy audience member, how to transition off a failed trick.

PERFECT PRACTICE TIME

The perfect time to absorb all those lessons is during a match, which runs about as long as a movie. That’s also the perfect time to practice your moves, especially the ones you’ve recently learned, and are looking to advance them to an instinctual level. Remember that practicing while your eyes are focused elsewhere is great conditioning for muscle memory — you start to feel when things are right or wrong.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to joe@ellusionist.com.

FOUR POINTS: Consider adding these accessories to your wardrobe

May 26th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points


FOUR POINTS: Consider adding these accessories to your wardrobe

A lot of our customers ask us which deck of playing cards they should pick, and our answer is usually the same. Because all of our decks have some of the best stock, finish and handling in the business, we recommend that people choose the deck that best fits their performance character.

That’s a fancy way of saying this: Match your style.

Not everyone can use a deck of Arcanes in black, for example. The iconography lends itself to a darker, more mysterious style. Someone who seeks an elegant, refined design will lean toward Artifice, and someone who sticks with table demonstrations will be best served with a deck of Dealers.

We encourage people to treat deck selections like clothing, in a sense, because the same philosophy applies to wardrobe. And that’s something you should be carefully considering, because part of entertaining is looking the part. Nothing enhances your appeal and professionalism like the right wardrobe (consider it your costume), and a magician who does not dress like a pro will find it difficult to score repeat bookings.

We’ll assume you’re familiar with the basics, such as pants, and get right into advanced-class material — you should be thinking about accessories. These enhancements to our clothes also offer performance advantages for the right kinds of effects, as well. (If you really must know what we think about pants, we highly recommend wearing them.)

Whether you are selecting a wardrobe for professional gigs or you want to dress to be magical anywhere anytime, here’s four accessories you should consider as part of your performance character:


FOUR POINTS: Consider adding these accessories to your wardrobe

WATCHES

Wristbands such as the Halo Fiber Optik could also fit in this category. But watches and timepieces have an understated allure and elegance — especially with the wide selection available today. Most people keep track of time with cellphones, which makes a watch even more a statement of style. As for magical uses, they come in handy as a great hiding place for a coin or folded card. They hide loops of invisible thread. And there are even tricks such as Eric Jones’ Entrapment that require the use of a watch or bracelet.

Pro tip: This is an area where an investment in quality can pay off. A cheap-looking watch may take your style statement in the wrong direction, and may be damaged more easily. While saving up for a true timepiece may not be practical, there are plenty of great watches that will add to your style, not take away. Also, make sure the face is big enough to hide a Mercury-folded card.

RINGS

We’d be hard pressed to find a magician who doesn’t have a ring of some sort. It’s the perfect piece of jewelry for a magician — because our hands are constantly inspected. a ring becomes a place to make a subtle style statement. The amount of magical things that can be done with rings is dizzying, because everyone’s familiarity with a band of metal helps lay groundwork presentation without saying a word. We have our idea of what makes a good ring. But there are also trick rings that can be found with even more functionality for devious doings.

Pro tip: Fit is important. The ring needs to fit snugly but not tightly. Many jewelers will gladly size your fingers, so you can get an exact fit.

FOUR POINTS: Consider adding these accessories to your wardrobe

HATS

Some say hats are coming back, but we say they have never left. We’ve never observed a lull in lids — this is one of the few areas of fashion where guys get a larger than normal pool of selection. The right hat puts a crown jewel on your style, and may have qualities that can be used for sleight of hand. No one rocks a flat-bill cap like Eric Jones, and no one pulls off a top hat like Messado.

Pro tip: There’s no way to overthink this one. Because there are so many varieties of hat, there are plenty of wrong ones, but the right one makes a night-and-day difference.

SHOES

Really? Shoes are accessories? We’d argue that shoes are a necessity that should be treated ALSO like an accessory. Give a lot of thought to the kind of shoe that fits best with your style. Comfort can be enhanced with special insoles, so a look that feels painful at the shoe store can be fixed. Also, keep in mind that slip-on shoes can be used for a variety of tricks, including Justin Miller’s Card to Shoe.

