Previous month:
July 2005
Next month:
September 2005

29 entries from August 2005

The Mole - Good title!

Just watched Channel Seven's latest incarnation of 'The Mole'. This time they've subtitled it 'The Amazing Game', jazzed up the music and editing Amazing Race style, and got a host who looks just a little bit like Phil Keeghan.

The idea of the show is that one of the 12 contestants is 'The Mole', someone out to sabotage the game. After watching just one episode, the answer is obvious: The Mole is Tom Williams - the host of the show.

Not only is his diction, pronounciation and accent terrible... he made so many mistakes in the 'live' section of the broadcast it was embarrassing to be an Australian! Sure, the contestants can't put two words together to answer any questions, but Tom doesn't even seem to be able to think of any questions to ask. Not only that, but he's not even sure of the rules of the game!

"If you answer correctly, you'll be in the winning to... umm.. in the running to win.."

"If the screen goes green you'll be eliminated.... but if it goes red.. no.. if it's green you're okay, if it's red you're eliminated."

With all the talent available to them how did they select Tom Williams? What training does he have? What experience does he have hosting on TV? Where did he learn his craft? Here's his story:

Tom"His first role in the media came when he called up Merrick and Rosso, then at Triple J, to have a chat.
The funny men of Australian radio liked "Tom the Chippie from Manly" and asked him to be a regular guest on their morning show. Shortly after, Tom's name was given to the producers of Room for Improvement as they were searching for a presenter with building experience and a good sense of humour. Tom is an active member of the Surf Life Saving Association and was a finalist at the 2000 World and Australian titles for the Open Men's Surf Boat competition. Tom joined The Great Outdoors in July 2001 and has spent the past two years on assignments from Coffs Harbour to Canada. Tom made his entrance into the media world with a spot on Triple J's Drive program with Merrick and Rosso and when his two new friends moved across to Sydney station Nova 969, Tom followed. Not long after, the builder/carpenter was asked to put his carpentry talents to use on Seven's DIY program Room For Improvement. Tom was an instant hit with his easy-going charm and cheeky sense of humour and when he was offered a screen test for The Great Outdoors, he jumped at the opportunity."

But I guess Channel Seven know what they're doing when they chose hosts for these shows... much more than the viewers, who've already launched at least one online petition to bring back the previous host Grant Bowler.

Deja Vu 10.5

Did you watch Channel Nine's premiere television special event '10.5' last night?

I did. And I had the strangest case of deja vu.

The TV stations have had their fun with us in the past: running series out of order, slipping old episodes in amongst news ones, running shows deliberately long so they end at 8.40 instead of 8.30, rescheduling shows at the last minute, and advertising repeat episodes of 'CSI' as new episodes... but unless I'm going crazy, that '10.5' show has been on before.

Is this simply false advertising for the sake of ratings? Hey, if you can't trust TV, who can you trust?!

Sound Ideas

Several people have asked about the microphones we wear in our shows. All of our mics are from the Countryman range, recommended to us by Production Audio in Blackburn.

E6whiteweb Our headset mic is an E6, a tiny mic you wear over your ear that is so small it's hard to see from a few rows back. This is the same mic they use on live TV broadcasts like the 'Big Brother' eviction specials. They're great because you can really crank up the volume before you even approach feedback.

B6on99quarter Our lapel mic is the B6, the tiniest lapel we've ever seen. Even up close it's hard to spot, but the drawback is that it's very susceptible to feedback if you don't have a good audio operator.

If you'd like to see the whole Countryman range, take a look HERE.

How to win a magic competition - Your say

Part One of 'How To Win A Magic Competition' is here

I received this email from Ingo Brehm last week, and I'd like to try and reply to it here:

Hi Tim,

with interest and enjoy I read your thoughts about winning a competition. Since a few (about six) years, I came up with some ideas, I thought to be good as competition acts. Sometimes it have been just small fragments or ideas, sometimes there have been complete plots. But I never managed to put it into practice.

My idea was to create an act by writing down a plot first. Having a character and to know why he is on stage and does magic are the most important questions for me. After that I have to think about a beginning, a problem and a solution of the problem.

Now, let’s do like we would have all that. What now???? My biggest problem was always the question of where to begin. I don’t think that it can be to buy props or design (new) effects. Or perhaps it is? My problem was always that I got stuck somewhere in the theoretic thinking-process or in bringing it to practice. Is it perhaps a way to just work on one single part of the act? Perhaps a simple effect or a small scene?

