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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Tricky business » » Breakthroughs (6 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Mindpro
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8267 Posts

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I am a firm believer in life's moments. These are memorable and often defining moments we experience in our lives. They happen in different stages of our lives. Some are expected or as a result of an age or accomplishment such as (not necessarily in any specific order lol), being potty trained, riding a bike, your first day of school, turning 13 and becoming a teenager, your first love, becoming 16 and getting your driver's license, your first job, prom, graduating from high school, your first sexual experience, graduating college, your first career, getting married, having kids, your first promotion, starting your own business, getting divorced (lol), having grandkids, retirement, the loss of a spouse, child or parent(s), and so on.

The same happens to us in our entertainment businesses and performing careers. An interesting topic I have always found helpful in our business is the significant breakthrough moments that changed, altered, impacted or have had a major affect on your business. A turning point. This can be as a performer or in the business behind your performance where many of these such breakthroughs originate.

These may be education or realizations that you discovered that had made a big difference, or perhaps a gig, client or account that created such a moment of change or realization, entering a new performance market or geographical region or an expansion that made a difference, or a specific turning point or perhaps any other breakthrough or impact moments, choices, decisions or opportunities.

It is often beneficial to others to hear or learn about others breakthroughs and business-changing moments and decisions. Not looking for boastful responses but rather specific identifiable incidences or that have had a lasting affect or impact or a defining change in your entertainment business.
Gerry Walkowski
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There have been several of those moments for me.

Probably the first one occurred when I thought I put together my ideal show and then realized that basically every magician and his mother was performing the same basic magic tricks I was performing. That was a life-changing moment for me, so I decided to go in a completely different direction and never looked back.

Having the opportunity to hang out with some creative mover and shakers would be another one. I'm not going to name names, but I think one can learn and feed off the energy level of these creative minds.

Buying Dave Dee's original course was probably another important magic moment in my life. For the first time I started to look at marketing my services in a much different way.

Gerry
Ken Northridge
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Atlantic City, NJ
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#1-When I attended a magic convention at age 14 (I still can't believe my mother let me go!)

Meeting Mark Wilson, Johnny Thomson, Bill Larson, Shimada, Teller and many other top stars. Seeing quality shows and amazing lectures. And then there was the dealers room, which I would describe and the most amazing candy store I had ever seen.

There was no turning back. I wanted to have a magical life.

#2-A couple of years later when I was in my High School talent show. I produced a dove and there were screams and applause from the same classmates who made fun of me all my life up until then. I still use doves in almost every show I do....and still get some screams!

I guess I could go on but you'll have to wait for the book. Smile
WitchDocChris
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Fawn Grove, PA
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When I first decided to try busking, and my first couple audiences just walked away during my set. That's when I realized that not everyone cares about what I have to say and it definitely changed how I approach script writing.

When I designed my first logo was the point where I started thinking in terms of branding and character and style, putting that out there for marketing purposes. Basically, it's when I started really thinking of my performance as a business instead of just something fun I occasionally get paid for.

And when I started trying to sell the show to bigger venues instead of just sort of tossing bottles into the ocean, and realizing how much work really goes into that side of the business.
Christopher
Witch Doctor

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Dannydoyle
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Eternal Order
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When I have a breakthrough I week definitely share it.

Actually thereare thousands. Biggest ones were finding out that seeking magic is tough, and selling yourself is what you should be doing.

Then going outside not only yourself and your own thinking, but outside the magic community for different things gives a different perspective that is good.
Danny Doyle
<BR>Semper Occultus
<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Mary Mowder
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Sacramento / Elk Grove, CA
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I started in Magic as an an Adult and was/am mentored by my long time Partner Tom. Because Tom started in Magic at 4 and was very dedicated, I always considered myself as just a student (I could never catch up). Sadly about 15 years after I started, Tom was shot in the right elbow and side in a random act of violence, which took him out of the business for a while. At that point I had to step up and realize that everyone else who was a Magician for 15 years considered themselves a Magician with quite a lot of experience.

That and finding the strength to walk away from a bad gig (that I really wanted to do) gave me a different attitude.

Still not a biz Wiz but a more confident Magician.

