Here we are in the Arlanda Airport getting ready to fly out of Stockholm. Having spoken to a lot of different people during the week, and having read the reports on various forums and blogs, I thought I might sum up some feelings from this weekof magic. (Feel free to add your own comments if you were there simply by clicking on the word 'comments' at the end of this post).
Superb. The publicity, build up, advertising for this FISM were the best ever. The forum and the website were a great idea! (Hi Jazzman! You helped so many people with great advice!) Logos and signage everywhere when you arrived and, though it was a little tricky to get from the airport to the city by train, then from the city to the convention centre, it was all possible. (At the Dresden Convention they had a FISM information stand at the airport itself which was a huge helpto us foreigners. Maybe China might consider this idea?)
Registration at the centre was great and stress-free, the volunteers did an excellent job. We were able to register the day before FISM, but only between 1-5pm. It would have been great to extend that time to about 8pm for late arrivals as it's great to be able to read your schedule before the convention starts.
Here's a challenge for China: When I ran the last Melbourne Convention, people received their registration kits when they checked into their hotels! Maybe that could be an option people could choose on their registration form? To do this, I simply cross referenced the registration list with the accommodation list and took each kit to the hotel receptions and instructed the staff to give them to the guests when they checked in. Pretty bold I know, and probably too hard to do for 2,500 people, but it work well for 250.
As for the goody bag, it was very nice, but we are used to being spoiled from past FISMs and I think people were expecting a little more... maybe even a few discount coupons for local restaurants or shops, a little snack or gift or treat or something in addition the the standard cards and the promotional wallet (which was so well wrapped in the magic kit advert I think most people still haven't discovered it!) Maybe dealers could be encouraged to take advantage of the goody bag and give away a few samples.
Another qualm was the program. I know that Anders Moden designed it as a compact (and well produced) booklet that people could carry with them, but it was still too big for a pocket (though it did fit nicely in the shoulder bag... which was a more practical size than some we've received at past FISMs). But people pointed out they wanted a small, pocket size programme they could carry in their name badge. We've had those before and I think people are used to them.
The FISM Daily news was excellent. Each day we couldn't wait to read about the previous days activities, changes to schedules, news etc. Well done!
Very nice venue as far as a convention centre goes, but the Victoria Hall lacked atmosphere and was a terrible venue in which to view magic. A theatre with balconies is much more appropriate if you want everyone to get a good view and not have to watch the screens. (I wonder how China will go with their HUGE theatre?)
The lighting was terrible as well, it was universally too dark and, as a consequence, sometimes the images on the screen were almost impossible to see. (On the other hand, the lighting on the final awards shows was too animated. Not only was it distracting and made it very hard to see what the artists were doing, but the position of the lights on stage meant that entire sections of the audience were blinded by lights shining directly into their eyes).
The video operators looked like they had no idea what they were doing. Shots were chosen that were too tight so they revealed some effects, or too wide and we missed them. Sometimes the screens cut out completely and we just watched the FISM logo. We used Orsino Images here in Melbourne for our convention and, with only two cameras, they showed everything that happen on stage and close up in glorious clarity. It's the difference in spending the extra dollars and getting professionals. (But then, even on the final awards gala with the TLA camera crew, the camera work was still pretty shocking.
The Close Up Room was good in theory, but simply did not work. I have some suggestions for a revamp of competition conditions I'll be forwarding on to FISM but with regards to what we saw we, as judges, had to watch the screen as sometimes we couldn't see the surface of the table. And the screen images had a two second delay which meant we were watching action out of sync with what was happening live. The smaller audience of 280 or so really had to watch the screens as well, so it could have been staged in a larger room if need be.
My theory is that the close up should be restricted to one table with volunteers chosen by the organisers to sit around the table (for choosing cards etc). You can bring a box of props or a small case to sit behind the table with you, or you can just stand behind the table and not use it at all. But you cannot bring your own tables, stands, or karaoke machines... if you can't perform your act under those conditions, enter Parlour (which should be staged in a second room which is more like the close up room was in Stockholm). Anyway, directly behind the row of volunteers, on slightly higher seats, sit the judges, behind them on a higher row are more registrants and using this style of seating (as they do at La Double Fond in Paris) you can seat about 40-60 in "true" close-up conditions. You can then get away with one camera that, if framed correctly, does not need to cut away, and then have several smaller rooms with video feeds in them (or ideally, in order to create the best possible atmosphere) have this close up set up in a large room with screens in each corner with seating facing each screen. That way the performer can hear the reaction of everyone else in the room too.
This same set up can be used for the Close Up gala too. However, the seats need to be ticketed. Maybe each registrant gets a good ticket in the room for one session (the earlier you register the better the seats). They can swap (or sell!) their tickets during the convention.
If nothing else, it reduces the time that is absolutely WASTED by lining up for tickets to the close up comp (some lined up for 2 hours each day when they COULD have been watching lectures, the stage comp, or even just socialising!)
