When I was at FISM last summer a guy showed me a really cool stunt…it wasn’t really a magic trick. It was more like Paper Balls Over Head where the audience sees something and there was a bit of a payoff later. What happened was I sat in a chair and he had two coins. He clinked them together. You then closed your eyes and he clinked the coins and you pointed to where he was. You did this several times and the final time you heard the clink and pointed to where you heard the noise. Let’s say you pointed behind you, you opened your eyes and the guy was in front of you.
It was really cool and I’d never seen anything like it.
Yep, I found the principle for the trick that was written up in 1979! The version that I saw at FISM was definitely a more fleshed out version of the stunt, but it was fun to run into the trick in that book!
Here’s another idea I’ve always wanted to try with the Vanishing Birdcage:
While I was at FISM I picked up a smoke device. These have come a long way since the late 1990’s when I became aware of them. This particular unit has a timer, so it you hit a button and it delays however long you set it, then it emits smoke for as long as you program into it. It’s pretty cool. The big addition to these is a fan that propels the smoke, and that’s the thing that I think was missing from a lot of the previous attempts at a smoke device.
I know that in the video above, my timing is off a little bit. It’s not a big deal as this isn’t something that I intend to ever do again, I was just curious what it would look like.
I do think it looks really cool, however having the take up reel and smoke device on one arm is a lot of stuff strapped to you and because of that I’ll never do it. I could be missing out… -Louie
When I was up in Quebec City for FISM, I was chatting with Chris Hanowell about names for a trick. We thought “Regicide” would be a great title for a magic trick, and Chris is working on it. A few weeks later I had an idea for a trick called “American Regicide” and finally got around to making a test version:
I have a better idea for how to make the gimmick that animates it that will eliminate hand movement. It’s something that I need to 3d print, so it’ll have to wait until I’m home for longer than a day or two for me to design, print, tweak and reprint.
When I was at FISM, I didn’t buy much at the dealer room (compared to some people I know). One of the things I picked up from the FISM booth was Sticker Kicker by Jamie Williams.
This is a fun little trick where a sticker stuck to the back of a card becomes the card, and the back of the card becomes a sticker.
Here’s the promo video for it:
I have a slightly different idea for how I want to use it. It will be a later phase in a card routine. However this led me to another idea. I have a pack of Card Stickers. These are simply stickers that are the face of playing cards that are poker size. In theory I can put them onto the face of a blank face card. Then at the end of the routine, I could peel the face off the card and put it into a notebook full of other people’s card stickers.
I think that’d be a fun and strange ending to a routine with a signed card. Also as a bonus, I’m going to imagine it will act like a thick card as well.
I made it to the last day, and despite a late night, I got up on time! FISM is the longest magic convention that I’ve ever attended. You can really push yourself with lack of sleep at a three or four day magic convention, but with FISM at a week long, it’s really a marathon!
The final day of the convention ended with Stuart McDonald’s act, which I’d seen last year at Abbott’s Magic Get Together. I thought he was going to be a strong contender, but it got a very different reaction to the act at FISM than he got at Abbott’s. You should follow him on Facebook and read his post about how he feels he act was received and why it was received that way. It’s very honest and I think correct in thinking that it was the wrong act for this specific contest.
After the contest, it was off for lunch. I’m amazed that this area of Quebec City after having around 1,500 magicians in town for a week, people still asked up to show them tricks when we were at restaurants or bars.
I think that’s a testament to how strong the magic is at FISM both on the stages and in the audiences. No one is doing bad magic here, and everyone even informally has brought their “A game”.
The contests ended with the Winner’s Gala and the Awards Gala, which were to separate events. The Winner’s Gala was first, where the first place acts of all the categories in stage and close up performed their acts. Unfortunately due to some really bad camera work, Markobi’s close up card act was unwatchable. It’s really disappointing for people who bought tickets to the show, to have an act that you couldn’t see because the camera was pointed in the wrong spot. After Markobi, was Luis Olmedo who won Micro Magic and should be given the “boss status” award after the camera work was bad or non existent, he simply stopped and said, “I’ll wait” and did just that until the tech team got their sh*t together.
Then the evening ended with the Awards Gala, which didn’t make sense as we already knew who the first place winners were. While I congratulate everyone who got second and third place in their categories, it was pretty anticlimactic. The only surprises were the Grand Prix and Special Awards, but that wasn’t enough to carry the Awards Gala.
On the official FISM schedule after the Awards Gala was a “party” in the banquet room. This party was moved to the back of the dealers room and was exactly what had been happening the previous few nights. For an amazing week that really could have ended on a HIGH, the last two events were a bit of a let down. While I should have hung out at the party, I had an early flight the next day and did my farewell tour saying goodbye and made it to my hotel for a solid five hours of sleep.