Pro tip: Learn to polish, and polish often. You’ll keep your shoes looking sharp until the day the soles wear out.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to joe@ellusionist.com.

Whether in magic or marketing, creativity a way of life for Luke Dancy

May 20th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


Whether in magic or marketing, creativity a way of life for Luke Dancy

It’s hard to find a facet of magic that Luke Dancy is unfamiliar with. And that applies to things that have nothing to do with magic — seemingly.

Luke has more than 25 years of experience as a magic creator, consultant and performer. But his magic has also helped him found a marketing company — he is the founder of Social Mischief. It’s such a great fit that it makes us wonder how more magicians haven’t dived into the field.

“I’ve talked to a lot of friends in the marketing world and it seems to be a natural fit for me as I create magic for other magicians and for television,” Luke said. “It’s really no different than creating a campaign for a brand or specific product. Marketing for me is a way to exploit those creative ideas and thoughts for the business world.”

Luke brings his marketing magic to Ellusionist: Last week he joined our staff as marketing manager. He’ll be actively involved on our website and social networks, fueling new promos and interacting with customers.

Whether in magic or marketing, creativity a way of life for Luke DancyLuke’s first effect, Misprint, is an all-time best-seller for Elmwood Magic, and he has created effects for other magic sites, such as Penguin Magic. But a significant amount of work has gone into making tricks for other magicians. Most notably, Criss Angel: Much of Luke’s work can be seen in the fourth, fifth and sixth seasons of “Mindfreak.”

His creations encapsulate a wide variety of work, from sleights to devices. Dancy has never been afraid of a gimmick or gaff when trying to create an incredible illusion.

“I’m a firm believer that there are some things you just can’t do without the help of a gaff,” he said. “I take whatever means possible to get the effect that I’m looking for. When you take something like sleight of hand and mix it sparingly with gaffs, real magic starts to happen.”

It’s one thing to create, publish and release your own creation to the world, but it’s another to create for the fast-paced environment of a TV show. He said working as a consultant was an incredibly rewarding experience.

“But don’t kid yourself. It’s A LOT of work,” Luke said. “Being creative isn’t something that just happens when you decide to turn it on, so you definitely need to be in the right frame of mind and make it a way of life.”

That creative path includes music and a notebook for Luke. He said the right music helps him get in the zone and unlocks extra energy during a creative session. He also keeps a notebook, and writes down every idea he has. Even if the ideas don’t make much sense now, they will one day.

Pushing that magic into the field of marketing might seem like a no-brainer. But Luke said that while the two fields live in the same city, they also live in different neighborhoods.

But Luke found a way to make it work.

“My magic background definitely gives me an edge over the other people in the marketing world,” he said. “First, people find it to be really interesting, which is a great conversation starter. But it also shows them that I can be creative and think outside the box in fun and unique ways. Most people in business are used to doing things the traditional way.”

Never left magic: Raymond Singson kept performing during service in Marines

March 31st, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


Never left magic: Raymond Singson kept performing during service in MarinesThe U.S. Marine Corps is one of the toughest branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Standards for admission are higher. Marines are members for life, and pride themselves on being “disciplined, professional warriors”; the best of the best.

“So it was always really fun to see that stoic facade fall apart when they were amazed by something,” said Raymond Singson. “I worked with Marine Drill Instructors for the past three years. These are some of the hardest, most intimidating men the Marine Corps ever trained. They are responsible for making men out of boys and getting them ready for the challenges of war. Despite that, some of my favorite memories in magic were making these drill instructors scream and giggle at each other like children by doing magic for them.”

Before Singson served as a Marine Officer, stationed in places such as San Diego, South Carolia, Iraq and Afghanistan, he was a magician featured in Kard Klub and earned a reputation for redefining reveals in Stained Skin. He has rejoined Ellusionist as lead forum manager and content writer. You’ll see him on our Performance HQ Forums, on the Ellusionist Blog and more.

