Monday, December 6, 2010

The Expendables



The average magic act has expendables coming out the wazoo. Things like mouth coils, flash paper, rope, cards, confetti, paper pads, fruit, hat tears, newspaper, sharpies, pens, pencils, (bent) cutlery, milk, paper cones, wax, lunch bags, snowstorms, etc. are all expendable items that take their toll on the environment and our pocket books.

In my attempt to 'go green' I have had to rethink the necessity of some of the expendables in my act. The recession has also been another factor in reconsidering the investment in things that will be inevitably be trashed after a single performance.

Question your expendables:
1. Can this thing be reused?
2. Can this expendable be replaced with a reusable?
3. Do I need to continue to perform this effect/routine?

Be honest and ask yourself if you want add anything to your act that has an expendable involved? Is it cost effective? Is it good to the world we share? Is it sending a good message to our audiences and clients?

Consider the expendables.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pimp Your Ride



Unfortunately, a large portion of society judges an individuals personal and professional worth by the vehicle they drive - arrive in. And that includes your clients. Even if your car is 25 years old, (and not a 'classic' by any standards) the bare minimum you should do is take it through a car wash, trash the fast food wrappers and coffee cups at the gas station and vacuum it out when you get a chance. You'll feel better, you'll look better arriving at the gig and you'll give the impression (or the illusion!) that you're a pro and in control of yourself. If your ride is at the ass end of embarrassing due to rust, decay or downright butt-ugliness; take a cab, hire a car service, or park a block away and walk.

Usually all it takes to pimp your ride is to clean it.
Get on that.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Who are you listening to?



















When it comes to advice about magic...everyone has some. With online forums, chat rooms, social networks, youtube, etc. We are bombarded with information on how to look, how to talk, how to script, how to advance our technique, how to structure our show, what tricks to buy, which tricks suck, what works, what doesn't and why "every magician" should do this, purchase that or avoid this and jump on that.

When it comes to the magic that you perform, the magic that you add to your show and the things you keep in the show and take away from the show, there should be only two voices you listen to above any others.

You and your audience.

It's easy to take advice from anonymous and virtually anonymous 'experts' online. The hard thing to do is to take a routine/effect that we've put some thought into and then put it into a performance and see if it works. After that performance you have to listen to your gut, your heart, your instinct and be brutally honest. Does it work for your personality? Does it work with the flow and/or theme of the show? Is the reset, pre-show, prep time and effort to pull it off worth it? And then...you have to listen to the audience. What was the general audience response (weak applause, laughter, silence, etc.) and was it a response you wanted, were expecting and does it motivate you to continue to polish and perfect the routine? Did you get some honest feedback from people after the show regarding the effect? Are you still motivated after that feedback?

Obviously you need put together your own criteria to analyze audience response and your own feelings about the routine etc. Just remember that the loudest voices dictating your decisions about your show and the routines in that show are YOU and your AUDIENCE.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stop The Insanity!



You've just picked up your suit from the cleaners, put it on, packed the car and are on the way to your gig. You pop in to Starbucks for that Grande decaf and settle back into your car ready to face the hour long drive to the venue. About half way into your journey, your notice your cup is leaking around the lid...and for the love of all that's good and pure, there is now a nice large Rorschach coffee stain on your newly pressed dress shirt!

Okay, I'm not going to tell you how to get the stain out. Just Google that. I am going to share with you my hard earned knowledge of how I have been preventing this scenario over the past couple of years (and several leaks and spills later).





Step One:
Buy your hot drink of choice (see photo).











Step Two:
Add stuff to your drink and stir (see photo).










Step Three:
Looking down on the top of the cup, locate where the cup is 'joined' together. See the black arrow pointing at the 'join' in the photo.





Step Four:
Now place the lid opening 1 centimetre (about 1/2 inch my American friends!) to the right of that 'join' and firmly press the lid on the cup. The black arrow shows approximately where that should go in the two photos above (side and top views).









Step Five:
Now take a napkin and lay it flat on a table.










Step Six:
Fold the napkin in half.










Step Seven:
Now wrap the folded napkin around the side of the cup, close to the lid and centred at the cup opening.







Step Eight:
Enjoy your drink. The lid placement shown should cover most leaks and the added napkin 'safeguard' will catch the rest.