The day after FISM ended, when people were heading to the airport the texts started coming in. People were testing for COVID before returning home and they were testing positive for COVID.
Luckily I tested negative, but I still have a few more days before I’m officially in the clear.
Exposure to COVID aside, I had as much fun at FISM as I did when I was a teenager going to magic conventions. It rekindled my desire to attend more magic conventions and will probably carve out a week each summer to go to a magic convention. I left feeling inspired, and overall it’s good for my soul as an artist to be exposed to high level art!
Well shoot, I slept in and work up at 11am, a solid three hours too late and missed the stage contest. After a quick shower and running out the door, I realized that I couldn’t get off the block my hotel was on, it was barricaded. With a little bit of hangover, I figured one of the breakfast spots on my block would be just what the doctor ordered. Little do I know that I would be eating my eggs benedict while the pope drove by!
This led to my second disappointment of the week, and that he was in a Fiat, not the famous Pope-Mobile. I’m giving FISM a pass on this as the Pope’s choice of car was beyond their control.
I was able to catch the close up contest in the afternoon and it feels like as the week goes on, the competitors in both contests are getting stronger and stronger. I don’t know if it’s designed that way, or if it was just a coincidence.
After the contest, I snuck down to the dealer room to make my first purchase. I had seen a lot of the different smoke devices that were being offered by different dealers and I’ve had an idea for one, but the technology really hadn’t been there until recently to do what I wanted. These devices that create smoke have come a long way in the last few years. During all of the contests, smoke was frequently used to enhance the vanishing or appearances.
The show tonight was the close up show hosted by Rob Zabrecky. It was set like a late night talk show. Aside from some camera issues, the show was great. Tickets to these evening shows are sold to the general public and I always wonder what they think after seeing something like this. There are soo many inside jokes that non magician’s wouldn’t get. Then in the show both Paul Gertner and Michael Ammar did the cups and balls. If I wasn’t a magician, I’d wonder why at a huge show in an international magic championship that two people would do the same trick?
After the show it was down to the dealer’s room for the late night jam. A quick word about the layout of the convention. The stage and close up competition rooms were upstairs and almost everything else was two floors down. They had escalators to take you up and down two the two floors. These escalators were constantly breaking. At first the hotel thought it was too much weight on them and would only allow a few people on them at a time, but that didn’t solve the problem and as the week went on they were frequently closed. I’m not complaining about walking up the stairs, but I know for some magicians with mobility issues, this was really inconvenient and painful.
Tonight in the back of the dealer room Olmac from France was showing off some of his card color changes. He has a very unique take on this, it’s all with a “single card” and he has many different techniques for achieving the change which range from amazing to impossible!
When the finally closed down the dealer room jam at 1:30am, it was back to the Ninkasi bar, but this time to the upstairs floor (I’ve been going there all week and didn’t know it had an upstairs) for some super late night beers!
At 3am when the bar closed, we all moved out into the street and kept the magic flowing until way too late. I don’t know what time I crawled back to my hotel as my phone had run out of battery power long ago!
Walking to the venue, I stumbled on to a little magic jam going on outside and I saw some great coin work! I think coin magic is starting to catch up with card magic in popularity based on the amount of coin work I saw.
The amount of magic going on everywhere at FISM is staggering. A person of virtually any skill level could learn something just by walking down the hall and stopping at the first group of people they saw.
One of the highlights of FISM was seeing my friend Elliott Hunter compete in the stage competition.
I’ve known Elliott since he was a kid and seen this act grow over the years. I know how hard he works on it and every time I see it, it’s better than the previous time! The path as a performer to get into the FISM competition is grueling, and I respect anyone who manages to make it onto that stage!
FISM did have a really cool thing, which was Jeff McBride’s Magic and Mystery School room. This was a conference room on the beginning of one of the hallways. It was always full of magicians learning from Jeff McBride or one of the school’s instructors like Will Bradshaw. Jeff provided lectures and hands on learning for stage, close up, impromptu and performance skills. They passed out props for you to use to learn the routines and this room was virtually always full of magicians actively learning!
Jeff, like Bob Fitch was very generous with his time and was probably the hardest working person at FISM! He was essentially performing and teaching all day, I’m not sure when he ever ate or slept as I ran into him out very late one night!
Today at the close up contest is where everyone started to realize how great DJ FISM was! During all of the contest while acts were setting up or striking, there was music playing. Today DJ FISM (sorry, I don’t know their real name) had the audience singing to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and usually had a song that somehow related to the act that had just ended. Then just when we’d gotten the Topas song One More out of our heads he’d play it, ensuring it was locked in there for the whole convention.
