Close-up magic is my personal favorite genre of illusion; while I enjoy the huge set-pieces of stage magic and the mind-bending qualities of mentalism, there’s something about seeing something small but incredible happen only a few feet in front of you. In this episode of the BBC documentary miniseries History of Magic, great magicians like Channing Pollock, Fay Presto, and the late Paul Daniels give their insights into the why’s and how’s of great close-up magic. Spend your lazy Sunday learning about the wonders that can be conjured through simple human dexterity, and if you want more, check out their episode on disappearing magic, too.
Richard Turner documentary Dealt is an incredible character study, but of course the process to make a great artistic work doesn’t happen overnight. In director Luke Korem’s case, that process happened over several years because he threw out half of the film once he realized it wasn’t coming together as well as he’d like.
In an article written for No Film School, Korem discusses five important things he learned from making his second feature. While much of the advice is meant for filmmakers to take to heart (like “Don’t edit your own film”), there are still some interesting nuggets about the process of how Dealt‘s narrative took shape.
The reason why Dealt works so well (as we recounted in our review) is because it’s not just an account of Turner’s incredible life, but rather an essay on the nature of obsession and admitting your own limitations to yourself. But finding that story meant listening to what was going on around the film’s subjects’ lives and being willing to take a risk on extending the schedule beyond what they’d originally planned for. Korem explains:
…I realized mid-way through production on Dealt that there was a more powerful story to tell. The film at that point was mostly a past-tense biopic. The arc of the story was mostly what happened leading up to this point in the main character’s life. However, it wasn’t sitting right with me. I had reviewed a lot of the cinéma vérité we had filmed, and found it to be more interesting. I also sensed (from listening) that there was a present day conflict and story that was unfolding.
After considerable thought and a team meeting, we scrapped half the edit and reversed course. We decided to film for an additional full year. This also meant I needed to jump in the edit room because our main editor was no longer available. It all sounds crazy but it was the right move. The story we ended up telling has more weight and resonates with a greater audience. It was totally worth it.
You can read the rest of the article here, which offers other nuggets into Dealt’s creation, as well as great advice for both filmmakers and anyone interested in crafting a interesting story from unlikely sources. Dealt is available to watch on DVD and available to rent digitally through iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Google Play, and more.
The 1990s had a ton of great documentaries and specials about the art and history of magic. Like this series, entitled Mysteries of Magic, from Unapix Entertainment. The three-part series took a dive into the history of magic, magicians, and illusions, featuring loads of archival footage of greats like Houdini and Cardini. Spliced in between the history lessons are interviews with modern performers like Lance Burton and Teller (giving some of his first on-screen interviews ever), as well as performances from their own television specials and stage shows. Spend your lazy Sunday watching some of the best magic the 90s had to offer in the three parts below:
We love a good magic documentary, especially having grown up watching shows like Nova’s Secrets of the Psychics with James Randi. The CBC’s science, wildlife, and technology show The Nature of Things is going to air a special on Sunday, March 18 called The Science of Magic, and the lineup of included magicians sounds incredible.
Watch "The Science of Magic" on CBC’s "The Nature of Things" Sunday, March 18https://t.co/Vpvjx08xb8@ReelTimeImages @anjusan @dzuckerbrot @Billykiddshow @JuanTamarizMago @MattLTompkins @PitHartling @ThomasFraps pic.twitter.com/6aVOMXlDd6
— Canada's Magic (@canadasmagic) March 2, 2018
According to Canada’s Magic, the show will feature performances by and interviews with the likes of Julie Eng, Ronald Rensink, Jay Olson, Gustav Kuhn, Anthony Barnhart, Amory Danek, Matthew Tompkins, Thomas Strandberg, Billy Kidd, Tom Stone, Thomas Fraps, Pit Hartling, and Juan Tamariz. The show will be hosted by executive director of Magicana, Julienne Eng.
