Final day of FISM and what an incredibly empty schedule!
10.00am - Gaetan Bloom lecture. Noon - Banachek lecture. 1.00pm - Pavel lecture. All lectures in a rooms that seat from 250 to 500 people... so what do the other 2000+ people do? Hang out in the dealers room from 9.00am to 3.00pm when the finale of the Close Up Contest begins.
I know a lot of people on the Swedish FISM organising team, and they have spent a lot of time and put in a lot of effort into the planning of this FISM, but there have been some basic mistakes and the registrants are calling this the worst organised FISM ever. (I'm sure there have been worse, but I hope Beijing learns a lot from this experience).
If you attended FISM 2006 and have your own thoughts and suggestions, they have a direct line of feedback where you can post your comments directly to the organisers here.
Ali Bongo and his niece Alison.
Our good friend and fellow MUGS member Nelson.
Topas and his wife and fellow magician Roxanne.
Actually, most of our "free time" at FISM was spent catching up with our magic friends and colleagues from all over the world. That's the absolute best aspect of FISM, but it's also it's downside. There are so many people to catch up with you don't have time to spend more than a brief conversation or maybe share a meal with them before you have to say hi to someone else or move in to a lecture or a show.
Speaking of lectures... David Jones and Nelson both told us that the Armando Lucero lecture was sensational! In fact we heard that most of the lectures were very good. The only problem is that you can't see lectures and the competition, you need to make a choice. (And as was pointed out on another forum, there were plenty of lectures for the 500 people who were free when 2000 people were watching the Stage Competition, but comparatively nothing for the 1800 people who couldn't get in to the 700 seats in the Close Up Competition rooms.
There were also some problems here at the Rica Talk Hotel. (Totally out of the control of FISM, of course). You heard about our overheating room... apparently onre group of people got trapped in a hotel lift for 45 minutes the other day. A day later one of that same group was again trapped in the same lift! Someone also told us that the soap dispenser on the wall of their shower fell off and they were told just to "put it back up". Well, it's a brand new hotel so I guess we should expect teething troubles.
Regardless... we all headed in to the Victoria Hall for the Close Up Competition Finale. As I was a jury member I sat in the front row (as opposed to on the stage, which was the original plan, because it would have looked bad for the TV crew who were filming the event) and we watched the contest on 10inch TV monitors under the stage! Luckily we were close enough to watch the acts live because the camera work was shocking! They kept cutting to wide shots when you needed close ups and audience reactions when the magic was happening... they hadn't seen the acts before so what can you expect I guess. (And despite what compere Max Maven said, the reaction of the audience did not play a part in our voting!)
Max Maven came out as the host for the afternoon's show and introduced the proceedings as well as David Stone as the first competitor. He performed his act better than he had in the close up room but the camera work meant the audience missed quite a lot of his effects (and how do you misdirect a camera when you are stealing a bottle from a table in full view???) David received a partial standing ovation).
Helder Guimaraes was next with his card act and, though it has a very slow start, it builds up to a climax that is so impossible it leaves people gasping that it must have been a stooge! (No, it wasn't, she was just as amazed as we were). Helder received a partial standing ovation.
Martin Eisele followed with his hilarious matrix act, but he didn't seem to be as in as good form as he was in the close up room. The fact that someone's mic was on and we could hear muttering all throughout the first half of his act only made things worse for him. Martin recived a standing ovation.
Rick Merrill followed - just like he did it the Close Up Comp. These two have very similar on stage characters so why they couldn't separate them by one other performer I have no idea. (I'm sure they chose the running order out of a hot to be fair, but by not separating them they put Rick Merrill at a a slight disadvantage. However, Rick Merrill delivered a killer set far better than in the close up room. (BIG standing ovation!)
Shawn Farquhar was last on the list and, though many found his patter way too fast to follow, he appeared to be very confident until he had a mishap with his featured card effect.
After that we had to leave for the jury room and deliver our verdict based only on what we saw in those performances.
While we were out Kevin James did his amazing Sawing In Half routine (people said it was great until the restoration of the body which became very obvious) and SOS and Victoria who did a quick change act.
When we returned it was time to present the awards. Because of the fact they were taping the event for TV they had to announce the Grand Prix Winner before they announced the winners of the Close Up and Cards categories. Why? They figured that if the announced the winners of the other awards first, it would be obvious who had won the Grand Prix and the tension and reaction to the announcement wouldn't be as strong.
This was a bad idea.
The five finalists came on stage, then it was stop - start - stop - start for the filming as a TV host took over from Max Maven and called Eric Eswin on to announce the Grand Prix winner.
The audience went along with it all at first, and went crazy when Rick Merrill was announced as the winner. But then they started to go crazy in a bad way when someone took Rick's trophy from him and the host explained they were going to retake the presentation scene. After more faffing around people started booing, hissing and many walked out. Patience and tolerance, I think, are virtues that seemed to have run out with a lot of people by the end of the week.
Eric Eswin returned to announce the winners of the various categories and, as you may have heard or read on other reports, this was a shambles. Names were read out too quickly or while the audience was applauding so you couldn't hear who got what. Shawn Farquhar went up to accept his award and Dag Lofalk said "Who are you?" Shawn explained he was the 2nd place winner and Dag said "Are you sure?" There was only one trophy for one invention winner and nothing for the other, Eric explained they could collect it tomorrow. Rocco wasn't even in the building to collect his award when it was announced.