Final Thought:
Before I get comments about being environmentally unfriendly, let me say that the best way to prevent a leaking and spilling cup, is to invest in a non-disposable, re-useable, ecologically mature, travel mug with a good tight lid that is easy to drink from. But you already new that.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Secret



There is nothing that makes the road to being a better performer easier. Nothing you can buy. No lecture you can attend. No workshop. No tactics, gimmicks or a slicker promo package. There is really only one way to better yourself as a performer, develop your onstage persona and learn how to connect with an audience. And that is...just work. I wish I could hold a convention where aspiring performers would come so I could have the one and only lecture where I would reveal the secret to being the best you can be. The lecture would have one powerpoint slide that would say JUST WORK, and then I would send everybody home. Everybody wants to know if there is a secret formula to get around all the work involved in developing an act, being a better performer, etc. There is none. Just work.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Salvage Your Soul





You've just walked offstage and you feel like garbage. Your spidey sense is acting up and telling you that the crowd didn't buy into you, your magic, and were waiting for you to leave the stage about 44 minutes ago so they could get on with their lives. The one routine that usually kills, even fell flat with this bunch of suits. And that new piece you'd been dying to try, carefully book-ended in the middle of your time-tested veteran effects...what were you thinking!? The euphoria and adrenalin that usually accompanies the walk to your car has been replaced with complete emotional and physical exhaustion. Humiliation too, maybe? It was that crowd. Could they have been more comatose? Cardiac defibrillation couldn't have aroused these humorless zombies. And didn't anyone read your tech rider? Not only were you forced to perform on the smallest platform riser known to human civilization, but did they have to find the one Churchill stood on when he delivered his 'Never Give In' speech. Every time you stood in the middle of it, you were doing the Michael Jackson 'lean' from Smooth Criminal. The moment you KNEW you sucked though, was when you had to walk past everyone after the show. You could tell most of them wouldn't look you in the eye. And the people that did say, "great show" and "nice job" and "thanks a lot" were really thinking, "he must have a real job, this can't be all he does."

So.

What do you do after a bad show? I blame myself. I blame the venue. I blame the audience. I blame the organizer. I blame my choice of material. I blame the material. I could have. I should have. They could have. They should have. etc. etc.

But, once that human knee-jerk reaction has fizzled and you're on your way home, what do you do? For the past while, I have attempted to compartmentalize the negative experience as best I can, and look at the show as objectively as I can. We can never connect with every audience we perform for. It's not only impossible, it's not conducive to growth. Growth as a performer and artist. The growth of your act and your routines. And growth as a human adult in this world.
It is a conscious choice to use this experience to wallow in self-pity, or use it to improve.

Let's imagine that we want to make the right choice. It's healthy to go back over all of the things we blamed, while the wounds are still fresh, and see if any of the negative aspects could be turned into positives in a future performance or engagement. What possible conditions or deliberate actions could have been changed to make a better connection with THAT audience.

If the staging, lighting, sound or other technical aspects contributed to the problem how can we ensure that we don't have to live through the issue in future shows. Does your technical rider
need to be changed (or created?) so that your clients are given ample information and time to prepare the venue for your show? Do you need to get there earlier to make sure everything is ready and set?

If it was a routine line-up problem, where did the dilemma stem from? Were there too many pieces? Were there too few? Was it the order of the pieces that could be rearranged for the better? Is there something that needs to be cut from the show?

The hardest question to ask (and answer honestly) is why you felt you didn't connect with your audience? Maybe it was your treatment of an audience volunteer that threw off the show. You might not of connected with the audience due to nervousness and as a result you rushed your lines and routines. Maybe you arrived too late to prepare for your performance, before you took the stage. It's possible that something in your personal life altered your attitude towards this audience (even on a subconscious level) and subsequently tainted your performance. Sometimes it IS the audience. There are circumstances that can be beyond your control. Acknowledging that will also help in the growth process.

The strange and terrible beauty of live performance is that it lives and breathes and is not something that can be completely bottled, organized and sold. Every show is different. Every audience is different. Every routine will play and be received differently from performance to performance. Every venue offers up new challenges and hurdles. And it is for these reasons that it is such a wonderful and terrifying experience all at once. Every time.

How we handle and process the seemingly negative experiences for us, as performers, can change the way we reflect upon the less than desirable performances. Are we acknowledging our weaknesses? Are we changing what we have the power to change? Are we accepting the things that we have no power to change? Are we growing?

Until next time, think nice thoughts.
Sincerely,
Bill


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Disney Inspirations




I am currently wearing a sweatshirt, winter vest and long pants on our family vacation in Kissimee Florida. It is like a Canadian spring here weather-wise, but there is hope that the heat will appear on Monday. Our frost-bitten fingers and toes are crossed.

My first trip to the Magic Kingdom was when I was 26 with a group of buddies after a week partying in Daytona. Since that first visit I have tried to return as often as possible to gain inspiration, direction and motivation for my own creative projects and schemes. There is something about Walt's world that helps me to re-focus and puts me in the right (childlike?) frame of mind to unlock my creativity. Oh, and the kids seem to be enjoying themselves as well.

I thought I would share two things that inspired me this week in the hope that it might inspire you as well. One thing came from a quote that I saw displayed on a wall in the one of the parks. It's from Walt Disney himself and is ridiculously simple, direct and practical.

