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Topic: 48 hours
Message: Posted by: Chris Becker (Mar 11, 2006 03:26PM)
Tim: do you know how LUCKY you are to have 48 hours to answer our questions? Today, I had to answer 60 multiple-choice questions in less than two hours! ;-) Hence, since I don't feel sympathy here :) I'll throw out a couple more questions. Please fill in your name and address on the bottom and bring a picture ID. (No wait, that was something else...)

I noticed that in many of your routines (at least those which I've seen live or taped) you are wearing the same kind of blue jacket. Now I'm aware you're doing some topit work and, as a result, you are probably somewhat limited in the clothes you wear. But I do have another question on this. To what extent is that blue jacket part of your "T.E. brand"? Even if I'm very wrong and you usually perform in yellow or pink, how important is the outfit to building a brand, the character a magician is selling?

I'm asking this because in "Runaround Sue" and the card rap you have chosen very unique "costumes", so I assume you have put some thought into this. In my opinion, there are few colors other than black, which really look professional on a modern magician, blue being one of the very few bright colors that work. Once you've chosen a working outfit, is there any business reason why you should stick to it (obviously, from a technical standpoint, it's always good to get used to just one outfit)? So, basically, if you could ramble on a bit about clothes etc, that would be nice.

Another question is about the topit but also concerns your other "sleight work". How much do you use? Personally, when I'm comfortable with a sleight, I don't hesitiate to integrate it in my routines. From a number of professionals, however, I've heard that their true "workers" don't involve much sleight-of-hand. And looking at most lecture notes, videos or DVDs that are released, the very large majority is indeed not too technically challenging. The "gem" often lies in other things. Again, just an invitation to share your view on sleights and showBUSINESS.

Finally, since you've indicated you have some background in legal ethics, I was wondering if you could tell us about your beginnings as a professional performer. What would really interest me is how you made the transition from whatever else you (or your parents) initially had in mind to magic. Did you wait until you really made enough money with magic or did you just give it a try? Or are you maybe still a practicing star litigator and I should check the legal message boards for more info?

Thanks for everything!

Message: Posted by: Tim Ellis (Mar 11, 2006 03:54PM)
CLOTHING: Well spotted Christof. The Blue Jacket is definitely a TE Branding device. I've gone through a lot of different outfits in my day as you could imagine.

* Blue lurex jacket with white satin shirt and blue velvet bow tie
* Red velvet jacket and matching tie with white ruffled shirt
* White tails with red frilly shirt
* Spellbinder outfit (custom made silver "spacey" outfit inspired by Michael Jackson's 'Captain Eo' costume) complete with HUGE silver cape lined in blue.
* Silver lurex suit with grey shirt and bolo tie
* Pastel grey suit with pink shirt and steel grey bow tie
* Complete black microfibre outfit with silver collar tips, bullet belt, and chain boot straps.

Nowdays I have four alternate outfits to the blue I wear when appropriate:

* Red cashmere jacket with white shirt (which transforms into my 'David Copperfield' outfit when we parody him in 'Squash')
* Big black jacket and deep green shirt (worn when I get sawn in half or want to look - illusiony)
* New red designer jacket which I haven't worn yet but it is beautiful! (and impractical!)

The blue outfit was originally made to replace my all-black (after I turned up to a gig and found another magician dressed EXACTLY the same). I had my first blue made by a costumier when I saw a shirt in this amazing blue colour. I bought the shirt and ordered a jacket too. (Along with a black shirt with the sleeves removed to wear under the suit)

Unfortunately, though this company claimed to know a lot about making outfits for magicians, they had no idea how to do topits and secret pockets.

Eventually the jacket just started looking ratty.

It had served it's purpose though, it looked great on stage and, when I was doing strolling, I really stood out in a crowded room. (Now many of my earlier outfits also stood out in a crowded room too, but for all the wrong reasons... You can tell if an outfit "works" if people say "Man where did you get that jacket! I've gotta get one too!!" and they're not being sarcastic...)

My good friend Enzo Ficco (aka Al Cappuccino) brought his friend James Davis from the National Suit Company along to one of the 'Melbourne Magic Nights' we were running, and James gave a talk on tailoring. I immediately got him to remake my blue jacket, which he did a beautiful job with. He found an almost identical colour in a much more suitable fabric. He did a proper topit, put pockets everywhere I asked without question (including tiny TT pockets inside other pockets) and even made a new pair of black pants for me with more secret pockets AND he reinforced my back pants pockets for the can.