-Mary Mowder
BrianMillerMagic
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Manchester, CT
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Three breakthrough moments:

1) At 19 years old I had a chance meeting with Garrett Thomas at 1:00am in an Applebee's. I went on to study under him intermittently for the next two years, including personal training on one of his best kept secrets that, 10 years later, he still hasn't released. His approach to magic theory, though I disagreed with some of it, put me down a path of critical thinking about my magic and magic at large.

Biggest takeaway: He asked me, "What is magic?" and I didn't know how to answer. I do now.

2) Having just turned 22 and recently moved to a new state with no clients or friends, and burning through savings while trying to make it as a magician, I landed a recurring gig as the exclusive magician for a major casino. I hated the work and they didn't pay me nearly as much as I thought I deserved, but I used their name to bolster my resume and bring in private and local corporate engagements. Eight months later I was let go from that position, and experienced a dip in my bookings as well as hurting at the loss of consistent income.

Biggest takeaway: Appreciate what you have, while you have it.

3) Was invited to deliver a TEDx talk at the age of 26. Gave it everything I had. After 5 drafts and nearly 200 rehearsals over 2 months, I started to feel completely worthless. I began to doubt myself. Lindsey, my fiance at the time (now my wife), convinced me that what I was writing/saying was worth it. With her encouragement and a bit of luck, the talk went on to clear 2 million views in just over a year, with a 98.5% approval rating on YouTube. It gave me credibility in professional markets that I had previously struggled to crack.

Biggest takeaway: Always rise to a challenge.

In between those three things, I was at various times unable to afford the gas to go on dates, at one time losing tons of weight and getting scary unhealthy because I couldn't afford to feed myself after I paid rent, breaking down in tears due to a failed show, ****ing off magicians I respected without realizing it due to a narrow focus on myself/my own career, etc.

None of it has been easy, but it sure is a lot of fun. So much to learn still!
Mindpro
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Welcome to live entertainment! Great stories.
Sealegs
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There are several moments on which the career I have had and am still having has hinged. I guess had these moments not happened there's a chance other moments would have happened that would have had equally as big an affect on my path. Either way, I suspect these sliding door moments are much more interesting to the person they happened to than anyone else... but in case there are people who like reading about how sometimes a small moment can have a huge knock on affect and shape the way your life goes....here are some of my sliding door moments and decisions..

As a young lad spending the Summer working in Ibiza as part of the entertainments staff at a Club Med sort of place I did some card tricks for an visiting singer who flew in to work there for a week. Two years later this same person was working for one of the biggest holiday companies in the UK as the in-house booker of all their entertainment. Out of the blue he called me up to offer me the job as the assistant booker. Although flattered I turned it down as I wanted my career to be on stage. So instead he created a job for me going round on the weekly cabaret circuit of his venues,but I was booked to perform close up magic, an unknown form of entertainment in the UK at that time, in the venues' lounge bars for an hour a night. I bought my first house from this work.

Prior to this, while still working as part of the resident entertainments staff in Club Med type place in Span, I stood in, one week, for one of the reps who was ill and picked up the new guests from the airport. A guy approached me at the airport and asked if he could get a lift on my coach down the coast. I said sure. It turned out this guy worked as a pianist in a show on a cruise ship. He gave me his agents details and the following year after auditioning in London, I got my first pro gig as an act with a six month contract as a comedy magic act in a show on a cruise ship.

When the guy who created the close up gigs for me moved onto another job my revenue stream disappeared. So I decided to put a rather arrogant advert in the UK's only entertainment trade paper asking if there were; "any agents specialising in close up magic" (which was still a completely unknown form of entertainment) "or was I going to have to continue to book all my own work myself?" One agent replied. He had no idea what close up magic was but liked the 'brass neck' of me having placed the ad. I went to work for him doing the stand up comedy magic act I had done in previous years. He had many venues all round the South of England that he put shows into. I was able to go out in these shows and sometimes really struggle and die... but I did so knowing that the show's other acts could pull the evenings entertainment back round and that I would have another chance to be better and get better the next night, in another show, at another venue, It was a fantastic apprenticeship that taught me the craft. It also showed me that a comedy magic act needs to be as funny as the best stand up. The magic doesn't act as a substitute for the comedy in an comedy act.

