FOUR POINTS: Remember these when trying to get media coverage

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

FOUR POINTS: Reasons why teaching the ACR took a full video

February 5th, 2015 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points, Products

Despite the amount of material we’ve released over an almost 15-year period, our older material still draws attention, and none more so than Crash Course 2. The video teaching the ambitious card routine (ACR) has been one of our best-reviewed videos because it features Brad’s teaching style at its best, and it’s packed full like a Southern bell’s suitcase with sleights, moves and ideas.

Released in 2003, it marked a departure from Crash Course 1, which taught several stand-alone routines from beginning to end. With a concept of teaching the ACR, it taught so much more than a routine — it taught how to make OUR OWN routines. The ACR is a classic of magic: It was a specific variation of that trick that Dai Vernon used to fool Houdini. It can be done myriad ways with a borrowed deck of cards. Every card worker has their take on it, and usually relies on some form of it as their go-to trick.

That means there’s no one way to teach an ACR. There are multiple ways, and that’s exactly the approach Brad Christian took with the video. And that approach makes Crash Course 2.


Crash Course 2 offers some of the best examples of learning by watching. The video was PACKED with performances of the effects taught. It gave watchers a chance to see exactly how the sleights played to real people, and how some performances don’t exactly go as planned, but still look magical. We also got to see so many great reactions, from the kid with the “Jackass” shirt to the girls Nate Staniforth performed for.


At its core, Crash Course 2 is a video packed with controls — a lot of different ways to accomplish the same thing. How many different ways do we REALLY need to know how to get a card to a certain position? The serious answer is simple: A LOT. For many, Crash Course 2 was a first toolbox, or arsenal. It gave magicians many options of accomplishing a certain task, and that freed up creativity.


The moves taught in Crash Course 2 go way beyond one-hit wonders. Many of those moves can be adapted for other purposes. Take the push-off double lift, for instance: It works at either the front of a trick to show a card going somewhere it’s really not, or it can be used at the end of a trick to reveal what a card really isn’t. By learning all the different uses for a sleight, the video taught a powerful lesson about using sleights in different ways.


This is probably the most important point: The other three points basically give magicians the power to create their own routines based on their performance character. David Blaine got many interested in magic, but one thing the video drives home is that people don’t want to see magic tricks performed — they want to see a GREAT MAGICIAN performing magic. Learning a variety of sleights and different ways to use them lets magicians take ownership of their own magic, and that’s the best lesson of all.

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