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David Thiel
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I saw the promo material for Jim Critchlow's "The Fallen" -- and fell in love. I thought the concept of having the spectator look through images of servicemen from "the war to end all wars," choose one at random -- and then tell them about that person was going to be seriously cool.

Initially, I was struck by the similarity of effect one of my personal favorites, Outlaw's Luna. With this classic, you wind up revealing all kinds of information about an asylum inmate with a much more cleverly designed f+rce.

The effect was ordered -- and it came a few days ago. I've spent some time with "The Fallen" -- and I REALLY wanted to like it. White Star is one of my favs as well. But there is very little offered to counter the initial disappointment with the props, the system and the overall "feel" of this effect.

I think the attention to detail and atmosphere paid to props by companies like Outlaw and Alchemy Moon spoiled me just a little. Here are my impressions -- and please keep in mind they are my impressions, okay? Yours may be completely different.

1) The Photos -- the heart of the effect come in a cardboard box about the size of...well...a deck of cards. The photos are all uniform sizes with names on the front (in a computer generated font) with info on the back -- ALSO perfectly computer lettered. They look and feel like playing cards...and, to me, they scream "card trick." (Why there was no care to make the typefaces look like they came from a typewriter, I have no idea. Why the cards looks so sterile...again...no idea. A little touch of Photoshop would have helped a LOT.)

2) You also get some "personal items." There are two dog tags, inexplicably blank, a wooden cross, a photo of a girl named "Mary", an antique looking playing card, an old coin and a bullet pencil. (No...make that a shell casing with a golf pencil in it.) Nothing impressive here. (These items are used in a very clunky f**ce...although in fairness, there is a non-clunky-item fo*ce offered, which is quite good.)

3) You get a DVD of Critchlow explaining, in excruciating detail the aforementioned clunky force and outlining the effect.

I started having reservations about this about an hour after I placed my order. While there is a card inside the box explaining that no disrespect is intended, and that the names are all fictionalized AND that a contribution will be made to vets organizations from the sales proceeds -- I still have a problem with the notion of basing an effect on men who served and died or disappeared in defense of their country.

Still -- I wanted to like this.

I sort of do. It's not the "Oh YEAH! This **** rocks!" like I felt upon looking at White Star. But I kind of like it.

I'm going to throw the box away. I am going to get some twine and maybe one of those WW1 antique boxes. I am going to break out the teabags and see if I ever will like it any better. I am about a 5 out of 10 on it right now. It lacks the brilliance of system I found in Luna and it lacks the emotional hook that an effect like this SHOULD have. We're talking soldiers here...in an era cracking with great stuff -- and the best I can come up with is divining their service number? Where's the involvement for the audience...??? Something that COULD have been very rich and touching really feels sterile to me.

I am going to try building some fiction in between the "provable" predictions and see if I can like it better. One of the predictions, for example, is the country of origin. If he's Irish, for example, I will talk about a favorite pub he went to -- and THEN reveal he's Irish. We'll see how it plays -- but methinks this is gonna be a long time in development.

Again...just my opinions, okay?

David
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Sandstar
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Good thoughts and a good analysis. I agree. The bar is set high these days by Outlaw and Lebanon. Anyone selling an effect that includes historic artifacts should keep this in mind. I have to say that I was disappointed in the quality of the artifacts. More time and thought was needed in their creation. The Fallen is not something that easily falls into performance. For me as well, this is going to take quite a bit of time to learn and integrate into an act. I really wanted to love it. I don't love it. The best I can say is that it is interesting. The biggest disappointment is the lack of emotional involvement that I felt as I went through it and I am a combat veteran. They say that they are coming out with another based on the Civil War. I hope they do a lot of thinking first.
timski523
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This is on my list....after reading this I'm starting to wonder, I love white star, and also death till us part is one of my jaw droppers(its the way I do it lol)
Please let us know what the reaction is like when you show someone? I know sometimes we take things apart to much and the spec see's things completly different to us, so it would be good to know what reactions anyone gets?
I was buying it on the author alone to a degree...should know better!
danramsden
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I can see where David is coming from with his comments about the aethetic and feel of the props. They don't really have an authentic feel to them.

But, I switch the methodology and use an alternative handling that takes most of the focus away from the props - in fact I barely mention them. I suppose it depends on your style of performance and what you're looking for from this. I focus the presentation on the scale of loss (moving from the statistics to the personal story), so the items that are in front of the spectator are only ever symbols. From these quite 'cold' objects I think I'm able to build and layer a story of personal resonance. I think this is all about how you build on top of the objects so they no longer become relevant. Having said that I think storing the cards in a Princess Mary Christmas Box http://www.kinnethmont.co.uk/1914-1918_f......1914.htm and replacing the 'card box' with an aged 'roll call' that you produce yourself will help.
Stephen Young
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IMHO.
The presentation shown in the ads. for The Fallen was a very dry clinical look at what revelations can be made with it.
Rather than a performance.