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."
-Walt Disney

To be honest there are several things on my mental project 'shelf' that are waiting to be brought to life, realized and frankly exorcised from my brain! I have been talking about them, pre-planning their birth and fantasizing about what they could be without doing anything to make them a reality. Now is the time. No more procrastinating. No more talking. It's time to begin doing.

My other inspiration came from a documentary about the creation of Disney World entitled Magic Kingdom - Imagineering the Magic. It's a DVD I picked up at one of the parks and watched on my laptop in my room last night. It was during one of the interviews with Tony Baxter who is currently the Senior Vice President of Creative Development with Walt Disney Imagineering, that I heard something that struck a chord. He was talking about the numerous ideas, concepts and projects that had never seen the light of day for a variety of reasons. Whether it was a ride, an audio-animatronic, a original song composition, etc. He said that every good idea never dies. Eventually they put every workable thing to work somewhere at sometime.

For the past three years (wow!) Richard Sanders and I have been working together on magic projects and tools for magicians to use. Check it out here: http://automaticmystery.com/
The thing that hit home about Baxter's interview was that Rich and I have come up with literally dozens and dozens of great ideas. In and of themselves they are not yet worthy of any project, routine or product BUT they will continue to exist in the back of our minds, written in notebooks, on audio files recorded on an iPhone, in email exchanges, etc. What I have learned is that some ideas can only be 'worked' for a limited amount of time before the excitement and motivation behind the idea eventually dies. It's what you do as a creator at this point that can either make or break the creative energy. You can soldier on and continue to hash it out until you have something that may look like something half decent OR you can shelve it (mentally or physically) and come back to it when the time is right. It is the latter action that I have learned in the past year, to be the best way to put ideas to work and to save your sanity (and partnership!). If you beat an idea into submission, after losing your excitement for it, you lose the joy of the creative process and subsequently the idea will not be as great as it could have been. By putting it aside for a time the idea is allowed to distill and grow on it's own. At the right time (something that is felt rather than decided) the idea will come to fruition on it's own and present itself ready. Sounds like a zen thing. And I think it kind of is.

Anyways, I have to get out of the room and get on some rides. I hope something inspires you.

Until next time, think GREAT thoughts.
Sincerely,
Bill

Monday, February 1, 2010

February PRO-TIP for Customize Your Smart Ass










February's Bill Abbott Magic PRO-TIP is a full routine using Customize Your Smart Ass found here on my website.

INTRODUCTION

I first started to use a customizable Smart Ass deck shortly after I had created the original Smart Ass deck. I wanted a large scale stage prediction that didn't have the limitations that many of the marketed and published versions currently available, seem to have. I wanted something portable, fairly inexpensive, reusable, and with a finale that played to an audience of 3,000, if needed. That's when I put together the All-Inclusive Vacation Prediction, which is one of the several routines detailed in the Customize Your Smart Ass booklet that comes with the deck. The AIVP has the decided advantage of being truly predicted in advance, with no double-writing, carbon impressions or a difficult to read finale. Although I will not tip the method(s) here, anyone with some background in magic and mentalism should be able to piece it together. The complete version is in the Customize Your Smart Ass booklet found here.

THE ROUTINE


At the end of your show you explain that due to an incredible sales year at company XYZ (insert client’s company name here), the upper management has agreed to arrange for an all-expenses paid vacation for everyone to anywhere in the world. They have left the choice up to us to choose the destination, time of departure and the form of transportation to the destination. You take off your watch and ask a volunteer in the front row to stand up and show them that you want them to wind your watch changing the time with each turn of the stem. To make this a random procedure ask them to do this while the watch face is face down in their hand.


While they are doing this you ask anyone to call out vacation destinations. As they do, you pull out a pad of paper and begin to write down each destination per piece of paper, folding them twice and dropping them one at a time onto an empty table or chair. Once you have 10-12 names you ask a volunteer to join you on stage. You ask them to select any slip of paper from the random ones on the table/chair and to pocket it. Once this is done you invite them to take a seat on a chair beside you.


You remove a pack of blank backed cards that have various forms of transportation on one side of them. MOPED, STREETCAR, KAYAK, ON FOOT, SNOWMOBILE, DOG SLED, ONE HORSE OPEN SLEIGH, etc. are some of the options. You hand them the pack and proceed with the 'Smart Ass' elimination procedure concluding with a final selection which you tell your participant to pocket along with the destination. Finally you tell your ‘watch winding’ assistant to stop his winding and to push the stem of the watch in, turn the watch over and call out the random time. You write the time on a large black/ white board, thank the volunteer and take back your watch.


