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I was seventeen years old when I sat in my first ever TV magic writers room. I was the least experienced by a long shot and took it as an opportunity to learn from everyone. I do remember one stand-out moment — about halfway through the day, we began discussing a trick idea, and the most experienced consultant in the room stood up and made a gentle announcement.
They informed us that they had worked on a similar trick for a TV series the year before and that they were happy for us to continue the discussion, but they would need to leave the room and inform their previous client.
I remember thinking the guy was probably overreacting. But over the years, I’ve realised that secrets are the most valuable currency in our industry. There are consultants I will not recommend for work due to their poor ability to keep a secret. I’ve since watched big-name magic consultants refuse to attend set on days tricks are being recorded that are similar to tricks they’ve worked on for others.
And the story came full circle when seven years later, I sat in a writers room in America, and the team discussed a magic trick with a hoodie. I don’t remember leaving the room, but I let them know I’d worked on something similar and called the original client to let them know. Secrets are the most valuable currency for the consultant.
Besides the moral dilemma of secret-keeping, there’s also the legal one. I have signed so many non-disclosure agreements. The validity of these agreements is probably minute. I keep secrets because good secret-keepers get hired again.
Penn & Teller: Fool Us
Over the next year, I will reach out to industry insiders behind your favourite magic shows and ask for their unfiltered experiences and opinions. I’ll interview casting producers, studio directors, contestants, winners and consultants. I'll be keeping their names anonymous to make things a little more engaging and give participants the freedom to speak their minds.
I spoke to three Fool Us contestants about their time on the show to kick things off and trial this anonymous interview idea. Good luck guessing who they might be.
Fool Us Performer 001
How did you get cast for the TV show?
I submitted a video to Fool Us casting.
Did you perform a new or existing trick of yours?
I performed an act I created (I guess that’s what you mean by something new). The goal wasn’t to try to make it original. I wanted to perform an act that best represented me as a magician, and I create all of my magic, so it was important to me that my act reflected that.
Did the producers make any changes to your routine?
Surprisingly, no. They made a few minimal tweaks in the script but, if I asked to keep it the way it was or change it a bit they were very flexible.
How did the rehearsals go for the show?
I spent 3 full days in Vegas. The first day I filmed the one minute intro. The second day nothing was planned so I just practised my act. The third day was when they Filmed my performance. After I got makeup and the mic ready I had 3 rehearsals on the stage. They brought Penn and Teller in, and I performed my act. I was able to do the performance right after my rehearsal since there was no audience due to covid.
Was your goal to fool Penn and Teller?
Not at all. I always knew it was a nice cherry on top but not necessary for my goal. My goal was to put on a good performance and impress Penn & Teller. I felt I was ready to accomplish this goal and reach a larger audience.
Did you fool Penn and Teller?
Would you go on the show again?
Possibly. I was just on this season so most likely not anytime soon. Generally, magicians go on the help their magic business so it will be a bit before/if I need a boost again.
What would your advice be to first-time contestants?
Talk to the producers about what camera angles are necessary. If I were on any other show I would have made sure to do this but since I knew this show only ever filmed magicians I assumed it wasn’t necessary. I didn’t see the video of my act until it aired, and there was nothing bad that was caught on camera but there were a couple of very small tweaks I would have made. I hope this doesn’t come off in too much of a negative way because I do appreciate that Fool Us has the magicians best interest in mind. They want to make you look as good as possible, which is very comforting to know.