The silver lining of having 18 months of virtual magic meeting and lectures during the pandemic, was meeting a lot of magicians from around country and around the world that I would probably never have met. FISM was a great opportunity to turn those virtual relationships into real world friendships. I got to know Marc DeSouza after he attended a virtual lecture of mine, and we’ve chatted off and on for the last couple of years.
His talk on magic history was great and one of the highlights for me was seeing Marc present the Germain Lock. The effect of this lock is that it unlocks when your hand’s shadow acts like a key. By today’s standards, unlocking something is as simply as a home security app, but when you think about it in the context of 100 years ago, it’s astonishing!
Tonight was my night to go the banquet. There were two nights of banquets, one for group A who had red lanyards and one for group B that had blue lanyard. The fun thing about the banquet, was that unless you already had a big group with you, it forced you to sit with and meet new people! The table I ended up at, we all had a great time showing each other what kinds of magic we did!
The banquet food was average banquet food, it was alright. I’ve had better, I’ve had worse, it was pretty much right down the middle.
After dinner, it was time for the gala show that was hosted by Alain Choquette and John Archer The two of them had a more chemistry as a duo and they really should work together more. This was the strongest show of the week. This ended with a hilarious “after the credits” vignette where John and Alain have dinner and are served by Mike Caveney and Rob Zabrecky. They are finally joined by Michael Ammar who is playing the part of the Pope! All the people who left right after the last act performed missed a really funny bit.
After the show tonight, FISM moved the jam area into the empty back of the dealers room to try to get some more traffic to the dealers. They also moved in a snack cart that had beer and wine.
I’m surprised it took several days for FISM to utilize the empty back half of the dealers room. I also think some large purchases were made with a little bit of liquid encouragement!
The dealer room late night jam closes at 1:30am and the smarter magicians went to their rooms to sleep. I’m not one of them and stayed hanging out to see all the shenanigans that spilled out into the hallway.
Magic was happening everywhere and all of the late night crew was getting familiar with each other. This is the point where magicians start showing off some of their more experimental ideas.
After an hour of hallway magic, slipped over to Ninkasi bar for a bit before I needed to go to bed, as I was determined to make all of the contests in the morning! -Louie
After hitting the snooze button three times, I managed to make it to the venue just in time for the stage contests to begin at 8am!
About halfway through the stage contest, I had a family emergency (everyone is OK) at home in Seattle happen and I had to step away to deal with it. I need to find a quiet spot to do some paper work and make some calls, so I walked a couple of blocks and found a great coffee shop, Café félin Chats-Nous!
Having cats do cat stuff while I talked to insurance companies definitely reduces my stress, and after little while I headed back to the stage competition, just in time to catch the end of Ding Yang’s incredible act!
I’d heard a lot about her act, and it was cool to see her do dove productions with her feet! I wish I was able to see the whole thing. Unfortunately she didn’t get first place in her category, so I didn’t get to see her perform at the Winner’s Gala.
It was a quick bite to eat (aka another egg salad sandwich) and off to the close up contest. It was at the contest today that I had a major revelation. I had noticed that there was a lot of flashing on some technical and not so technical sleight of hand moves. I realized that the judges were about 4 feet lower than the camera was. In theory the close up magic contestants were playing to the judges eye, not the camera’s eye. The different points of view are probably why the audience was seeing soo much flashing, where (hopefully) the judges weren’t.
After the contest I got a text from Chris Hanowell who wanted to get some poutine while in Canada, so we ran up the block for the Canadian dish!
We also decided it was time for us to see the pope, as he’s been the talk of Quebec! You’d think having 2,000 magicians in town would be, but we got overshadowed by The Holy See. We decided there was enough gap in the schedule to walk up the hill to try to get a pope peek. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards, and when we arrived, everyone was leaving and we had missed him by about 15 minutes!
The evening gala was getting ready to start, and this was the FISM TV SHOW aka a magic show pretending to be a television show.
They had a duo as a host and their MC bits and chemistry weren’t very good, but this is the show were most of us learned that Topas has a couple of music albums in Germany (you can find them on spotify), and were introduced to his earworm “one more” during his stage act where he produced speakers and finally a lady! The FISM TV SHOW ended with Shawn Farquhar doing his Shape of My Heart routine to a live band!
After the show, I had enough energy to hand out in the Jam Room, which was a lobby like area in the convention center.
And I finally got to see Jeffrey Wong do the coin work that my buddy Clive wouldn’t shut up about.
Jeffery didn’t disappoint! He was doing some very technical stuff and he did it very well!! Before I knew it, it was 4am and it was way past my bedtime, so I took the walk back to my room, as tomorrow is another early contest morning! -Louie
It felt great getting some sleep on a bed after sleeping in my car the night before my flight so that I could make it to FISM. I also got to see how amazing Quebec City looked in the daylight!
