Artist Interview: Mat Franco’s “AGT” win was good for all magicians

October 11th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Artist Interviews


Artist Interview: Mat Francos AGT win was good for all magicians

His plan was to get some footage that he could use for his promo reel, so that he could advertise himself with the phrase, “As seen on ‘America’s Got Talent.’”

But Mat Franco went much further.

The magician made history by becoming the first magician to win NBC’s talent show. Winning over viewers in season nine, he beat singers Miguel Dakota, Quintavious Johnson and Emily West, the band Sons of Serendip and the acrobatic ensemble AcroArmy. And season nine was a good year for magicians, with Mike Super, Smoothini, and David and Leaman progressing far in the competition.

A magician winning “AGT” is no small feat — magicians know that the show has a history of not being kind to magicians. And though that reputation has changed over the last few seasons, magicians were still competing against singers and dancers, two performance fields with their own reality TV shows.

So when Mat said his win is a big deal for all magicians, we say “Amen.” He also said that his win didn’t pull magic out of a dark cellar of obscurity — his win was just the latest chapter in a pretty vibrant magic scene right now, from Darcy Oake making the finals in the most recent season of “Britain’s Got Talent” to the success of “Wizard Wars” on SyFy.

“This is huge for magicians. This is something we all should be feeding from, we should all be getting work from right now … We should all be feeding off this any way can, whether you had a television pilot you were trying to get done, or if you had a gig you were trying to close in your hometown, this is big for magic. I want us all to continue with this momentum to move it forward.”

Artist Interview: Mat Francos AGT win was good for all magiciansMat beat out a talented field of performers with a carefully customized blend of close-up magic and big-stage spectacle. His routines included close-up classics, including an ambitious card routine, cups and balls and an oil and water routine that used a human deck of cards. They also featured intricate stories told in precision with magical effects.

About two weeks after the win, Mat talked to us for a podcast about his career before the show, how it really is a different world for magicians on the show now and what the future holds.


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Rising-star triplets get a lift from Ellusionist for their card-throwing act

October 5th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


Rising star triplets get a lift from Ellusionist for their card throwing act

When Corey King recently asked for a few extra copies of King Rising, his levitation effect, Brad Christian had no idea what King’s plans for them were. As it turns out, Corey got them into the hands of some potential stars who have already been featured on “America’s Got Talent.”

Rising star triplets get a lift from Ellusionist for their card throwing actDom the Bom’s Triple Threat is a card-throwing act featured in the most recent season of NBC’s talent show, which was won by magician Mat Franco last month. Comprised of Dom, brother Phoenix and sister Lyric, the 8-year-old triplets made it to the quarterfinals before being eliminated.

According to a show bio, Dom has been practicing magic for two years, throws up to 500 cards a day and has aspirations to perform with David Copperfield. Looks like he’s off to a great start.

Check out the triplets’ appearance in the audition round below:

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…

Longtime forum leader makes U.S. performance debut in NYC

July 17th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


Longtime forum leader makes U.S. performance debut in NYC

Arvind Jayashankar has performed shows across the world — all over Europe, in Asia and in South America. While he’s traveled to the U.S. before, he’s never performed a show in the states.

Until now.

One of Ellusionist’s longest-running Performance HQ Forum leaders will make his U.S. performance debut with a special one-night-only, off-Broadway fundraising show Monday, July 21, in New York City. “”Reality: Surrender to Wonder” will feature his brand of mentalism featuring mind reading, mind control, hypnosis and more. The show will benefit Life Vest Inside, a grassroots non-profit with the aim of spreading kindness and helping people realize their potential and increase their self-esteem.

Arvind connected with the group through helping a friend promote and market a local leg of a worldwide flash mob called “Dance for Kindness.” Through that connection, he met Orly Wahba, the founder of Life Vest Inside.

“I learned more about the goals and visions of the group and was deeply impressed by them and their highly motivated team,” Arvind said. “They run various programs, such as educating people about kindness and make extensive use of social media aiming to inspire acts of kindness, charity and human connection. In a way, when we perform magic, I think we also share similar goals.”

“Reality” differs from what Arvind has performed in the past. It includes his take on classic effects and some favorites from earlier shows.

“It is a mentalism-themed show that aims at making you question whether what you are experiencing is real or not, in addition to giving you a different perspective of reality,” Arvind said. “I’ve tried my best to design this from the ground up based on my past experiences.”

All the proceeds for the show will benefit Life Vest Inside. Tickets are available from Eventbrite — use the code “Summer14″ for a discount. If you’re near New York City, DO NOT MISS this chance to see one of our longest-running, most respected forum members work his magic.