That was quite a few years ago and, when my blue jacket gets long in the tooth I'll be having him make Blue Mark III (with even more added features! ;) )
Message: Posted by: Tim Ellis (Mar 11, 2006 04:13PM)
COSTUMES - Personally I think it is great to stick to one 'trademark' costume for several reasons:

* You are identified by the public who may not remember your name
* You get used to things like sleeve length for sleeving, where various pockets are and what should be in them, and any "gimmicks" you might want to pin, sew, velcro, magnetise or gaff into your outfit.
* It's cheaper

Having said that though, it is good to have a few alternative outfits. Jeff Hobson travels with two different coloured jackets. He chooses which jacket he'll wear once he sees the colour of the backdrop he'll be standing in front of. His aim is to stand out against it.

Sore point - being an ex-blackie myself - I HATE seeing magicians dressed in black, against black backrops (especially when they insist on working only in a follow spot). It's like watching some weird floating head perform.

Black is a good colour to wear to help the props you are holding (ropes, cards etc) stand out. But take a look at your props and see if there's a different colour which will work just as well. (Or, bring your own non-black backrop).

As for Runaround Sue and The Rap, I REALLY like changing costumes for certain acts when they will progress the story and help add to the mood I'm trying to create. I also wear a specific outfit (lol - all BLACK! It's the exception that proves the rule!!) when I do my 'Robot' themed Linking Rings.

Working with Sue-Anne I see the time she spends choosing costumes that will look "right" with certain tricks. Men need to learn a lot from this aesthetic way of thinking... and in return they need to help women with practical advice on hidden pockets!

Another purpose built costume I have is for my strolling character for nightclubs - Katzkin. It's singularly the MOST impractical costume ever: black body stocking, leopard skin fur tails coat with sleeves rolled up and a studded leather collar. It looks like someone who's escaped from the musical 'Cats'. But I wanted something that would stand out in the very clothingly-exotic environment of nightclubs. It only has one real pocket in the jacket, but we added tails sevantes, several TT pokets and holders in the small of my back, and I was able to wear a pair of scissors behind my lapel. Every costume has hiding places.

I think it is VERY important to find a costume that suits you as opposed to just a tux or a copy of something else you saw someone else wearing. How you go about that is to simply experiment and listen to the opinions of experts in the fashion field, not in the magic arena.
Message: Posted by: Tim Ellis (Mar 11, 2006 04:24PM)
SLEIGHT WORK - I tend to use a lot of sleeving when I can in "real life" situations to vanish small objects like coins, but I have inevitably found that the magic goes over better when my sleeves are rolled up. So on stage I roll my jacket sleeves up (as tacky as that might look) and they stay up. In strolling situations I am constantly pulling my sleeves up which serves two purposes: 1 - The audience remembers I was always pulling my sleeves up, 2 - It means my sleeves are down when they need to be! ;)

I hardly ever use the topit, or the coin pockets sewn inside my sleeves. I also rarely use a lot of sleight of hand when strolling. Why?

Years and years ago I was working at a restaurant called 'Babushka' which featured close up magicians who came to your table and entertained (this was in the 1980's and the magic was the restaurant's gimmick). I went there with friends for my birthday (non-magic friends) and a very experienced magician who I have great respect for came and worked our table. He used a lot of sleights and I thought he executed them very well. My friends responded well too and seemed to enjoy his work. As soon as he'd gone they explained they'd seen everything he did and proceeded to describe in detail every sleight.

I realised that audience's aren't stupid, but they are very polite. These same people were blown away by some non-sleight effects I did later.

Now, this is not to cast aspersions on sleight of hand, but unless it is done PERFECTLY and the performer is totally aware of all of his or her angles, you may get caught.

If I do DECKSTRESS, a self-working gimmicked card trick, I NEVER get caught and the reaction is twice as strong.

I would love to hear ANDREW WIMHURST'S thoughts on this issue though. Andrew???