If you look at Whitestar in it's basic form, you can reveal two pieces of info Living or Dead.
But with the right presentation it is soooooo much more.

The Fallen, in it's basic form can reveal a lot more information.
But it needs a performance of the calibre of Whitestar to sell it to the aidience.

I can see some people making this into a stunning piece. Others will be disappointed and never use it.

It's interesting that timski mentioned Till Death as a jaw dropper. I have the same feelings for it
(maybe you'd like to share presentation ideas timski)
However, I recently spoke to someone who said it was the worst thing he ever bought.

Some effects are a lovely cake, fresh from the bakery that just require eating.
The Fallen is a recipe and ingredients. You need to bake the cake yourself. But it could be a cake to die for (sorry for the unintended pun)

I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand based on a few lukewarm reviews.

Steve
timski523
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Hi Steve,

With Till death... Ive found its all been about timming and also...(sorry if I offend) dropping the awfull script with the DVD!...I try to pick a women..and talk about how old pictures tell stories...and how wedding snaps usaly bring back happy memories..."i say usaly...sometimes this is not the case"...then my patter talks about the past and how sometimes people were forced to wed....while I am doing this I'm 'playing' with the pictures...and slowly going in the story...making at slightly darker..
I (unlike the dvd) let the spec look throught he pics and ask if she has any feelings etc..i then go into the spread... I also would say the postioning I haave got so right that they go for the correct position about 90% of the time, so I use no force(apart from the chosing of the last two....there is loads more to it than that, but the main thing I found is to get the specs really sucked into the story, and include something which means something to them iefamily history etc..but over all I found the timming and the pauses are what makes this for me...by the time I have finished they have totaly forgot I gave them an envolope at the start and as soon as I mention it there jaw start to drop in a 'no way' sort of way...
Stephen Young
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I don't want to hijack the thread too much, but as both Till Death and The Fallen are similar in some ways, I think some comments can serve equally well for both.

With Till Death
I found an old envelope with a name and address on, which I use instead of the black one.

I don't get up to 90% hit on the photos, maybe my spread needs altering, but I don't do too bad.
But as you say it's all about the story. Without that it's nothing.
I like the forced marriage angle.

Similarly The Fallen needs a way to get the spectator to invest some emotion into it.
Instead of reeling off astronomical numbers that are too huge to comprehend, perhaps something along the lines of
"imagine the entire population of Holland were wiped out this afternoon"
(Choose the country to suit your audience.)
"Everyone you ever knew, everyone you have ever seen in your whole life,just gone. Everyone you went to school with. The guy in the flower shop you say hello to as you pass each morning. Etc.

steve
timski523
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I like it Steve, I think its so so important to get a feeling involved that the spec can relate too..I like the idea of the old envolope...may use that if you don't mind!! With the postining, I just see where there hand will rest natraully as I hold there wrist and move it back and forth along the line of the pics and explain that I want them to carry on moving untill they want to stop a few times...I keep forcing the word 'stop' everytime there hand passes 'the pic' so I will say STOP a bit louder..."when YOU want to STOP" everytime there hand goes over it...a bit crude I know but it seems to work!

Oh and yes sorry for hijacking this thread too!!
;-)
daleshrimpton
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Don't fall into the trap that I suspect many people have with this effect.
Those photographs are not supposed to be original photos of teh fallen.
To me, these are clearly supposed to be record cards, from a museum, or an archive of some kind.
the original photographs would be far too fragile to hand out.

The objects.. I agree with you that they could look older.Ive changed the cross, to a set of rosary beads I found on ebay. The tags, well, they cant have any name on them, because the spectators will want to look to see if it matches, or will assume you just looked at the details on them. they would have to be worn away to nothing in order to work with this effect.
The coin is genuine. the pencil, look on it as an example of trench art... for this is what it is. The sweetheart photo, I went over the printed message with a pen, and it looks better, although I will also be puting it into a nice small frame when I find one that's right.
I do say that these items are not the actual items found on the soldier, however I will try and use the familiar objects as a tool to help me get an impression of the departed.

Its worth noting that I have been accused by several spectators of just "Reading my mind, and not using the objects..." As she is looking at the card, and reading the information.

Which is a hit in anybodys book.

Oh, and I have added a number of other objects to the table. A vesta case, a zippo lighter, ( Loki) a button, and a couple of other bits. These items are there for decoration, and will never be chosen... but to the spectator, it looks like they have more to select.
David Thiel
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You offered some outstanding ideas, Dale.

I especially like the concept of adding authentic period pieces that will never be chosen. They add a certain authenticity to the presentation. I am still not sure I buy the whole "card" thing...

But your thinking here has been outstanding. Thank you for sharing it.