I would be very happy, if you could share your ideas about that.

Best wishes from Germany also to Sue-Anne,


The idea of creating a magic act starting with a character is excellent. It's a device used by many authors, film makers and playwrights. Many television shows and movies you see each day are plot-driven, but it's those with memorable or interesting characters that really succeed. Look at CSI and compare it with CSI:NY. Both shows have essentially the same plot, but the character of Grissom is far more interesting and well-developed than that of his New York counterpart.

Apply this to magic acts. Watch the audience reaction that a piece of brilliant magic will received when executed by a superb technician, when compared to a piece of average magic performed by an engaging character. Blaine's magic is certainly not mind-blowing, but when performed by his character, the audience really buys it.

As far as purpose goes, we do a lot a trade shows where companies want us to incorporate their message or their product into our magic. These shows are often far more effective than a simple after-dinner presentation.

So often when we are introduced to perform after the main course plates have been cleared away, you can sense the audience thinking "Magicians? Why are we going to watch a magic show? Isn't that for kids?" It can take quite a few minutes to get over that initial hurdle of "Why?" and have the audience actually participating in and enjoying the show.

On the other hand, when we walk out at a trade launch and start our presentation the audience is thinking "Aha, these are the people who are going to tell us all about this product." They are open and receptive to us, and genuinely surprised and delighted when the magic happens as we are demonstrating the features of the product.

If you have the luxury of a theatre and an audience who has come specifically to see you perform magic, then you will overcome a lot of the initial "Why?" associated with the standard after dinner show.

That leaves us with the "Why?" within the act. Why do any tricks at all? You could be solving problems with magic, showing off, causing problems, or any number of things. If you have a defined character, your character will often answer the "Why?" for you as you explore various ideas. If you simply play "the magician" and you get up on stage and produce a dove, tear up a newspaper and restore it, float a silver ball... don't expect the audience to be interested in you. All you are doing is demonstrating a series of tricks. You aren't telling them anything about yourself, or even your motivation for being on stage let alone why you're doing the tricks.

A movie analogy would be an abstract film. A collection of unrelated scenes that run for an hour and then suddenly stop, leaving the viewer to try to figure out what it all meant.

However, an abstract movie is intentionally abstract, most magic acts are simply displays of skill.

As Ingo said though, where to begin. You have a character, and you have a rough story (as he describes it "a beginning, a problem and a solution of the problem."

The best thing I have found is to tackle the act one effect at a time. Look at the smallest and easiest effect. Come up with your method and note it, and all of it's restrictions, down in a book. You may need to wear sleeves and have a large table on stage. You now have a starting point. As you solve each effect one by one they will impact on the solution you came up for the smallest effect. (A little like solving a rubik cube). You may find that one effect in the middle of your act requires you to hide something in your sleeve, but an earlier effect in the routine means you need your sleeves empty. Now you need to find a way to load your sleeves during the act, or change the method for the middle effect.

Ingo asks if the place to begin is not "to buy props or design (new) effects. Or perhaps it is?" If a certain prop is crucial to the story and the character, then you definitely need to buy it and work around it. The main reason people get stuck, is they can't begin because they have too many options and no boundaries. Set yourself limitations by developing on small part of the scene or even just one move. I'm currently working on a card act and I have mastered 5 seconds of it. That's all there is so far. And that 5 second piece requires a certain table surface and special cards. This immediately creates limitations which can guide me in the development of the next 9 minutes and 55 seconds of the act.

Another thought that might be helpful is that this one move, after it had been created, looked so good we couldn't decide if it should be at the beginning or the end of the act. But as we played with it, it suggested an otherwordly quality that lead to the idea of how to present it. The presentation would be couched in a 4 minute song. This meant I have to come up with other effects that are relevant to the words in the song then, for the other 6 minutes of the act, I need to create magic that will naturally lead up to the song.

In essence I think that the path Ingo is choosing, creating a character and a plot first, is an excellent ne. If more magicians chose that path magic would be a much more varied and interesting art form. But yes, if you decide that your character is a frog who has to try to cross a busy street, then tackle the creation of this act one effect at a time.

You can even put your effects into your standard act, be it on stage or close up, and "road test" them on audiences out of character. If they get a good reaction, and you can iron out any technical bugs along the way, then by the time you put them into context in your main act you'll be way ahead of the game.