As far as magicians releasing material on DVD and in books that is not technically challenging, I think a lot of that is a purely a commercial decision. I know you sell a lot more product if the magicians think they're gong to be able to use it. Again, a lot of Andrew Wimhurst's material is hard, a lot is easy, but it all LOOKS hard to do so a lot of magicians avoid it.
Message: Posted by: Tim Ellis (Mar 11, 2006 04:35PM)
Finally, no... I've never been a lawyer... it was a different kind of bar exam I was referring to ;)

The only training I have done was a university degree in 'Film and Television Production'. Other than a paper round and delivering groceries for a supermarket, I've never had a "real job" in my life and Mum stopped pressuring me to get one after about ten years of full-time magic, I think she just gave up...

When I was 10 years old, I was given a Merit Magic Kit by my Grandfather. It fascinated me as I began to play with the various tricks inside it. I remember going in to a magic shop at that age and being blown away by the 'Ball and Vase'. I think that was the moment the magic bug first bit me. I just couldn't even begin to fathom how that ball disappeared from the vase a reappeared somewhere else. Once I bought the trick and it's secret was explained to me, I felt as though I'd been given a peek into a whole new world I never knew existed.

I bought more tricks, I even got the 'Hanky Panky Magic Set', and I shared my new found passion with a friend from Church, Mark Glassborow. Together we went out and performed at libraries, fetes, even a few children's birthday parties. I even have the original poster my Dad made to advertise my services: "Hire Timothy, an experienced young magician, from only $10 per 30 min show."

In 1977 Mark and I discovered The Magic Circle (of Victoria, here in Melbourne). We also discovered they had a strictly enforced minimum age limit. We weren't the only young magicians who wanted to learn however, and I met Lyndsay Reitschel who had just begun weekly classes on Saturday afternoons called, appropriately enough, 'The Young Magicians'. Mark and I joined and spent our weekdays preparing for these all too short Saturday sessions.

Lyndsay concentrated on stagecraft and presentation. The first thing we had to do was to write a list of every trick we could do. Next, we had to bring some in and perform them for the whole group. Lyndsay would make suggestions, some polite, some not so polite, and gradually each of 'The Young Magicians' began to develop their own unique act. They had to be unique, because every month or so we'd all go out to an "old folks home" (as Lyndsay used to call them) and put on a show. To protect the audience from a slew of Zombie Balls or an afternoon of Professor's Nightmares, whoever put a certain trick in his act first had a certain "exclusivity" to it. It really taught us a lot about the value and importance of being original.

Lyndsay was also notorious for pulling us down a peg or two when we started getting a bit too cocky. After I began to get confident speaking on stage he set me up with 'Sparkles The Clown' (a professional colleague of his) as my "volunteer" for the head chopper during one of our group shows for the public. Little did I know Lyndsay had told her to upstage me to the hilt! Cruel? Yes. Valuable? Priceless!!! Sparkles was, intentionally, the most difficult person I've ever had to share a stage with and, since then, every over-exuberant drunk I've ever got on stage to cut a piece of rope in two has been a joy to work with compared to her.

Lyndsay was always a 'sink or swim' teacher who threw you into the deep end. He wanted to find out if you were going to survive in "the real world" rather than waste time teaching someone who's only going to perform in the safety of a magic club. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

By the time I left 'The Young Magicians' I had started doing paid shows and was earning a reasonable income. As the years passed I realised there was more of a market for magicians than there was for television producers... and it was a much more stable profession too! ;)
Message: Posted by: Chris Becker (Mar 11, 2006 05:12PM)
Thanks so much, theses are great things to learn! And, btw, I like you current avatar...

As for professional outfits, I very much agree with you. And I wonder if a lot of other magicians follow this strategy. After all, except for Pit Hartling's "little green man", I don't know any other magicians whom I remember wearing a specific dress. (Although, in high school, I had a couple of painful weeks where I though I want to dress like David Copperfield)

Speaking of D.C., I don't why but I repeatedly hought about him during your week here at the Café. I think to the same extent you develop original "themed" routines, D.C., in his early TV specials, seemed to put so much love into story telling. I know, referring to Copperfield is generally not considered "hip" on this board but by all standards he's just the most successful magician ever! For many magicians in my generation, he was the intitial inspiration, so whatever... What do you think we can learn from his routining? I know a friend of mine who pathetically tries to imitate his smile and I myself, as I said, wore my shirts like he does when I was 12. I have my own thoughts but some analytical guidance from your side would be terrific.

