New Sizzle Reel

A few days ago I had an agent ask me if I could make them a new version of my promotional sizzle reel. They wanted a version without any text. For context here’s the previous version with text:

The previous have two kinds of text, it has title cards and captions. The agent wanted neither of those. Luckily I kept the video editor project saved, so it wasn’t a huge deal to go back and cut out the text. I think in a sizzle reel, the text is a good transition piece and adds some context to things. However if the client wants one without text, I’ll make them one!

Here’s the new version:

Ultimately the goal is to get work and if someone wants something specific to sell my show, I’ll gladly make it for them!


Getting Them Talking About My Show!

When I was at an industry tradeshow on Wednesday pitching my show, one of the things I did at my booth was my card routine. This is the meat of the close up magic that I perform. It’s basically a multiple revelation of a signed card. It ends with the signed card as a sticker.

People at trade shows will usually put these on their shirt of badge and wear them all day. They end up being a walking billboard for me. people will ask them about the sticker and they’ll talk about me. I think I originally got the idea for having something visual that sticks around long after the trick from Michael Close. He talked about it in his lecture 20ish years ago and I think did a thing with a bill that turned to a bunny and left that with people.

When I’m at a booking trade show, especially when I’m new to the market, my goal is to get people talking about me. My sticker card trick is a great way to do that!


Take Your Show on the Road!

Tips for Travelling With Your Show!  

My “summer season” started early with a 10 day outdoor fair in Southern California in February.  Normally my outdoor season doesn’t start until March or April, so I’m out working on my tan early!

Amazon Lockers: Most cities have Amazon lockers and they can be a lifesaver if you’re flying to a gig or staying at an AirBnB.  Amazon Lockers are around town at things like gas stations and grocery stores.  You can order things to be delivered to them the day before you get into town and everything will be waiting for you. No more running around to stores to get things you don’t fly with.  For example, I’m at a 10 day gig, and will use probably 20 decks of cards.  I don’t want to fly with them, it’s too much weight, so I simply ordered two bricks of cards to an Amazon Locker and they were there waiting for me.

Cash: I always try to have $100 on me at all times for emergencies. That will get me to the next gas station and it’s handy just pay cash for your portion of dinner if you go out with other people. I also try to have five $20’s as it’s more versatile than a single one hundred dollar bill.

AirTags: These are GPS trackers that work with iPhones (there’s an Android equivalent).  It’s always nice to know that my show that’s checked luggage made it on the plane!
Roadside America:  This is an iPhone app and website that has all sorts of quirky and unusual things around the USA (and a little bit of Canada).  It’ll help you find cool things in to see or do in the area you’re performing in.

Magic Clubs: When I travel to cities I look up local magic clubs and try to visit them. You can find lists of them on the S.A.M and I.B.M. websites.

AreoPress: This is a small little gadget that makes great coffee and is easy to travel with!  All you need is ground coffee and hot water.  No more gross hotel coffee!

Hope there’s a tip in there that makes travelling with you show a little more fun!


Thumb Tie and the Linking Safety Pins

The last couple of days I’ve been working on using a giant set of safety pins onstage for a linking pin routine. Recently I started adding a thumb tie to it to add length. One thing I quickly learned is that there’s a ton of dead time at the end of the routine when I’m having the tape cut off of my thumbs.

My first attempt for fixing the dead time was to add a trick to the end. What I was doing was taking the tape and turning it into an animal balloon. That went over fine, but it’s not the right fix for the routine.

I think my second attempt is a reasonable solution to making the dead time of cutting the tape off my fingers worth it. I’m moving the thumb tie to the first half of the trick. After the thumb tie, the tape is cut off, then I move into the linking pins routine. This has been playing a lot better!

Now I need to keep adding meat to the routine to get it good.


Linking Pins on Stage

In my close up set I do the linking safety pins and I love the trick. I’ve even gimmicked a larger set of about 5 inch pins to do the trick with. The 5 inch pins are good for about 30 people, there’s too small for a real stage show.

I found these giant safety pins and I think they’d be great for using on stage!

giant linking pins

The challenge now is figuring out context to do them and getting more than a couple of minutes out of them. In my close up routine I use someone from the audience. Since I’m bringing someone onstage I really need to get at least 4-5 minutes out of the routine to make it worth the time it takes to get someone onstage.

In my writing this morning I had the idea of combining the linking pins with the thumb tie. The idea is the beginning phases will be my normal linking pin routine, then I’ll have my thumbs tied to “eliminate sleight of hand” and then the pins will end up going on and off my arms. That’s the idea, we’ll see how it plays when I get a chance to try it out!


How To Show Them What You Do!

Five Simple Steps to Making a Sizzle Reel

Let’s start out with what a sizzle reel is, they are typically a short, fast paced promotional video. In variety entertainment they are usually some between one and three minutes long.  The goal is to give a buyer a feel for you and what you do. 

Here’s how to make sizzle reel for your show:

Step 1:  Go to the movies and watch the trailers for upcoming movies. These are longer than a variety act’s sizzle reel, but they are a good reference for what you are going for.  Notice that the movie trailers don’t show whole scenes of the movie.  The goal is to give you the vibe of what the movie is about and this is the goal of your sizzle reel, to give the vibe of what your show is.

Step 2: Go through video footage and audio and pick the best clips.  I’m assuming you have a bunch of video because you’re regularly recording your show.  You should be doing this to work on your show to make your show better. Also, you’ll notice that I mentioned audio, your audio should be recorded separately from your camera.  You want clear audio of your voice if you use it in your sizzle reel.

Step 3: Edit out most or all of the set ups to your tricks and just show the magic. An agent explained it to me this way when he said, “I don’t want to see your rope trick, I want to see that you do a rope trick.”