Second - what is it with pushing in???? Are magicians really that ill-mannered, selfish and disrespectful? This happened each morning at the stage comp (people lined up for an hour in advance then, when the doors opened, others who had milled around the door not in the line at all just barged in and it became a free for all stampede. I heard that some registrants abused, gave the finger to, and even spat on ticket collectors at the door when they were told they had the wrong tickets! I can only imagine how these people treat their audiences when performing!
Then, despite being told NOT to sit on the stairs or in the aisles people continued to do so. Does FISM need to hire ushers to physically move people who are so self-centred that all they care about is that they can see? Several times performers making "surprise appearances" in the audience almost tripped over people who weren't supposed to be on the stairs as they ran on to the stage.
The close up comp at least became a little more civilised during the week when barriers were put up to corral the crowd. (Some didn't like it and "mooed" as a protest, but the behaviour of a minority made this necessary. Then at the banquet we saw more terrible behaviour... two big looooong lines, then as other people arrived instead of going to the end of the lines they went in the centre and filled in the gaps then barged in making those who had been waiting wait even longer.
The only successful seating situation were the allocated seats in the gala shows. People walked into the theatre like human beings, found their seats and sat down. Unfortunately, one incident in the close up gala we saw sprang from a FISM volunteer telling people it was "free seating" when it wasn't. When ticketed people came to get into their seat they found others sitting in them who refused to move. The way this was handled by the FISM hosts was not professional either. It needs to be dealt with honestly, and in a fun way, to cause minimum embarrassment to people and to resolve the situation effectively. Instead it looked like a quarrel on stage with different organisers having different opinions as to what to do. Not only that, but because of camera equipment on the stage for the close up gala, many people not only couldn't see the performer, they couldn't see the screen either. They left... as you would.
The various venues had good names like Dante and Vernon, and they seemed to be at a pleasant temperature, and the seats were comfortable.
I'll tell you what would have worked a treat... have some people strolling through the venues between sessions selling drinks, ice-creams and snacks!
Finally, having the magic bar in a different venue was a TERRIBLE idea. Do not do that again. Den Haag got it right. People could mingle in the centre after the day's events or go downstairs to the vast (and cool) magic bar and party on to the wee hours. Instead you had to either leave the centre by train, go to the magic bar in the city, then catch a VERY expensive taxi back to the hotel - or if you stayed in a hotel at or near the magic bar you had to take a train trip in the the convention centre and back every single day.
The Magic Bar was, however, a highlight for many people. They raved about the performances of Tamariz and Green (though they had to line up for over an hour sweating in the heat before they got to see them! Again.. maybe we get tickets in our rego kits for these events we can swap with other registrants? Why pay so much money to attend FISM and spend most of our time in lines? It's not Disneyland!)
First of all, big kudos goes to the backstage staff who, I'm told were incredibly helpful to the competitors.
This FISM featured some appalling acts that really brought the whole standard of the event down. The only people to blame here are the FISM Presidents who told FISM that these acts were good enough to compete. They were not! FISM may well have the right to penalise these Presidents by not allowing them to sponsor acts again (or maybe for the next two FISMs perhaps?) However, two Presidents who sponsored really bad acts were the Presidents of the SAM and IBM. Both are no longer Presidents so what can FISM do? Ban the SAM and IBM from submitting acts?
I still think the idea that sponsors must pay a very large competition entry fee which they only get back if the performer achieves FISM level in it's score (at least 60 in my personal opinion). As a judge it can be difficult to red light acts that are simply bad (especially when the audience is laughing and enjoying their awfulness) and it would be much better if we weren't put in the position of needing a red light in the first place! I heard one act, who was truly awful and got a sarcastic standing ovation, telling professional magicians how well he'd done and bragging about getting a standing O. He simply had no idea that the audience were laughing AT him and would have simply not understood at all if we red lighted him.
FISM Presidents be warned. Do NOT submit acts that are not ready for FISM. You KNOW the standard. I really hope FISM comes up with an effective answer to this problem.
Other policing matters - VIDEOS and CAMERAS. Flash photography and videos were banned in the main hall, yet people kept using them. They were warned that their camera equipment would be confiscated, but did FISM follow through with the threat? If not, no wonder! If magicians simply cannot be trusted to respect their fellow performers then I would be in full favour of bag searches at the entrance to all FISM shows and anyone with a video camera would have to leave it in a cloakroom or a locker or they would not be admitted. This is done in theatre shows, musicals and concerts. If FISM has to start doing this then don't be angry at FISM, be angry at the minority who cannot obey rules.