He got his start in magic early, with a copy of “Royal Road to Card Magic” that he bought at 10 years old with his own money. That led to a key moment with his dad that cemented his love of magic.

“Everything about that orange, hardcover book exuded mystery to me,” he said. “I remember legitimately fooling my dad for the first time. It was such a rush, it was like a power trip. When first starting out in magic, I wanted to experience that over and over again.”

But what really made Raymond connect with getting a reaction was inspiration from David Copperfield. Before seeing the legendary stage magician, he had an idea that magic was just a method for fooling people, but Copperfield showed the power of emotion, and how it bolstered the rush from performing.

“It’s not until you experience magic a different way — GOOD magic — to acknowledge that it’s art,” Raymond said. “For me, that was Copperfield. After seeing Copperfield, I knew magic could be a worthwhile emotional experience for people. I also knew it was something I’d do for the rest of my life.”

Never left magic: Raymond Singson kept performing during service in MarinesTrue to his word, magic has remained an important part of Raymond’s life — even as a Marine. Care packages always included playing cards, so he was able to keep up his chops and make jaws drop. No matter where he was stationed, he always performed for fellow Marines, locals, anyone. Those performances, for him, highlighted how “human and dynamic” everyone is — even in the face of one-dimensional portrayals of servicepeople and citizens.

“Magic strips away so many layers and just reveals an awesome innocence in people,” Raymond said. “I performed magic for Marines as well as the locals, and it was really interesting to see how similarly they all responded when they saw magic. Regardless of rank, culture or background, magic reminds us that we’re all equals at some level. Not many performance arts do that.”

Lately, mind-reading and mentalism has snared his attention. Influenced by the work of Derren Brown, he’s been diving into Annemann and other work. With a drive to study how to get in someone’s head and challenge core beliefs about the way the world works, Ray is enjoying the exploration.

“After performing close-up magic for 15+ years, I really appreciate how people respond to mind-reading so dynamically,” he said. “Even today, epople still legitimately believe in the possibility of psychics and the paranormal. So phenomena like mind-reading feels much more possible and real to people, and I enjoy that because it really facilitates a human connection.”

Made to ‘shake foundations’: Justin Miller’s BOLD Project filled with his most evocative, astonishing effects

March 7th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Artist Interviews


Made to shake foundations: Justin Millers BOLD Project filled with his most evocative, astonishing effects

Maybe it started when he was performing in Las Vegas with Lance Burton’s show at the Monte Carlo. Maybe it was when he delivered his first magic lecture at 13, or managed a magic shop at 15. Maybe it started during his first shows, held in his garage when he was 7.

Justin Miller really can’t point to a time when he hasn’t had a fearless attitude about magic.

“It did not come overnight, but it did come easily for me,” Miller said. “I have no idea why; it just did. That’s not to say that in the beginning, 13 years old or so, that I was not shaking every time I performed for anyone, because I most definitely did!”

The more he performed, the more confident he grew in what he showed. That confidence bred an attitude to try anything and everything in order to get more astonishing reactions.

Made to shake foundations: Justin Millers BOLD Project filled with his most evocative, astonishing effectsJM is regarded as a pioneer in this new era of modern close-up magic on the Internet and the creator of a long list of well-reviewed effects. Despite those high marks, Miller’s biggest reputation is in performing fearlessly, courageously in a number of magician-unfriendly situations. Noisy bars. Busy streets. Dangerous districts. Miller takes ‘em all on.

It’s that drive to perform that powers The BOLD Project, filled with tricks that he said shouldn’t work, but do. Volume 1 was released this week; two more are due in the future.

Miller said that the project started from a passion to show the magic community the effects he uses on a daily basis — the ones that he relies on to produce POWERFUL reactions.

“These effects weren’t created to sell,” Miller said. “They were created to shake foundations and disturb thoughts.”

And he gets those results from a wide variety of spectators, from willing participants to downright ornery and difficult borderline hecklers.