Way before the 'Got Talent' shows had even been thought of I did an audition for a BBC 1 prime timeTV talent show. I put together 5 minutes of new material that I thought would get me onto the show. I got on and came no where in it. But the act I do now developed directly out from that 5 minutes of audition material.

In 1992 I was flying out each week and working in the blistering outdoor Summer evening heat in a hotel in Greece. Me and a fellow act decided that the clothes we were wearing on stage were going have us dying of heat exhaustion. We decided we'd have to change them. At the airport on the way out I'd bought a horribly garish, matching set of shorts and shirt and I took the decision to wear these when I returned to Greece the next week. This style of outfit suddenly made my entire show make sense for me. The style of outfit has stayed with me ever since and became an ingrained part of my on stage character.

One evening at a local venue I saw a magic/variety act do their show without getting anyone up on stage. This idea instantly appealed to me and I have avoided getting spectators on stage during my show ever since. It meant I had to ditch 75% or more of the routines that made up my show. And while it made material harder to create, find, and adapt I believe not being dependent on getting spectators up has helped enormously to set me apart from virtually all the other stand up comedy magic act out there.

One day the person acting as my agent at the time, had 3 calls from 3 different agents all asking for me for the same cruise ship job. Having recently dropped all my onstage-spectator routines I knew I didn't have enough material for the shows that were required on that ship. (I'd worked charter cruises on it many times in previous years) Then on the same day a 4th agent called about the same job. Only he was a bit more persistent and said he could arrange for the contract with the ship to accommodate whatever material I could do. I did that gig for that 4th agent and I've been working with him ever since and have been solely represented by him for going on 20 years.

At one point I decided to give up doing any work on land. Instead I decided to concentrate solely on working on cruise ships. It was a great choice and my agent, who was, and still is the biggest cruise ship agent in the UK was( and still is) keeping me busy with the work I wanted to do. It's a decision that was quite a bold one at the time. But it put me well ahead of many of my fellow acts who, at the time, thought I was making a big mistake but many of who now seem incredibly keen to find out how to get out onto the ships themselves.
Neal Austin

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules." G.B. Shaw
Mindpro
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Thanks! Some great stuff so far. It's good to hear others breakthrough or ah-ha moments, as well as the struggles, experiences or problem areas that led to such breakthroughs. I think this is the type of stuff that others can learn and benefit from as well.

WitchDocChris brought up an interesting point as well - at what point did you start thinking of or start approaching your magic or performing as a business? What lead to that point? What changed for you when you did?
David Thiel
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Western Canada...where all that oil is
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I think the defining moment for me was at my first professional show. I’d been planning the move to pro for three years...and at that time I was doing comedy magic.

I was doing an effect called “Cardtoon.” Cutting edge stuff Smile . The spectator selects a card and it goes back into the deck and as you flip through the cards a little stick guy appears, reaches into his hat and pulls out the selected card. I’d practiced it until it was perfect. I was strolling and feeling quite full of myself. I was performing this latter day wonder at a table and I happened to overhear another performer doing the same effect the exact same way. I mean we were doing EXACTLY the same routine. Of course we were...because we’d both learned the same patter.

My face started burning with an instant embarrassment. Why?

In an instant this fully formed idea dropped itself in my mind: “If I continue this way I will never be special. If I continue this way the highest aspiration I can have is to be a good magician. But I will never be seen as anything special. And if THAT happens then the ONLY thing that will separate me from the rest of the pack is price. Do I REALLY want that?”

I decided instantly that I didn’t and took everything apart in my act, tried to see it through eyes that had never read the patter and — if I couldn’t come up with a new way to perform the effect it got turfed.

Performers need to brand themselves — set themselves apart from the rest so that the client isn’t booking ‘a magician.’ The client is booking YOU because YOU are (oh boy...here it comes) YOU-nique. (Sorry.)

There have been plenty of epiphanies over the years...but that was one of the biggest.

Interesting topic, MP.

David
Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Except bears. Bears will kill you.


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