As for sleights, I also think you have a point there. Coincidentally, I used sleeving a lot myself, it is one of the most practical and - once you got it down - easiest since automatic sleights. I do, however, think that not being a professional magician actually comes in handy here. Precisely because I never wear the same outfit but most usually perform in ordinary social settings, at parties, firm dinners, cocktail receptions, I was forced to practice and perform with many different jackets, sweaters and the like. As a result, being a non-professional has made pretty versatile in this regard...

Btw, I think I know Deckstress, the **r*** ***k routine. It was indeed very, very strong and I precisely remember the surprise when you revealed the secret in your lecture.

That's a wonderful story about your magic mentor. M.C. and the Magic Club of Vienna set up the first "youth club" in Austria 1989 and I feel very lucky I received the training by some excellent, experienced magicians. What better teacher in the art of manipulation than a three times FISM-winner. Wish I could ever come close to that... :)

And, finally, I also sometimes get assistants who are paid to act as jerks. However, I usually just come up with a counter offer, which makes them far better offer and that settles it...

-Chrisotf, no wait, it's Christof
Message: Posted by: Tim Ellis (Mar 11, 2006 10:00PM)
Copperfield - What do I think we can learn from his routining? Well, his older specials, I think, showed charming presentations with a lot of thought put into them that made for engaging television. His recent stuff seems to be created more for live concerts, though he still shoots the magic well enough so it comes across to the viewers at home that there was no trick photography involved.

To some extent I still feel his earlier work was better, but technically his illusions have become truly astonishing (his vanish in Portal for example) but some of his recent concepts have been very flawed: Portal, Pregnancy, Underpants Transposition.

The Lottery, on the other hand, I see as a move back to form. He's certainly always one to watch because he really pushes the boundaries of what's possible.

On the other hand... is he working too hard or losing interest because every time I see him live he seems tired or bored.
Message: Posted by: Tim Ellis (Mar 11, 2006 10:03PM)
DECKSTRESS is not a **r*** ***k routine, it's a *o*** *** **o*** ***k. The **r*** ***k routine from our lecture is Jazz Cards, another fooler, but Deckstress with it's *o*** *** **o*** principle is much stronger for laypeople.

Did you see 'Hi Teck Deck'? That uses a *****o***** ***k?
Message: Posted by: Tim Ellis (Mar 11, 2006 10:04PM)
As for Magic Christian, he's a great guy, really looked after us in Vienna and we had a hoot when he was here in Australia a few years back. Have you seen the pictures of him dancing with a kangaroo????

You have a GREAT teacher there!
Message: Posted by: Sue-Anne Webster (Mar 11, 2006 10:46PM)
Tim, I don't spend any real time seeing what outfits are good with magic. I'm not good at costuming - but what I DO focus on, no matter what the outfit - is...

... can the magic be seen against my outfit and,

are there any distractions (to be blunt - like too much boob showing - or unecessary jewellery that distracts from the trick - not that I wear much, any)
Message: Posted by: IT Magic (Mar 12, 2006 12:46AM)
*****o***** ***k I'm feeling dim today, what does this mean?

DeckStress is a champion effect, from Ellis in Wonderland it is the effect I get the most use out of, and it always gets a great response. It also has what I think is great and essential spectater handling(? bad wording)

Magi offers Trick and expectations go up

In middle of trick the specs expectations go right down

Then the "reveal", better than their first expectations but done with little or no expectations

Very badly explained but maybe you get the point
Message: Posted by: Tim Ellis (Mar 12, 2006 12:50AM)
*****o***** ***k is sort of like a **e**a** ***k, but the cards are **u** together at one end.
Message: Posted by: IT Magic (Mar 12, 2006 01:53AM)
everything is difficult tonight, my brain seems to have fried a circuit or something.

Going crazy now PM me pleeease
Message: Posted by: Sue-Anne Webster (Mar 12, 2006 07:21PM)
Hhhaaahahaaaaaaa... it's secret stuff... and The Magic Café censors certain words like Ah, ya **c**** b******* a****i** *i**b**** ...

Tim'll PM you soon :)
Message: Posted by: Elly May Drudge (Mar 12, 2006 07:23PM)
Wash your mouth out!
Message: Posted by: Parson Smith (Mar 12, 2006 07:25PM)
God Bless you, Elly May Drudge.