For instance: During the first night of shooting the project in New York City, Team E was barely out the door when Miller spotted a loud group of six or seven people. “Bingo,” Miller said. He performed for the group — during the performance, they talked, yelled, joked, and even snagged the cards out of his hands and shuffled, dropping some on the ground. Unfazed, Miller finished a card to shoe routine (taught on The BOLD Project) — AND BLEW THEM AWAY. If you haven’t seen it, the full performance is on YouTube.

“Those guys are EXACTLY what I deal with on a weekly basis,” Miller said. “I love those guys. They fuel me, put a fire in me that I use to burn them.”

That fire is what BOLD is about, he said. He calls The BOLD Project his defining project; the one work he hopes to be remembered by. Filled with effects engineered to get shocking reactions, incredible insights and philosophy about performing and much more, the project reveals a side of Miller that he has kept to himself — until now. It reveals the subtleties and details that has enabled him to perform some of the most bald-faced, daring, brazen moves — all in pursuit of that magic moment where reality changes for a spectator.

“This project really shows a side of me I have never let anyone see,” he said. “But I knew it was important to be super-transparent if I was going to do this project, in order for the community to believe that these effects, methods and presentations … will not just work, but will become staples in their own sets, I knew I had to show that side of JM that I keep only to myself: my drive, my power, and ultimately my life force.”

INSIDE THE CARDS: Ace of Spades has a long history of being top card

February 22nd, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


INSIDE THE CARDS: Ace of Spades has a long history of being top card

Most playing cards look the same from deck to deck. But the Ace of Spades is different. Aside from the backs and jokers, the Ace of Spades is usually the only card to feature a unique artistic design, depending on the printer of the deck. Some are simple as a paint sample, others are as ornate as a stained glass window.

Our custom decks of playing cards feature some of the most iconic recognizable aces in playing cards today. Our designs for aces quickly expanded into themes that encompassed entire decks, and that trend caught on like wildfire — today, collectors frown on new decks that feature only a custom ace.

We’re proud to be part of playing card history. But it raises the question: How did the Ace of Spades get to be so different?

INSIDE THE CARDS: Ace of Spades has a long history of being top card

TAXING DECISION

Blame taxes. Before 1765, decks sold in England were stamped to indicate that taxes or duties had been paid on them, according to the International Playing Card Society. In 1765, an official ace of spades was printed; each deck had to use this stamp on its ace to indicate that taxes were paid. And the Stamp Tax mandated that the American colonies had to pay the same tax. The law changed in 1862, when printers were allowed to produce their own stamp designs. Though that law was abolished in 1960, the tradition of making the Ace of Spades ornate and decorative remains.

BUILT-IN TRADEMARK

INSIDE THE CARDS: Ace of Spades has a long history of being top cardThe law that allowed printers to design unique Aces led to those printers developing brand trademarks. Several of those Aces, such as the ones found in Tally-Ho and Bee cards, are still in use after more than 100 years. Several card publishers, including Dougherty, New York Consolidated Card and Russell/Kalamazoo, used several different designs according to the brand of cards, according to information from “The Hochman Encyclopedia of American Playing Cards.” But one printer treated the Ace differently…

LEGENDARY LADY

…the U.S. Playing Card Co., makers of the legendary Rider back cards used a single design for most of its brands. The design is iconic: It features a woman with sword and shield in her right hand and an olive branch in her left. The design was inspired by Thomas Crawford’s sculpture “Statue of Freedom,” which rested atop the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., in 1865. Though other design elements have changed, the basic spade and woman have remained intact for almost 150 years.

INDUSTRY SEES A GHOST

INSIDE THE CARDS: Ace of Spades has a long history of being top cardEllusionist’s first custom deck of playing cards was the Black Tiger, a tribute to Tigers, the first deck published by the USPCC. The Black Tiger Ace matched the company’s ace exactly. When Ellusionist printed its next custom deck, the Bicycle Ghost, it included an intricately designed Ace that revealed more details when turned upside-down. Though Ellusionist gaff decks had custom aces that could be swapped into a red or blue Rider back deck, the Ghost ace was Ellusionist’s first custom ace for a custom-themed deck. This started a long line of custom playing cards created by Ellusionist, where the theme quickly stretched way past the ace.