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


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Stephen Young
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Nice, Dale.


steve
timski523
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With out seeing the cards I cant say if it possible...BUT could you scan them in to your PC/mac..then photo shop them a bit then reprint them on 'aged' light paper/photo paper?
Do you think that would make a difference?
Stephen Young
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That would be easy to do.
But as dale says, they are not intended to be everyday photos from circa 1914

They are intended as archive photos from a museum or such.
A little ageing may be a good idea. I haven't had much time to play with it yet.

But different/extra props would improve it certainly.

For my Whitestar I have a "genuine" telegram sent from titanic requesting assistance.
and another telegram from the insurance company to one of its members saying "Everything is in hand. Passengers are being transferred to another ship, and Titanic is making its way to New York under it's own steam."
And also a 1st class ticket from a man who decided to stay in france with his sick sister and get a later ship to America.

little human touches that make all the difference.

steve
David Thiel
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Great thoughts, Steve.

Yes...I think scanning and Photoshopping would make a difference. But it would be a LOT of work to get right. The painfully perfect computer name font would have to be removed, of course and a typewriter font put in. I am also thinking of a Photoshop plug in that makes it look like a piece of tape has been applied -- or perhaps a ragged label. (I'm not entirely sure why someone at Alakazam or Critchlow himself didn't think of this. A teletype font...or a typewriter that drops the "e" would have been perfect...)

And the back would have to be completely redesigned. (In my case without the clunky f*rce items.) So essentially the effect would have to be re-done.

STILL -- I think about how much White Star, for example, is enhanced with soft music from the era playing in the background. I wonder how the same sort of treatment applied to The Fallen might work. To be completely blunt -- one of the best things about The Fallen is the promo material -- the one with the music and the photos that actually says nothing about the effect. That thing oozes 'emotional hook.'

Combining Dale's excellent suggestion above...music...a little fanciful storytelling...?

I mean -- that's exactly what I do with Luna. I work "impressions" into the story -- little "flashes of insight" -- that are couched between the actual "verifiable hits."

I think one of the fundamental issues that SHOULD have been addressed is the whole serial number thing. I can't be the only one who realizes that the first two numbers of the serial number are ALSO the first two numbers of the person listed on the back of the card case. My audiences are sharp -- and SOMEONE is going to pick up on the fact that the number sequence coincides with the first two serial numbers.

This means that a) the audience member must NEVER see the actual listings of numbers on the back of the card case or that b) the numbering system will have to be re-designed to conceal the serial number aspect somehow. And the number is critical to the effect. I won't go into more detail because I don't want to tip the system.

What does all this boil down to? It's a performer trying to figure out how to hide/revise the weaknesses in an effect.

COULD this be fabulous? Absolutely! And the "fabulocity" ( Smile ) will come from the performer's modifications and adaptations...not the effect's initial design. (In my opinion, anyway...)

But it's no "cake."

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


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timski523
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Nice thoughts everyone, I’m still going to get this as I do love effects which use story telling and evoke ideas...shame you cant bottle up smells and use them, anything that gets the senses going!
I’m my loft I have old pieces from my Grandads army stuff(he was in the first world war!) Im gonna have a look at it for ideas , I would not use it though, would seem risky to it also seem un-respectful somewhat.
Allan Kardek
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I don't own this effect, but here's a thought... If you decide to scan and Photoshop the photos, couldn't you take the info that is on the back of cards and make a dossier or service record for each soldier and have the Photoshopped photos taped or paperclipped to the printed dossier? The dossier could be aged by the standard methods and have them all in a file folder to give to the spectator. I know it's a lot of work but I think that would look really good and authentic.

Hmmm... makes me want to get the effect now Smile Let me quickly mock something up...

Cheers,
Allan
Stephen Young
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Smells in bottles you can get.
not sure where but they are available.

David what music do you use for Whitestar?
I use Nearer My God To Thee by Andre Rieu, very moving.

I may have a word with Mike or Jim and see if they would be willing for me to make new photos on request for people.

steve
timski523
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That's a good idea Steve.
The smell I imagine, is musty..its a smell I get if I get my Grandads army uniform out the box..it would maybe 'earthy'? you know think trenches...mixed witht he smell of old tobaco...
HEY I acually think its possible...get some old pipe tobaco, mixed with some peat and rub it on the effects...I know you may think I'm losing it a bit here but it could work?
I so belive the senses are so strong to get the sense of smell?
Stephen Young
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I keep an incense cone in the box with my Whitestar and From Hell (both of which I've re-made the pictures for.)
Smells great. can't remember what 'flavour' it is though. smells like "eau de musty" Smile


steve
timski523
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I have an old effect called wicth finder genral, its all on 'old paper' the dealer I got it from used to have this really(still does I think) incence in his shop, and it still smells of it now... Till today, I never really thought about this...its all those little touches as everyone keeps saying isn't it!
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