We all wear the badge “move-monkey” with pride. Ollie Mealing is definitely one, as evidenced by his work with Control. But if you’ve seen his YouTube videos, his effects are about so much more than doing a move. This is the thought process that helps Ollie create real magic.
I love chasing a new move, generally the more profound it is, the more interested I am in pursuing it – possibly because it leads to a greater sense of achievement or perhaps the idea of an unpredictable journey is too seductive to shake off. Regardless of the challenge, I find it to be a thrilling experience from the start – the discovery, the development, the accomplishment & the resultant new addition to your arsenal as well as new lessons learnt along the way.
Through this addictively satisfying process, it’s no wonder that so many of us consider ourselves as ‘move-monkeys’. While I think this title is beneficial, we should place focus towards becoming it’s older, wiser accomplice – an ‘effect-monkey’.
Moving past move-monkey
For most of us, when we first start trying to create magic, our design structure is to start with a move & then devise an effect around it – how many times have you heard or thought, “I’ve got this great move, I just need to create a trick for it.”.
Within this structure, there’s a huge gaping flaw – the audience haven’t been considered.
The very people who allow our art to convey meaning have been selfishly ignored. This is a classic oversight, we put priority into finding immediate purpose for our moves rather than storing them until needed. Being a ‘move-monkey’ is huge fun but to create powerful effects you must follow a process which starts with the audience.
If you could offer someone an incredible, wondrous experience, what would it be… Forget method, forget any limitations, just focus on the experience – what do you want them to see, how do you want to make them feel, what’s the story you’ll want them to carry for the rest of their lives. Think big, allow your imagination to run wild & dream up powerful, emotive imagery – a picture speaks a thousand words, think quality not quantity.
Effect drives discovery
Once you have an effect in mind (which you love), only then should you begin to consider a method. At first it might seem like there aren’t any, but allow the effect to simmer in your thoughts for as long as you can – only make compromises to the story if you absolutely have to but take into account how this alters the audience’s experience & reconsider if it’s desirable.
During this step, owning the ‘move-monkey’ badge comes in handy, as you’re able to consider many options far more easily & should one of those be appropriate, it’s already available at your disposal. Having this knowledge already secured is of course useful, but ultimately I feel it’s more important and a better use of your time to create effects first then learn/devise moves to fulfil the desired purpose – otherwise you’re spending time learning moves which might never be of use, essentially not maximizing your time. However, what’s very useful is to be aware of as much methodology as you can, then you can later revisit something if it’s of use.
If after much deliberation a solution can’t be concluded then generally you’ll have stumbled across something truly remarkable. As a keen note-pad jotter, I’m fortunate to have built up a list of effects which I’ve yet to fathom, I call this my list of ‘I’m Possible Dreams’ – they serve as a great reminder to think big & inspire me to keep discovering new ways of thinking & solving. It’s with much satisfaction that a few of these effects have eventually been scratched out.
Don’t change your process, change your focus.
It is often the case that our processes aren’t wrong, but the placement of focus within those processes. If you return to the first line & exchange the word ‘move’ for ‘effect’, you’ll notice that the construction of an effect follows the same exciting process as a move, yet now results with an impacting & memorable piece of magic with the experience of your audience paramount.
It’s through this change of focus, that I believe we can make great leaps in creating powerful effects for our audiences & elevate magic into art. Envisage an effect first, then pursue a method.
Great journey’s start with a dream. We dream & journey thanks to our audience – we owe it to them to see it through.