MOTORHEAD SONG

The Ace of Spades is immortalized by British metal band Motorhead, which in 1980 released “Ace of Spades.” Lead singer Lemmy Kilmister in 2011 told Mojo magazine that the song was “just a word exercise on gambling, all the cliches.” Though it peaked at No. 15 on the UK’s singles chart, it is regarded as one of the best metal songs of all time. VH-1 named it the 10th best hard rock song of all time in 2009.

IN GAMES

The Ace of Spades has long been considered the highest-ranking card in the deck, but only one major card game gives it top rank: Spades, the trick-taking game. Hearts, poker, crazy eights, rummy, cribbage, even solitaire have its value tied with other aces, or secondary to other cards.

CONJURING CONNECTION

INSIDE THE CARDS: Ace of Spades has a long history of being top cardPerhaps the place where the Ace gets most of its prominence is with magicians. Sure, we see performers work their favorite cards into tricks, but we also see those same magicians at some point produce an Ace of Spades as part of their routine — mainly because it is such a recognizable, beloved card. The card is also one of the most commonly chosen by spectators: We know a lot of magicians who, when asking spectators to think of a card, avoid the Ace because it would be too easy.

INSIDE THE CARDS is an occasional feature that dives into the history of a single card. Know any good legends behind cards? Let us know. Comment below or e-mail joe@ellusionist.com.

FOUR POINTS: These places will get you on the path to getting paid

January 21st, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points


FOUR POINTS: These places will get you on the path to getting paid

So you’re ready. Whether you’re following through with a new year’s resolution or a planned goal, you’re out to take your magic from practice to profitability. You’re ready to get paid for all your planning and work.

Time to make those cards pay for themselves.

It doesn’t matter what your plan for magic is, from building a list of clients in your town to making it big in Vegas. Before you can be the next Messado, Ollie Mealing or Adam Wilber, You have to start somewhere, and there is no substitute for the experience of actually performing for living, breathing people.

(David Stone’s Real Secrets of Magic Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 are time-tested classics, and Ellusionist’s hardest-working worker Adam Wilber has filled up “Creative Magic” and The Worker Part 1 and Part 2 with great material for business-minded magicians.)

Drumming up business isn’t easy, but you have to start somewhere. At the beginning of your career, you may have to content yourself with making a reputation, not money. Which is fine, because that’s an investment in your future. Instead of performing for cash, make a testimonial or the ability to pass business cards/put up flyers part of the deal.

You have two goals:

  • ~ Get your name out there and let people know what you do. This is done through good old-fashioned networking (a fancy word for “meeting people”). Whether it’s a business card, flyer or an actual performance, you want to spread the word that you exist.
  • ~ Show people that you deserved to be hired. This is done through excellent performance and interaction — AND by being a great team player at the place where you work your magic. Hopefully you perform for people who love your work and hire you in the future. And a testimonial from the right person can seal a deal down the road.

Here are four places that would be good for your business cards, flyers or actual skills. Out of respect to any working magicians in your area (and yourself as well), you don’t want to use these options repeatedly — use them as occasional tools in your toolbox:

 

FESTIVALS

This one requires a look at the calendar where you live. Even the smallest of small towns usually have one or two festivals, fairs or other celebrations, and that’s something you can be a part of. Maybe it’s a more regular event, such as an art walk or farmers market.

Find the planning group or coordinators and inquire about a trade of performance for a testimonial. Maybe — MAYBE — your performance character can be changed to match the theme of the festival, such as a Renaissance fair? If not, definitely note the style and vibe of the festival — you’d perform at an art walk differently than a holiday-based event, for instance. And be respectful: It may be easy to crash a big group and just perform. But the goal is NETWORKING — you want the organizers to know about your interest in performing.