I even saw one guy standing with a video camera in the dealers room, pointed at the screen of a DVD player on a dealers booth which was playing a DVD he was selling. This JERK was making a bootleg of a video right in front of the guy who was selling it. The dealer could have stopped him and maybe it would have caused a scene... but can't there be some dealer room staff patrolling looking to throw people out who do this sort of thing? Also, there were two dealers who were caught selling rip-offs. Andy's Magic had a number of Menny Lindfield's items made in China, and Caesaral Magic had Angelo Carbone's 'Out Of Order'. Both were brought to the attention of the dealers. According to FISM rules they should have been told to packup and leave. Instead they were both told to stop selling the specific rip-off items in the dealers room. They broke the rules but the punishment was not dealt out. How does this look for 2009 when we go to the home of intellectual property theft China? The Chinese FISM committee have made a promise to stop rip-offs. We will be watching very closely to see if they live up to that promise.
(Ironically, how many FISM registrants who hate rip-offs in magic will go to China in 2009 and buy fake Gucci, copy Rolex watches, and pirated Hollywood DVD movies?)
Apparently the lectures were all very good. The lecture theatres may have been a little small however, and the scheduling could have been better. There were many times when there were too many choices in the morning, and virtually nothing to do in the afternoon! Maybe some late night lectures would have been a good idea.
Also no FISM should EVER again overlap the Stage and Close Up Competitions. This was totally uneccessary. A lot of people want to watch as many acts as they can. Let them have that opportunity!
Having this AFTER the stage and close up comps and lectures had begun was silly in my opinion. It hardly felt like an opening as we were already well into the swing of FISM. It was an innovative idea asking 2800 people to stand in a dark, fog filled "aircraft hangar" for a hour and try to watch a small underlit stage on large underlit screens. The lasers and the ballerina-bubble were certainly different, but they didn´t work. And all of the balloons that were dropped that (I think) had some lotto tickets in some of them? (I'm not sure, I could hear the FISM President speaking) resulted in everyone bursting balloons in a frenzy of stamping... it seemed to create a more angry than fun atmosphere.
The opening video where Dag Lofalk stepped through the water screen was effective though!
What can you say... the stage gala was sensational (everyone has their favourite acts and their worst acts...) but the Nordic Gala was particularly weak, both in content and presentation. The close up gala was appalling. Mainly because of the terrible AV support with bad sound, lighting, staging and camera work, but many of the acts should not have been on the bill... or if so, should have done shorter sets.
The worst thing was that, at past FISMS, we've had gala shows every night to look forward too. Not this time... I think that was a mistake China can't afford to make.
FISM 2006 sort of nearly got it right. 2800 people for a seated dinner is really an ambitious call. Kudos for doing it, however people felt the venue really needed a little atmosphere. The acts were fine, a dance floor would have been nice. The thing that really let the night down was the sound system, people up the back couldn't hear well at all and started talking. People up the front were being deafened at times (which lead to an old man physically attacking Frank Wilson while he was playing! How do people like like this even become magicians?)
CITY HALL RECEPTION
This was an excellent idea. Once again it's a pity it wsn't closer to the convention centre but I admired all of the volunteers along the route holding 'Follow Me' signs. I was concerned for the disabled and elderly --- was there alternative transport for them? The reception and the venue were excellent though, total class (unlike a small but noisy section of the crowd who were so rude they talked loudly throughout the presentation given by one of the city hall hosts What happened to common courtesy? I mean, how would they feel if their audience talked all throughout their shows?)
This was a good innovation. Introducing an "allied arts" performer in their own show. I think one or two man shows are very good ideas and they introduce magicians to other forms of entertainment they may not have encountered before. So now we've had Stevie, what next for China... Puppetry of the Penis?
AWARDS SHOW AND CLOSING CEREMONY
Terrible. An unmitigated disaster. I'm sure FISM are currently brainstorming solutions to this as I type. I think the idea of filming FISM is a great idea (NHK TV have been doing it unobtrusively for years!) But there must be a better way so that we can leave FISM with good, positive memories and want to come back!
By the way, I must give extra points to FISM2006 for using a superb photographer. The images of FISM he captured here are absolutely brilliant!
What do I want at a FISM?
- Free Internet access in the centre.
- Inexpensive food in the centre (several times the kiosk ran out of sandwiches before lunchtime was over... our dinner on the last day was a coke and a candybar!)
- The photo and poster displays were great. More please!
- Some workshops about lighting, staging, make up, pyros, balloonology (maybe even good manners) would be a good idea for FISM.
- Maybe a specific show for "alternative" magic acts like Tatu.
- A crazy, ever-changing late night stage show as an alternative to bar magic featuring us, The Flicking Fingers, Die Zauderer, MagicSports and special guests that has fun with the days events.
- Should there be a new category in the competition for Children's Entertainers?
- Should the gala shows be repeated with the first session for the Public and the second for the magicians (and TV) so as to iron out the technical hitches? Or maybe each session has a mix of public and magicians? Or do we keep it "in house" so we can do all our "in jokes"?
What do you want?