How Magicians Send Secret Messages

Get key info from an assistant

How Magicians Send Secret Messages

Editors in telly tend to fall into one of two categories for magic. They either adore the challenge of editing tricks—taking the time to cut around flashes and using their skills to drive the story and enhance the magic.

They feel like part of the team making the magic happen.

Or they do all of the above and brag about it—they’ll tell everyone the magician would look like a tit if it weren’t for them. I remember one such editor who told me the first time we ever met that he once “saved” a magician when he cut around a “massive error.”

The massive error was no fault of the magician and wasn’t an error. They had hidden a television screen within a speaker at the front of the stage. And it happened to be completely exposed in a wide shot from the live cut of the show.

I often think about this story when considering the types of cues to use in my work. I think the story serves as a reminder that even the most successful magicians use cues and choose their methods based upon their environments.

I also just really was not a fan of that editor.

What are secret cues?

We will define cues as any message given in secret to a performer for this post. You’ll have seen the most basic kind if you’ve ever gone to a stand-up comedy night — when the guy at the back flashes a light to tell the performer their time is up.

When you go to the Blackpool magic convention, you’ll see a talented host like John Archer fill time until a lightbulb at the front of the stage lets him know the next act is ready behind the curtain.

But these messages can be far more detailed. You’ll probably consider tech options like earpieces, thumpers and screens inside speakers. There’s only really one occasion when I would recommend these, and I’ll explain this in a bit.

Consider the environment.

These secret messages and cues are not reserved for the stage. We’ve used them for close-up, street magic and television filming. The most fooled I’ve ever been by Ollie Mealing was when Steven Bridges was using a thumper to tell him which card I had chosen. During my first week working for Dynamo, I watched him and Harry De Cruz configuring hand signals for close-up performance.

Each environment will bring with it a new set of problems and possibilities. Think long and hard about the context, who’s there, where are you and what objects surround you.

Instant, Delayed, & Pseudo-Delayed.

These are the three types of cues or secret messages I’ll teach today.

Instant: This is when an accomplice or technology must immediately relay information to the performer. An example of an instant cue might be when a spectator names their birth date aloud for the first time, and an assistant relays the day of the week, weather that day, and other celebs born on that date to the magician via an earpiece or screen.

This post is for magicians only

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