RESTAURANTS OR MALLS WITH FOOD COURTS

Restaurants might be one of your main sources of business as a magician, so it’s good to learn the dynamics of performing there early. And not many consider food courts prime places for performances, but we disagree: There are a lot of people there from a wide variety of backgrounds. What a great opportunity for meeting people who might pay you in the future!

Ask the owner or management about interest in a magician, and be up front with them: You’re looking for experience, and are willing to work for one or two nights in order to get a name out and get a testimonial from that owner. And make that offer only once or twice: You don’t want to get in the habit of performing for free.

CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE OR BUSINESS GROUPS

Investigate membership carefully, because many of these groups require a membership fee. But they are filled with entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking to build the number of interesting people they know, and you can be a part of that group. And these are the groups usually organizing the big parties that you should be performing at.

Teens, you may have an advantage in this point: Some business groups have young entrepreneur groups you may be able to join, which gets you access to your city’s movers and shakers (and those are often people eager to reward those who are willing to work for themselves.) Keep up your schoolwork as priority No. 1, but a little work in student entrepreneur or young business groups can pay off big for your magic.

EXISTING SOCIAL GROUPS

Groups of people are everywhere around you. Whether it’s a job, a group of fellow sports fans, a church, reading club, family get-together, a support group, friend’s birthday party… ANY group of people is ripe for you getting your message out. Keep in mind that your message doesn’t have to be an actual performance. A simple business card is all it takes.

While you might hesitate to perform for that social circle — and we completely understand why — don’t hesitate to tell them what you do, and be confident about it. Sure, they may razz you, but they’ll love hearing about how you’ve picked up magic, and they’ll be thrilled that your new business isn’t a multi-level marketing opportunity.

BONUS POINT: MAGICIANS’ GROUPS

Talk about a group tailored to your interest. Your local chapter of IBM or SAM knows all about your town’s business scene. And it’s filled with magicians who can give you performance advice of all sorts. If your area has such a group, the price of membership can be SO worth it.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to joe@ellusionist.com.

Gone forever: Last of Red Artifice decks handed out in promotion

January 10th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


Gone forever: Last of Red Artifice decks handed out in promotion

Just like our first edition Black Ghost decks, we knew we’d eventually run out of them. We just didn’t expect it to happen this quickly.

It’s official: We are out of Red Artifice decks.

They will never again be available from Ellusionist as a prize, promotion or anything else. They are out the door.

A little history: The Red Artifice was printed in 2011 alongside the first edition of the Blue Artifice deck. The red version was exactly like the blue, except for its red color, obviously, and the amount. Only 5,000 of the decks were ever printed. (Because borders were added to the Blue and Emerald Artifice decks, there are about 10,000 first edition Blue decks with no borders in existence.)

The manner of its release was different as well: Responding to feedback we received about the Black Ghost and Gold Arcane decks, it was first released for individual sale. We took 3,000 of the 5,000 and posted them up for people to buy at $6.99 each. The last 2,000 we reserved for promotions and prizes, such as a deal we posted during the days after Christmas: People could receive a Red Artifice deck when they bought any 12 of our other custom decks.

Because of a software error, that promotion cleared out our supply.

Gone forever: Last of Red Artifice decks handed out in promotionThe promotion was supposed to last for a 24-hour period. But because of the error, the promotion remained in effect for several more days. That means a lot of people who bought 12 decks, not really intending to take advantage of the sale, received the bonus.

We were tempted to go back through all the orders and retroactively remove the decks, but in the end, we decided to stand by the purchases until the decks were depleted. And when the Red Artifice were gone, we filled the promo instead with a rare Red Arcane deck. We apologize for the error, and hope that a gift of a just-as-rare deck that has been only recently passed out suffices (compared to the Red Artifice, there are so few Red Arcane decks actually in people’s hands — we’re looking at most of ‘em in the warehouse right now).

For the rest of us, we bid a sudden, sad yet well-deserved adieu. Goodbye, Red Artifice: You glowed like embers in a fire, and we’ll always burn for you. We send you off by showing Peter McKinnon’s incredible trailer that featured some of the first appearances of Bobby Motta, Mike Clarke and Shade.