Step 4: Find music that fits the feeling of your show and put your video clips to that music.  I use Envato Elements for mine.  It’s a subscription service that you get the license to use the music for web purposes. This eliminates any YouTube or whatever copyright claims.   

Step 5: Upload it to YouTube or wherever you host your streaming videos.  In addition to YouTube I use JWplayer.  I pay annually for this service, because there are no ads or suggested videos at the end of your video. This gives you more control over what the potential client sees and you don’t have to worry about YouTube suggesting another act after your video.

One thing I should mention, when you’re compiling the clips, you need to think about the flow and what you want your target audience to think about.  For example, I just made a sizzle real for my Incredible Idioms school assembly show, and I want to show the fun vibe of my show, but I also needed to show that there is educational content in the show, it’s not just a magic show.


P.S.  Here’s the sizzle reel for the Incredible Idioms show:

Visual Obstacles

A couple of days I wrote about the podium struggle at a gig, but that’s not the only challenge at the gig. After I had set up, the event planner filled the front of the stage with prizes.

corporate holiday party

These were to be raffled off after my show. These create a huge visual distraction and barrier between the audience and me. Also, I was standing when I took the picture, so if you were sitting, you’d be looking up at them and they obscure more of performing area.

Not being able to see the whole performer does make a difference. Bob Fitch once told me “Acting is in the feet“, and while I’m not exactly acting, seeing as much of me helps. This is also why you want to try to avoid doing a low show. If you were sitting on stage left, anything I did that was below my belly button wouldn’t be seen.

You can read a post about removing stage monitors I wrote a while ago here.

During the opening of my show, I do something at events like this that no one thinks of. I ask the audience to turn their chairs so they are facing the stage. You’d think that would be instinct if your chair wasn’t facing the presenter, but hardly anyone does that until you mention it. While there’s that minute of shifting chairs, I looked at someone whose view was blocked and asked if they could see. I pretended to hear them say they couldn’t and I told them I’d fix it and started setting prizes on the floor.

Also I have verbal bits I do while people are moving chairs, so the show has started and was able to do them while moving the prizes.

Ultimately you need to know what you need for the show to work and for it to succeed and do your best to create those conditions. There’s nothing worse than a bad show that’s due to conditions that aren’t your fault.

PS the show went great!

Yeah, Don’t Punch Me

Last month when I was performing roving magic at a fair, I had an interesting interaction with a family. A guy approaches me and asks me if I would show his family a magic trick. Of course I said YES, then he said, “I’m not going to watch because I’ll probably get frustrated and punch you.” Then he looked away and his family had a great time watching some close up magic.

I personally thought it was really cool of him to give his family a moment to see a magic trick. I should add that the guy looked like he’d punched a few people in his lifetime. I’m glad he knew his personal limitations and didn’t put himself in a position where he would punch me!

I mentioned this to another performer who was shocked at how “violent” and inappropriate this guy was. I look at this like someone who had a problem with alcohol not wanting to see me do a show at a bar. This guy wanted his family to have fun, even if it was something he wasn’t into. Did he need to tell my why he wasn’t watching? Probably not, but I would have wondered why he asked, then didn’t watch…and probably would have tried to engage him (and gotten punched!)


Commercial Art Supporting Art Art

One of the fun things about performing at fairs is that you work with a bunch of other entertainers.  In the green room someone was talking about a friend of theirs that has a very artsy act, but it isn’t getting much work with it.  We were trying to come up with advice to be relayed to the artsy person, and here’s what we came up with.

They need a commercial show to support the act, it’s hard to get enough work to pay the bills with just an act (artsy or not).  Making a living now with just an act is really hard, there aren’t as many variety shows, etc and enough of them to fill up a calendar.  That’s where having a show comes in. There’s a lot more opportunities to do a full show than there are just an act. 

If you look into it, while someone like Jeff McBride is known for several acts, he also has a full show to support those acts.  Now let’s look at art, someone like Andy Warhol did a lot of commercial art which brought in money to pay the bills until he could make enough doing the art-art. 

While it’s not bad to work on a passion project, you do need something that will reliably pay the bills. That’s why you also need a commercial show!


UnPlanned Rising Card Routine

A long time ago I had an idea for a rising card routine.  Most of the rising card routines that I have seen have either a singular rise, which is the whole routine, or it’s multiple rises. The thing I have against multiple rises is that it’s essentially the same trick over and over, you just may add conditions each time to make it more impossible.  I understand it gives it a sense of build, but why wouldn’t you just do it the “hardest” way the first time if you could, the previous ones were wasting the audience’s time? 

In the idea for my rising card routine, three cards are selected and the deck is put in a glass.  An interesting point is that the cards never leave the glass after they are put in.  This is one of the interesting parts of this trick, the hands off nature of the trick.  I do touch the cards, but only the top card to show it’s not a selected card.  So the deck is in the glass, and first two cards appear one at a time to the front of the pack. Then for the finale the final card rises up from the middle of the pack.

It’s a good one, two, three set of reveals.  It’s also done with me solo onstage, so no one physically has to come up on stage and it ends with a nice applause pose.

There are some challenges with the original routine.  The placements of the gimmick in the deck and best way to hide the lock that I built into my rising card gimmick are some of the more major challenges. I took my props for this routine to the green room of the fair I’m working at and was showing it to Mickey O’Connor and Bri Crabtree for their thoughts.  While messing around with a different idea, I came up with a way to use a someone from the audience as a way to “lock” the rising card in the down position.  It was a real “break through” for the routine…also it marked a complete change of the routine.  It’s now a two card revelation with someone onstage, and that person does the magic.  It is a better routine after the changes, and this is a great example of how bouncing around ideas with other people can make a huge difference!