• Why did I want to learn to be a magician? Pt 7 – Leaving the Magic Circle

  • October 28, 2019

  • I’m not sure if that title is an ominous one, though it does imply I left the magic circle voluntarily. This is not the case. I screwed up massively, and the punishment would definitely fit the crime.

    While approaching the ¾ mark of my time in a lovely, underpaid office job, not that I knew that at the time, I was introduced to a small production crew that had been hired by Sony to film a commercial for their new phone. For me, this was a hugely exciting opportunity, so I, of course, allowed the conversation to move forward.

    The pitch I was sold on was that I would perform some magic both with the phone and to the phone’s camera that had a high powered slow-motion camera. I voiced concerns about revealing magic secrets, but I was assured that this was not what they were interested in, but rather seeing flourishes and the like with a deck of cards in slow motion.

    We continued planning how the shoot would look, what sort of magic would work for the camera and those sorts of things. I began to get nervous as the production team became very insistent that I include a few other effects that were part and parcel of a close-up magician’s repertoire. It quickly became apparent to me that they wanted to “catch me” doing my magic, the premise being that “the hand is quicker than the eye, and this camera is even faster”.

    This is when I should have stopped my involvement and insisted I no longer be a part of the commercial. But no, I was weak, I wanted the money, and I wanted to be involved in quite literally any magic project I could. So we came to an agreement that I would perform three effects, and they would catch me in the act when performing the last one. I justified it to myself by only choosing from the pool of magic effects that were labelled as easy/free magic on YouTube that could be found with the quickest of internet searches. I also wouldn’t be explaining how the effect is done. I now know how unbelievably weak an excuse that is.

    To protect myself, I asked that the production company provide me with the final cut, and include in the contract that fact along with an outlay of precisely what would be expected of me on the day of the shoot. This is where the naivety comes out strong. I got a call from one of the producers, and he promised me that they would add that into the contract at a later date with an amendment, but they needed me to sign the contract they had sent over as soon as possible so everything else could move forward.

    If you’re done face-palming at my stupidity, I will continue with the story. It gets worse, by the way, so bear with me.

    Shoot day arrives, I arrive at the location, the team arrive, and one of the producers arrives as everything is being set up. All seems to be going smoothly. The producer starts up a friendly chat with me and begins to make it very clear that there is a change of plans. They want to catch me performing every effect. Every single one or the shoot is off.

    I really should have called his bluff. I’m assuming I could have; I haven’t looked at the contract in a while. So, if you can recall me mentioning the lack of backbone, you can guess what I did next. That’s right, continue on with the shoot, and allow them to catch me doing the sleight of hand.

    After a tough day’s filming in an incredibly hot room, while wearing a three-piece suit, I had sold out the very art form I loved so much. I went home, returned to my ever-entertaining office job, and life continued as usual. For a while, at least.

    The commercial came out, was released on YouTube and did a tiny circle of the internet. There was no fame or glory from it. The most attention that came from it was from other magicians online. I began receiving death threats and suggestions that I kill myself to do the world a favour. None of that hurt nearly as much as when the Magic Circle members got wind of it. They were not happy, and rightfully so. The video was raised to the exposure committee who asked that I explain myself.

    I explained the situation much as I have done here, before throwing myself at their mercy. In contrast, I had been able to lie to myself and justify my behaviour as perfectly acceptable up until this point. Once I had to present my case to the magic circle, I crumbled and saw the whole act from afar, finally able to appreciate what I had done.

    I feel my punishment was very light, as I received a suspension of my membership for one year. I had fully expected to be expelled forever but had gotten off lightly. I also donated my rather pathetic fee to charity, if only to make myself feel less dirty. I would also give the additional fee I would earn from the production company re-using the video at a trade show event.

    Well there you have it, possibly my lowest point as a magician; an event that a close magician friend refers to as, “Sonygate” which still makes me laugh. If nothing else, I learnt some valuable lessons about handling and signing contracts, being honest with my mistakes, and the need to be more self-confident and less afraid of confrontation.

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