Every 3 years there is a competition to see who are the best magicians in the world, FISM. Never heard of FISM? Well it's not an American thing. Long before AGT and all the reality talent shows on TV magic organizations have been holding competitions for half a century. From those competitions magicians have found success in their careers or have helped them find work in the entertainment fields in other ways. But the bottom line is, FISM world competition is THE toughest talent contest on the planet...for magicians. Why is it so tough? Well, magic is an art that only a few select magicians are REALLY gifted at. Think of it, who do you know that is a famous magician? I bet you can't name enough for each finger on one hand. Finding the best in the world or even naming the best magician in the world is NOT taken lightly.
Being great at magic is one thing but world class is another. You don't just make up an act for this competition, you develop it over time. Each competitor will bring with them an act that is NOT store bought, that's a RULE. You have to invent, manufacture your own props and slap together a well crafted bit of theater that is specifically designed to FOOL magicians. Just putting together a GREAT magic act isn't enough. You must WOW the judges with spectacle, skill, theater, craft, costume, atmosphere and entertainment value.
If the judges feel that your act is below standards they will red light you and the curtain will be closed on you, period.
Think of it, you worked hard...you qualified, you were sponsored and approved to compete but upon arrival you find yourself in a sea of CRAZY good magicians from all over the world who have been competing their entire career. You've invested 10's of thousands of dollars and the curtain COULD be shut on you! I've seen it happen. You can even be booed by the audience if you appear to have stolen someone else's act, even if by accident. The pressure is enormous if you let it get to you. However all of it is intentional. The competition is more that just what happens on stage. You only get 10 minutes to tech and you are timed. You have a scant few minutes to set your act, go over and you are OUT. If you go over your time limit on stage during performance you are OUT. I heard a performer's act ended at near the 10 min mark but the applause was so great he stayed on stage to absorb the applause...he went over the 10 min. Even though the act was done he was on stage longer than 10 min. WOW that's strict but necessary to keep the performers on point. If a performer can't follow the rules or gets flustered because something isn't going his or her way, that's showbiz. If you can't roll with it then you have no business being in this business. That's competition and real life.
Yes world competition is brutal and beautiful. My perspective is one of being ready. I've qualified and won more awards than any magician in a single international competition and fooled Penn and Teller on their hit TV show Fool US. However all that is behind me. Non of that matters going into competition. I mean NONE of it. The only good thing I have going into competition is that I'm a bit of a "known" magician now. That's going to help when it comes to my relationship with the audience. But anything can happen. Things break, props fail and disasters happen. You can understand the pressure. I'm only as good as the day of that performance. I'm not judged on any past or future appearances. I have to be as near perfect on that day as possible.
The other factors that come into play are the other competitors who have been in the competition game longer than I have. They are known and understand what the judges are looking for based on experience. I've had judges say all kinds of things to me or in notes scribbled on score sheets in the past. Some say I have no skill, others say I have an abundance of it. Some think I should dance...no idea why, some think my tie is wrong, the act makes no sense or that the act isn't commercial. Whatever the judges perspective, I have to anticipate it or ignore convention and go with my heart. So where I stand is pretty simple, I CAN'T change the act now. It's locked! I'm going with my heart. This act is about a man, everyman. The character is NOT a magician and the audience is not part of this act. It's a play. The character is AFFECTED by magic so the skill is hidden. Yep you read that right, the skill will be hidden from the judges and the audience. You'll never see this character mug the audience, take a bow or show something "empty." That's a HUGE risk to take when SKILL level plays such a role in this competition. So as I write this I'm already wondering, "my goodness what have I gotten myself into."
The good news is I'm very confident in this act. It goes over with magicians as well as lay audiences. That's rare for a competition act. I'll be honest, it goes over gangbusters. People say the same thing, "it's like watching a movie." That's exactly what I want to hear. I designed it to be like a movie or a play based on 1940's haunted movies like Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. It's not scary but it's spooky, funny and the magic is a real fooler like you've never seen. As a matter of fact no one has seen an act like this because it's completely out of my head. Every prop was built by me as were the effects. I can't claim all the tricks are original but they are either a combination of utility devices and methods. The story is original and the final effect is an invention of my own. The effect isn't new but the method is and the story that goes with it is definitely original. My hope is the judges will look past the overt "lack of traditional magic skill" and judge the act for what it IS rather than what they conventionally have seen for decades. Yes I'm excited and nervous about how the act will go over with the judges, but like I said, there ain't nothin I can do about it now. YIKES!
If you were to ask me how I think I'm going to do I'd tell you flat out that I'm going to WIN. That might seem like ego but it's not. Ask an Olympic Athlete if they think they are going to win and they will tell you something similar. Some might say, "I'm going to give it my all" or "yes I'm going to win, I didn't come here to shoot for second place". The flip side of my saying I'm going to win is what if I don't win. I've already won! I'm invited to compete! We all have won just being invited, we EARNED the right to be at FISM world competition. If I get second or third I can still say I won! First would be better but I'll be happy no matter what. Just don't close the curtain.
My closing note on FISM competition is the fact that the organizers are doing a great job of getting us all prepared for the competition. It's a world event. Over 40 countries and 150 competitors and 3000 attending magicians to watch it unfold over 6 days. WOW can you imagine the logistics of that? Pulling this off in itself is a magic trick. Then there are the trade show booths, the lectures and gala performances of past winners and professionals. It will be an epic event. I'm so looking forward to this. It's been a long hard journey. Opportunity is finally going to meet with a well prepared Stuart MacDonald, the Unintentional Magician.