For those of you living in Canada unable to catch the televised broadcast, the CBC will host the video on its website for streaming a few days earlier on Friday, March 16 at 5:00pm EST. No word yet on when the documentary will be available to view in other countries, but the press release in the report above mentions that this is the “world broadcast premiere”, so hopefully the rest of the world will get a chance to check it out soon.
James Randi is still the world’s ultimate skeptic; a magician who has spent his career debunking supernatural and psychic claims all over the world. He’s appeared on the Tonight Show, where he exposed faith healer Peter Popoff, he’s worked with Penn & Teller on their skeptic-based documentary show Bullshit!, and even founded the James Randi Educational Fund, which hosts a challenge that will award anyone who can demonstrate supernatural ability under scientific criteria $1 million (no one has won the award).
Back in 1993, Randi helped to produce an hour-long special called Secrets of the Psychics for PBS documentary show Nova. The documentary explores his relationship with psychic claims as a magician, his own methods for debunking fraud, as well as his famous battles with Uri Geller and Peter Popoff. Take an hour out of your lazy Sunday to watch reason prevail against fraud in the video embedded above.
The Mingus Magic Shop is the subject of an upcoming documentary, and the store needs people to be a part of the filming. The store posted to Facebook with an open call for both performers and audience members to participate in an upcoming shoot.
Barely Upright Productions is running the production, and the film date is Saturday, February 17, between 2:00 and 5:00. Here’s the full announcement:
The Reading, Pennsylvania, store was founded way back in 1938 by LeRoy Mingus. It is one of the country’s oldest brick and mortar magic shops, and it hosts local chapters of both the International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians.
The store recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with a wonderful video paying homage to the classic cups and balls routine. Check out current store owner Wayne Shifflett teaming up with 11 other magicians to do a seamless cut of the routine. The store also made a second video offering a quick history lesson on the beloved trick. Given the Mingus Magic Shop’s long and storied history, a documentary seems well in order.
All of us here at GeniiOnline are what you’d call magic nerds. For our Canadian brethren, there’s a chance to strut your nerdy stuff next month. GeekFest Toronto will host a screening of Wild Cards, a documentary short about cardistry by director Gwendolin Mah.
Mah is based in Singapore, and her 2015 project stars The Virts, whose beautiful videos and lovely new card deck have been hot on our radar for the past few weeks. Those who attend the screening will likely learn more about the group members and about the snappy card-based performance art. Check out another of The Virts’ older videos above for an example of their flourishing.
GeekFest Toronto is February 14 and tickets are still on sale for the whole day or for portions of the event.
Magic duo Penn & Teller have between them an encyclopedic knowledge of magic performance and history, and their work throughout the years has often been in service of educating the public of that history through entertainment. Back in 2003, the pair traveled to Egypt, China, and India in search of the world’s best street magic as part of a documentary miniseries called Penn & Teller’s Magic and Mystery Tour, produced for the United Kingdom by CBC and Channel 4 Productions. Take a couple hours this Sunday and immerse yourself in rich magical heritage form around the globe. The episode about Egypt can be found above, while the other two can be found below.
David Copperfield inarguably remains one of the most popular and in-demand magicians alive, topping Forbes’ list of highest-paid illusionists and continuing to draw huge crowds at his nightly performances at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. But before his name became synonymous with magic, he was just a normal kid who spent time at Tannen’s Magic Shop. This 2002 documentary produced by A&E’s Biography is an oldie but a goodie, delving into the life and rise of Copperfield, along with rare glimpses into his childhood.
When people think of the magic capitals of the world, they often think of the big cities: Houdini escaping a straitjacket in New York City, David Copperfield performing in Vegas, and so on. The relatively small Canadian city of Winnipeg may not immediately come to mind, but it’s been a hub for magicians for decades. The 2014 short documentary Pick a Card, Any Card (embedded above) details the uniquely rich history of Winnipeg magic, from the founding of the Winnipeg branch of the International Brotherhood of Magicians to the magicians currently working there today.