This was not the professional standard that magicians have come to expect from FISM Award Ceremonies. Many said it looked more like a local magic club prize night than the world championships of magic. They even had an Olympic style "I, 2, 3" podium for the winners to stand on. A nice touch as they got up, but then they had to get back off immediately as Eric started to announce the next winners. Maybe they could get up on it, have an official photo taken, dim the stage lights to a spot on Eric as the winners are led off the podium in the darkness and repositioned on the stage before the lights come up again.
The winners in the Close Up category were:
Grand Prix Close-Up ... Rick Merrill, USA
1 - Martin Eisele, Germany
2 - Shawn Farquhar, Canada
3 - David Stone, France
1 - Helder Guimaraes, Portugal
2 - Lodewijk de Widt, Netherlands
3 - Kiko, Spain
Mathieu Bich, France
Rick Merrill, USA
Most Original Act
SWEDISH MAGIC CIRCLE AWARD
The crowd was very pleased with the results, but not with the way the show was run and the mood in the foyer as we waited the 90 minutes between the Close-Up and Stage Awards show was palpable.
During the break, Sue-Anne did an interview with John Fisher for the TV production (I did one earlier in the week). This will be a one hour special which will air in September all over the world. We also got a chance to chat with Derren Brown during the break and go backstage to celebrate with David Stone (below).
Next came the Stage Awards show. It opened with Eric Eswin who was first cheered, then booed and hissed. He handled this appalling display with dignity simply by saying "Thankyou", which resulted in a big cheer and applause. He apologised for the earlier fiasco and promised there would be no retakes.
Rich Bloch was MC and he was superb. He kept the audience under control and had some very funny bits (I loved the fly on his nose that revealed a thought of card).
Sittah was first with her illusions, which looked great with the flash TV lighting, followed by Pilou who suffered badly as the flashy lights made it very hard to see his manipulation work. Same situation with David Sousa and Dai Binchun. Even Gaston had technical difficulties to overcome. His mic was playing up when he came on and he had to restart his act, then a baby started crying... he handled it like a true professional and got a huge standing ovation. Lee Eun-Gyeol was the only act other than Sittah that shone under the staging conditions (and no, the live bird that was sitting awkwardly in one of the cages he produced was not dead as some people were saying).
The judges retired to deliberate, we had a long intermission, then returned not for the announcements... but for a show starring Norbert Ferre and Rafael. Very good performances by both of them but the night was getting on... During Norbert's act, there was a very nasty incident where a groupfrom he other room, who were watching on the big screen, actually tried to breakin to the main hall and created a mini riot (which was apparently quelled by Derren Brown). Vice President of the Swedish Magic Circle describes it:
The incident during Norbert Ferré’s act was that he (Ferré) never uses a microphone on stage and turned down a lapel mike and naturally nobody could hear him in the other room.
But to try to barge in screaming like that only disturbed Norbert’s great act.
Finally the results were announced. The finalists from the close up were also gathered on stage but... David Stone was missing! (He was in the other room as he didn't get a seat in the hall!!!! He saw the others on the stage via the screen and raced in and jumped onto the stage during the filming... in his street clothes! I'd love to see how they're going to edit that it for continuity.)
As before, the TV host came out and did what he had to do then literally ran off the stage handing it over to Eric and the team to announce the other finalists. Yes, this time it was just as amateurish as before. Sadly it looked unrehearsed and badly improvised.
Grand Prix Stage ... Pilou, France
1 - Dai Binchun, China
2 - David Sousa, Portugal
3 - Arthur Trace, USA
1 - Eun Gyeol Lee, Republic of Korea
2 - Die Zauderer, Germany
3 - Dion, Netherlands
1 - Gaston, Germany
2 - Shawn Farquhar, Canada
3 - Julia Guilhem, France
1 Sittah, Netherlands
2 Hugo Valenzuela, Argentina
3 Marc & Alex, Germany
2 - Timothy Trust & Julie Germany tie with
Juan Ordeix, Argentina
3 - Robert & Emiel Netherlands tie with
Jean Thomas Loewe, Germany
LAS VEGAS CONTRACT
Eun Gyeol Lee
SWEDISH MAGIC CIRCLE AWARD
MOST ORIGINAL ACT
Hugo Valenzuela, Argentina
Die Zauderer, Germany
Mikael Szanyiel, France
Ross Mickael et Bethy, France
Cesaral Magic, Spain
The results of the judges were not universally accepted with most feeling that Lee Eun-Gyeol (above) should have received the Grand Prix and puzzled as to why Dai DinChun won Manipulation. But what is FISM without controversy?
After the show ended (11.00pm) we all headed off to the magic party at Scanic Sergel Plaza (which is still going as I type! Bob Sheets, Lennart Green and Juan Tamariz are performing and Nick Nickolas is even running an official FISM Poker Game and Danny Archer and Gazzo are winning!
It's after 4am so I'm signing off... we're off to Finland tomorrow and Sue-Anne's contestant report should be online within the week (fingers crossed!)