Two quick final thoughts:

Teller suggests that when budgeting for an illusion (and the same would apply for any act) multiply your realistic budget by 4. The first thing you make won't work properly, the second you make will be good but you'll want to make a sleeker and better version. The third will be perfect. The fourth will be your spare.

With story acts, try to incorporate applause points within the act. With Sue-Anne's original 'Haunted Mansion' act we left no breaks at the end of effects, so the audience watched it as they would a play. But because it was magic, and they didn't hear their fellow audience members applauding, they felt it mustn't have been fooling the others. As soon as we were able to add applause points, the act as a whole got a better reaction and the audience actually recognised more tricks. It's the same as if a comedian tells jokes so fast that people don't laugh because they don't want to miss his next line. You'll see it in comedy plays and on sitcoms, the actors will pause and react, giving the audience a chance to laugh without breaking character and acknowledging the existence of the audience.

I've enjoyed exploring your question and I hope this has helped you in some way Ingo.

Old news of gold clues

Sorry for the cryptic title, but after reading the solution to David Blaine's Treasure Hunt it really spins you out in weirdic ways....

It's old news, but a treasure hunt with a $100,000 prize was hidden in David Blaine's book 'Mysterious Stranger'. It was WELL hidden and in May last year someone solved it.

If you were one of those who foolishly attempted to solve the puzzle and felt really dumb because you got nowhere... you can read the solution HERE and you'll feel much better about yourself.

Magic from Pavel

We are being spoiled with magic lectures in Melbourne at the moment. The next one coming up is on Monday night:

01_dvd_pavelcabaretpotpouri3 "For decades now, the name PAVEL has been synonymous with some of the most innovative magic around. Pavel has mystified and entertained the public with his fantastic magical inventions while, at the same time, delighting and inspiring magicians the world over during his countless shows and lectures worldwide. The Tenyo Crystal Silk Tube, The Walking Knot, Silk Serenade and The Jumping Knot of Pakistan are just of few of Pavel's hundreds of creations.

His new lecture features ropes, cards, silks, balloons, clothes pegs, ribbons, coloured discs, bills… more than two dozen different effects performed and explained. Whether you want kid's magic, stand-up magic or innovative close up this is for you."

8.00pm - The Swiss Club, 89 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.
Magician $20 - Partner $5

Our prediction!

We unlocked the chest and unrolled our sealed prediction and yes, just as we foretold, Chuck Hickok gave a very professional lecture filled with mental gems perfect for the corporate market. Several good effects were explained and he did quite well at the dealers table for the size of the crowd.

And the card you chose was the three of clubs!

Mentalism Incorporated

Newchuck_1 Chuck Hickok, mentalist and guest at this weekend's Adelaide Magic Convention, is lecturing here in Melbourne tomorrow night (Wednesday August 24). His promo material says "It is not everyday that you have the opportunity to see a real working professional lecture on the material that he actually uses to make a living--but that is exactly what you get with Chuck Hickok, author of 'Mentalism Incorporated' - 2004’s best selling book on Mentalism. Chuck offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at the act that has brought him great success in the corporate market. And there is truly something in the lecture for every magician or mentalist that has the desire to learn not only some outstanding routines, but also the wonderful thought behind them.
The material is very strong, and all of the methods are well within the reach of any performer. But that is still not the best part of Chuck's lecture. The best part is learning about such great routines from a performer with extensive knowledge of how to be in front of an audience."

So if you'd like to catch him in action be at The Swiss Club, 89 Flinders Lane, Melbourne at 8pm with $20 admission fee in hand. If you've never been to a magic lecture in Melbourne rest assured they're a friendly bunch.

We won't be able to make it as we're off to Albury to do a full one hour illusion show (including the Chainsawing in Half) for a conference's closing celebration. However, we have made a prediction about how this lecture will go and sealed it in a locked box which we will open on Thursday!

FISM 2006 - 1500 and rising!

6873_5 For those who haven't registered yet, FISM 2006 is filling up fast. A few weeks ago they announced they'd sold 1500 registrations. Generally FISM's are full at around 2000 or so, so don't leave it too long.

Exchange rates are good too! We registered at FISM 2003 in Den Haag and got a special discounted rate - but due to international currency fluctuations if we registered at that same rate today, we'd save $90 each! So get it quick while the dollar is smiling on you. It costs 4500 Swedish Krona (SEK) (about $770 Australian) if you register before the end of the year or 4975 SEK ($860) after January 1, 2006 if it's not already sold out.