In the picture above you’ll notice the barricades on the streets, that’s due to the pope being in town, and his route was on the same street as my hotel’s front door!
I’m up early today as the contest start at 8:15am, which is rough as I’m running on west coast time, which is 3 hours earlier!
After registering, you have to walk along the hall of masters or whatever they call it. I had to stop and take a pic with Michael Ammar‘s portrait! I’m convinced he’s a genius, of all the portraits, his is the only one that anyone talked about!
I had decided for this convention I was going to make attending the contests my priority and not lectures. Little did I know how much of a commitment this would be. I used to tell people I could watch magic shows all day…turns out I can’t…even with top level magicians!
The stage contest had multiple competitors have to cancel due to “flight delays, luggage delays, or visa issues“, so the contest ended early. This was great as I got to see Jim Steinmeyer‘s lecture! The room was pretty full, but I found a seat and got to watch about half of it. There were two people sitting behind me and they had the gnarliest coughs. Even if it wasn’t COVID, I didn’t want what it was, so I got up, but unfortunately by that point the room was packed, and there was nowhere to sit or stand, so I had to bail on his lecture.
On a side note, I decided for my personal health, I was going to wear a mask while at the shows and contests. I took a week off work to go to FISM, so that means a week of my busy season that I wasn’t working, I can’t afford to lose two weeks of work by getting sick with anything.
I ran into some people I knew and we sat down for lunch!
For lunch today, I ate the convention center’s prepackaged egg salad sandwich, that was probably 93% bread and a beer, which is also essentially 93%bread as well. Then it was time to go to the other theater to see the close up contest!
This room was giant (for close up) and there was also a satellite room that had a live stream playing of the contest. There were a lot of acts, and most today were just OK.
I did get to see Dom Chambers who I had built some props for to use on AGT perform. I missed him a couple years ago in New York when he was performing with the Illusionists, so it was nice to get to see him live. He did a very funny and energetic card to mouth!
Between the close up contest and the evening show, I swung by the dealers room.
I was a bit underwhelmed by the amount of dealers, half of the room had empty booths. I had heard various reasons as to why it was empty, cancelled flights, inventory not showing up, etc. The quantity of dealers at FISM was probably the only thing that disappointed me. Sure, I’d rather have a small amount of quality dealers than a lot of lame ones, however I’ve been to local conventions that had more.
The evening show a ton of fun, it was great to see Greg Frewin do the dove act he did in the 1990’s on The Worlds Greatest Magic! The show was 90% solid, and there was a perfectly timed tech problem that occurred right after Greg praised the tech team for running the show flawlessly!
After the show I ran into Bob Fitch, who changed my life when I went to the first performance boot camp he put on about 25 years ago! He’s been one of my hero’s ever since!
Bob has always been insanely generous with his time and FISM was no exception! He would talk to anyone that approached him, and would hang out fairly late into the evenings. Fitch was also a fixture in Jeff McBride’s Magic and Mystery School room (more on that tomorrow).
I was a good kid tonight and walked back to my hotel not too long after the last show, as I knew I needed some sleep.
I’m working my way home to Seattle from FISM, and writing this during a 5 hour layover in Chicago. My plan heading there was for me to write these blog posts every morning, but the reality of the schedule there, that just wasn’t possible if I wanted to sleep. The schedule there ran from 8am to 11pm, most days, and some days the official schedule went to 1:30am, with your starting again at 8am the next day!
When I landed in Quebec City, it was 10pm and after a cab ride and loading into my hotel it was about 11pm when I began my 10 minute walk to the venue.
Quebec City is gorgeous and I want to be able to return sometime to explore the city. The picture above was taken from the door of my hotel!
Unfortunately, since I got in after registration had closed, I couldn’t attend the late night FISM events, but my buddy Clive who was already in Quebec City was willing to hang out with me! After a few attempts at finding a place still open that served food, we found Ninkasi, which turned out to be a place we be at almost every night. The staff there was super cool, and I think it was the closest place that had beer to the convention center.
While we were there, I had Clive show me some of the stuff he’s working on. One of which used a single sponge ball, and that caught the eyes of Pere Rafart and his friend whose name I don’t remember.
This convention is soo big compared to any other magic convention I’ve ever, there are people who I know were there, but never saw. Then Pere, who it felt like I was constantly passing in the halls. I later learned was a competing in the close up competition (he took 2nd place in close up card magic!)
Staying up way later than I should have, I said goodnight to everyone and took the short walk to my hotel.
I needed some sleep as it was going to be an early morning the next day! -Louie