Instruct your on stage volunteer to remove the mystery destination slip and transportation card from their pocket and call both out while you write them on the board below the departure time. Take back the card and slip and ask the volunteer to take their seat. You ask the event organizer to come on stage and to bring ‘the package’. They come to the stage bringing a long mailing tube. Ask them to verify that they received this package two weeks before the performance and have not opened or tampered with it in anyway. Ask them to open it and remove the contents. Inside there are is a large scroll of paper. You ask them to take one free end while you let it unroll from the ‘scroll’. Slowly the departure time, form of transportation and exact destination is revealed in a banner that boldly proclaims a 100% accurate prediction that eventually fills the entire stage.


AFTERTHOUGHTS


You do not have to mail out the prediction ahead of time, but it does lend itself to a more dramatic and suspenseful conclusion. I have had a professionally printed banner printed on vinyl that, when unrolled, opens to a whopping 25 feet across and 3 feet wide. This fits into a mailing tube which I seal and mail to the client previous to the event with the instruction to bring it to the show. You could do this cost-effectively using your own printer, or simply take a roll of paper and write out your prediction with a large marker.


Have Fun!

Until next time, think nice thoughts.

Sincerely,
Bill

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mind Control Remastered PRO-TIP




Welcome to the first Bill Abbott Magic PRO-TIP featuring Mind Control Re-Mastered found here on my website.


INTRODUCTION

Mind Control is an effect that I created based on a dealer item entitled Hypnotic Choice. The original product featured 3 cards with coloured 'hypno' circles on them, a coloured pencil/pen and a coin envelope to hold the cards in. The spectator would select one of the coloured cards (either red, blue or yellow) and you (the mastermind performer!) would show them that you had predicted their choice by showing an indelible prediction that was in-play from the beginning.

I liked the effect but not the props that came with the routine. I wanted something that seemed random, impromptu and spontaneous. I also wanted this to be something I could perform at a house party, client meeting or in an unplanned performance moment. I also wanted to expand the potential or possibilities to something more incredible than a 1 in 3 outcome. My solution to this was/is Mind Control.

Three things I always find I have with me 24-7 are:
1. My set of keys 2. My business cards. 3. A pen.
With this in mind I knew that if I utilized these items that were always with me, I always had the ability to perform the effect, anywhere. These are natural items found in the 'real world' and not props found in a magic shop and therefore would not excite suspicion.

Mind Control also adds to the mystery by adding to the number of objects in play (6, 10 or 20) and in addition almost all of the props that are added to the mix are borrowed, random objects.

With the props supplied in the Mind Control set (pen, key chain and business card) you have the ability to perform a powerful piece of mentalism at anytime and anywhere


MIND CONTROL ROUTINE

One (of the many) featured routines on the instructional DVD is one that I most often perform at house parties. It's a great ice breaker before starting a more formal show because it involves people and their personal belongings in an immediate way. Essentially, several objects are borrowed from the audience and laid out in a row on a coffee table or even the floor. I usually use 6 objects but you can use up to 20 or more if you like. I select someone from the group that I think has good intuitive skills and ask them to narrow down the choice of objects by calling out 'odd' or 'even'. Whatever they say, I ask whether they want to eliminate the odds or keep them. Based on their answer we do exactly as they command, so we are now down to three objects.

At this point I pick up small pad/business card/scrap piece of paper and write down the three objects left on the table and hand the paper and pen to the participant. I distance myself from the spectator and ask that they mentally select one of the three objects. Once they verify this, I ask that they put an 'X' beside the object they have mentally selected. While they are doing this I turn away. Now with my back to them I ask them if they have just selected ____________ (a particular object on the list of three). They agree that they have in fact selected that very object! You then reveal that you have had an indelible prediction in play from the very beginning that clearly predicted the object they would choose!


THE PRO-TIP

The ability to name the thought-of object before you reveal your prediction is something I have been performing for the past two years and something I have only divulged in a small handful of lecture appearances. It is a simple method, but the impact of it only drives home the idea that you truly predicted their actions and thoughts. What is it? Pencil reading. If your sphincter just tightened, loosen up and read on! In making a list of the remaining three objects on the pad/paper/card, you are actually forcing your participant to place his/her 'X' in a specific place. See photo below.


By placing a box beside each object and spacing them down the page, it is VERY easy to tell which object they place the 'X' beside especially from a distance. By noting the location of their hand and the pen on the paper, you can now easily deduce which object they are thinking of. The timing of this is crucial to the success. As soon the participant has put the pen to the paper to make his/her 'X' I immediately turn and face the opposite direction, wait a beat and ask, "Have you done that?" The distinct impression is that you had your back turned WHILE they were placing their 'X' on the paper. Now, with your back still turned, you simply ask if they were thinking of the object that you now KNOW they placed their 'X' beside, and of course they were answer, "Yes!" You then go on to reveal the indelible prediction that is featured in the Mind Control routine provided.

Until next time, think nice thoughts.

Sincerely,
Bill