Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Project 365 Two-Fer (339-365): On The Next Generation

Before anything else, in case you missed our Christmas show last Friday, "My Idea Of A Perfect Christmas Show (Sayang hindi namin nakuha si Jose Mari Chan...)," you can catch snippets of it tonight on TV5, after Willing Willie, on the TV Show Wow Meganon!

Hope you guys like it, as we definitely pulled out all the stops for that show. :)

.:340/365: On The Ellusionist Culture:.

I’ve touched upon this in the past, but it’s something that bears repeating: Ellusionist has been both one the biggest boons and banes for the magic industry in the last decade, arguably next only to David Blaine (Criss Angel is a bane to the industry, period.). Through Ellusionist, we ushered in a whole new breed of magicians, with a throng of young performers who have been reared on the style crafted by the E to reach out to the next millennium’s budding magicians.

While Ellusionist did its part in spreading the love for magic for a new generation, it did so with an inordinate emphasis on only one particular aspect: street magic. By positing the classical acts of Copperfield and Hennig as “old-fashioned” and “cliché,” they ended up indirectly disrespecting the facets of magic that actually paved the way for them to make an impression on the industry and in the mainstream all at the same time.

It was a stroke of genius on their part, really: they made magic seem cool all over again, and anchored it on the misleading premise that anyone can be a magician, and magicians will always impress people, without allowing their would-be clients a chance to glance at the fine print: yes, anyone can be a magician, but only if they work at it. Yes, magicians will impress people, but only if they’re actually any good at it. While retreading age-old material just given a new and edgy twist may seem like an excellent way to milk money, it isn’t a very viable one in the long term. Ellusionist is succeeding and will continue to succeed, but mostly because of an excellent marketing team rather than any actual substance behind
the things that they do.

This isn’t to say that the E is completely bereft of substance, but it’s impossible to ignore how much more sizzle than steak can be found in almost all of their recent releases. After the initial onrush of great material, they began to rely more on their slick production values than in actually coming up with effects that really turned magic on its head.

All things considered, I like that there are more magicians than ever, but I also hate that there are more magicians than ever. To be honest, one can’t blame Ellusionist for this lack of regard for magic as an art form, but simply a matter of statistics: as more people want to learn magic, there will be more people who will want to learn it for the wrong reasons, be it for exposure, just scoring some one-night stands, or any other less than delightful motives. At the same time, couple this with the YouTube culture that we would have to discuss tomorrow, and you have a recipe for disaster.

It’s a huge burden, but the onus needs to be shared by Ellusionist to uphold magic and continue elevating it on their own turf. At the moment, they’re doing well coasting along on their success, but there’s no reason for them to not want to take it to the next level if it means that it will benefit everyone in the industry. How they could do it remains to be seen, though, because clearly, their current methods have reached an upper limit, and something drastic needs to happen to make that next transition.

.:341/365: On The YouTube Generation:.

Ever noticed how a good magic trick on YouTube would never go without having some smartass commenter divulging how the trick works? Heck, the video above? That’s proof in the pudding right there.

Welcome to the YouTube Generation of magic: a place where poor performances, exposure, and outright bootlegging of full videos are commonplace and unstoppable. If you thought torrent was dangerously hurtful to magic, YouTube is probably infinitely worse.

Ever wanted to learn how to do a magic trick? Just go to any YouTube video online, and either there’s a video out there that teaches the trick, or you could see a performer flub the trick so bad you’d know how he did it, or you could see an excellent performance filled with commenters who just have to tell you how it’s done and kill the faerie for everyone else.

While it has been an excellent platform to showcase magic, it has, in my estimate, done more harm than good to the magic industry. Really. Why would the average person want to pay money to see a good magic act when not only can they see the same performance on YouTube, they can even find out how it’s done afterwards?

And I guess that’s exactly why you would never find my full act online, for fear of eliminating any surprises I have up my sleeve as a performer. I like being able to keep people guessing what I would do next, and how free-flowing my performances can be. Having my full act on YouTube ruins that spontaneity because there are no more unexpected bits and pieces to my show, so the entire audience can potentially brace themselves against anything I can cough up, which is a crying shame, really.

The YouTube generation hasn’t really inspired a new generation of magicians. Instead, it has given an avenue for killing faeries wholesale, whether it be the likes of the Mythbusters (More on them next time.) or just your average sub-par magician botching the trick to the point of exposure. It doesn’t do a whole lot of instilling respect for the art form, and instead perpetuates the notion that anyone can do magic and that it’s nothing but trickery, and all trickery is bad. As it feeds into the cycle of denigrating the perception of magic, I feel that the gains it may have garnered for the magic industry in terms of dissemination and exposure are not enough to undo the damage it has caused upon the respect for the secrecy of the art form, as it has become so casual and widespread that it’s no longer a big deal to do exposure the way Valentino’s actions used to be such a huge issue for us.

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