Become a Better Magician
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I have a love/hate relationship with magic. Those who know me well know that I’m often struggling to leave magic. I’m not the only consultant I know with the same conflict.
My passion in life is storytelling. I’m obsessed with the work that goes on behind the scenes to tell amazing stories. That might be theatre, live music, or movies. I was the kid who would watch a film with my family and then stay behind when the film finished. While my parents and younger brother headed up to bed, I would switch the DVD to its behind-the-scenes section and binge the short featurettes.
I watched the behind-the-scenes on every film I ever watched before things moved online. Now, with platforms like YouTube, I watch behind the scenes on every movie I watch and every film I do not watch.
I met Larry Fong not long ago. He’s a legendary director of photography and a passionate magician. You’ll know his work on movies like 300, The Tomorrow War, and Watchmen.
After holding it in for a long while, I eventually confessed that he was one of the first magicians I ever saw performing a classic card trick. I’d watched Larry perform the trick for the cast of Super 8 on a behind-the-scenes featurette I saw in my early teens. He burst into laughter, exclaiming that he couldn’t believe anyone actually watched that clip. He went on to tell a tremendous related story, and I felt some comfort in the fact I’d admitted such a story.
I met Larry via Maria Cork. Maria is incredible. She was in charge of creatures for the Star Wars films — often making Chewy look as gorgeous as possible. Maria is a passionate magician and Magic Circle member. A lot of incredible humans are magicians. Maria and Larry worked with director JJ Abrams, another passionate magician.
I called Maria a few times for help on TV magic methods over the years. She knows a lot about prosthetics, makeup, and props and is remarkably generous. At the end of our phone calls, she’ll tell me that she cannot tell me where she is now, but I should note the date and ask her in a year. This frustrates me, but I will always abide by such Star Wars rules.
One year later, she’ll tell me she was atop a snowy mountain with Harrison Ford and Chewy. A few years into knowing Maria and her incredible partner Jake, I finally admitted that I had once seen Maria in the featurette on the Willy Wonka DVD, as she puts the final touch on one of the animatronic Squirrels. Luckily, Maria also found this to be quite funny.
I suppose my love of magic is closer to the love that people like Jason Sudekis, Neil Patrick Harris, Larry Fong, JJ Abrams, and Maria Cork share. I can certainly relate to them far more than most performing magicians.
I’ll often tell people I’m not a magician—because I’m not. The closest thing to what I am is a songwriter who cannot sing or play instruments. I’ve never performed magic. I never had a paid performing gig. I never stood on stage or entered a talent show. It takes me a few drinks and a lot of coaxing before I’ll finally cave and share a trick.
But I’ve spent the best part of a decade traveling the world and writing on the most amazing magic television series. Not only that, but I’ve met a whole host of fascinating human beings—first connected through our love of this weird little hobby of magic.
I was always passionate about magic, ever since my Grandad first vanished a coin and made it reappear inside a small bag inside a matchbox inside another matchbox inside another rubber band wrapped matchbox. I’m thankful to him for doing so. The passion for magic lead to me finding a home within the magic niche of television. Without such passion, I would have been making teas and coffees in the TV industry for many many years before catching a break.
When I was 21, I was a magic consultant on a primetime magic television show. I worked very hard, was believed in by great mentors, and was also very cheap. I remember counting my lucky stars.
I got to be in the gallery, in the edit, at production meetings, on shoots, working with animals, on pranks, massive stunts, and with some of my childhood idols. And yet, I struggle with magic. It’s no secret that I dislike most magicians. And while working on magic shows is fantastic—it often feels like magic has a cult-like grip over my career.
Few magic consultants do not also perform. These consultants have incredible careers. There’s no ego and no pull and push between consulting and performing.
I’ve watched performers who consult have a brilliant idea in silence in a writer’s room, turn their notebook to its back page and write it down for later instead of sharing it with the group. I’ve had long struggled conversations with performers who consult and want so desperately to take time off from consulting and pursue their performing career, but the money from consulting is too good to decline.
I quite like being a consultant and writer who does not perform. I can be objective and give my all to the performer I’m writing for. I often feel like I need to work to prove myself more. A consultant who can’t perform magic—how odd, they must think. It doesn’t take long for performers to see my heart is in the right place, and then they’re at ease.
It seems magic has defined my life in strange and unusual ways I’m still coming to terms with as a ‘not really a magician.’ I have a lot to thank magic for giving me. I really must try not so hard to keep running away from it.
So I now find myself in America. I flew over with Preston Nyman, a magician, and great friend. I’ll be staying with Michael Stern, another magician, and great friend. While I’m here, I’ll see friends I made through magic and go to a magic convention.
If you see me at the Magic Live convention, say hello, and if you’re a full member of One Ahead, I’ll give you a limited edition enamel pin. If you don’t see me, visit the Plainsight booth to collect your pin. I’ll send paid subscribers a unique code this weekend that you’ll need to show at the booth.
Last night, a layperson told Stern and me how much he respected magic. He shared a story of a magician impossibly bending a coin for him. The conversation ended with the guy telling us that while the internet has ruined most things, he spent three hours searching for the secret and could not find it anywhere. He said it was remarkable that the internet has not destroyed the magic. The conversation bewilders me because his take on magic exposure couldn’t be further from the consensus amongst magicians.