Theory11, my new trick Panic and why you should care.

Panic Box

As many of you may already know, my new trick ‘PANIC!’ was unveiled last Friday night at Theory11.com. I’m exceedingly proud of the trick, so before you read further, go and watch the video so you have a frame of reference. Then come back for a discussion about the trick, and my thoughts as to why Theory11 may represent an important shift in the quality of magic education.

WATCH PANIC PERFORMED LIVE RIGHT NOW.

Panic easily stands as my most significant release since The Paper Engine was published in 2002. The DVD is beautifully produced, both in terms of the packaging and the contents. More importantly, Panic may be the most commercial effect I’ve ever put out. In this case, commercial doesn’t mean merely ‘effective as a magic product’, though that’s certainly true as well. Rather, the piece demonstrates clearly how real world performing experience can lead to simpler, more efficient magic. It’s the most powerful effect I’ve ever shared with the community – I wanted the teaching on the DVD to be as effective as the trick itself.

For that reason, I’ve been forced to ask the same question as everyone else. What exactly is Theory 11.com? And the truth is – I’m not entirely sure. We can all see the site involves a bunch of talented guys with real passion and serious ideas about magic. But for me personally, T11 represents a mysterious, exciting experiment.

How things will evolve I can’t truly say, because what’s being attempted here hasn’t been really tried before. Sure, several companies in the last few years have had great success selling magic tricks. Some of these companies have even sold quality material. But now, serious magicians are trying to discover whether this internet technology, so effective for business, can also be used to actually improve magic and the quality of its practitioners. For that reason, I find this whole process thrilling. Several of the players are my heroes – members of the real A team. And finally, they’re not just sitting around complaining about the state of things. They’ve stepped inside in the ring, reputations on the line, attempting to affect real change in the field we all care so deeply about.

 

One Piece at a Time – Details make the Magic

Panic Freak Out

 

As any experienced magic student will tell you, it takes an awful lot of work to find good material, to separate the wheat from the chaff. Companies sell tricks, ideas, methods and variations by the pound. If the student assumes he’s receiving a giant tomb of brand new, quality material, he will likely find himself disappointed. Many magic creators have great ideas, but find themselves under pressure, often self imposed, to release a greater percentage of their output than perhaps they ought to. I don’t exclude myself from this criticism. As many great comedians have noted, to write three good jokes, a good writer might reasonably pump out 97 others that never see the light of day. Perhaps we in magic should more often work toward this exacting standard.

 

 

Like other recent, successful companies in our industry, the gang at T11 has discovered that the current crop of young magicians responds well to ‘single item’ releases. Many magic students today would rather learn one astounding effect in a focused way – rather then spend valuable time sifting through some guy’s dairy from the month before. We all get exposed to so many ideas every day, perhaps we’re trying to make careful choices about what we invest our time in. The alternative might be to crumble under the weight of the knowledge work incumbent in the information age.

 

Some will complain that it’s a mistake to hold back the countless variations we love so much. These passionate students might argue that the sheer volume of ideas presented by one such as Ed Marlo (even excluding disputed ones) allows sleight of hand students to better appreciate the depth of the possibilities presented to us when we work with cards.

Panic Logo

Frankly, I sympathize with this romantic point of view. But then I think about the resonance we find in the work of Vernon. Much of his magic was described somewhat poorly by Lewis Ganson, yet his work remains iconic. It seems his decision to present only one or two solutions to a given problem actually worked. People got the message – do all the research, and then release the very best solution you can. At least partly for this reason, his small books on card magic stand out as some of the century’s finest volumes, regardless of their diminutive size.

 

Almost all of us can agree that magicians have access to plenty of material already. We further likely agree that the key to improving our work lies in developing fully the material we already have access to – not in the acquisition of more tricks.

Girls watching

 

In this regard, the ‘single item’ release model can conceivably help us all. To communicate magic lessons effectively requires patience, a slow hand and a long time. Too often, magic creators present their ideas quickly and use a ‘bare bones’ approach. That only makes sense – they’re presenting so many ideas that anyone would have trouble packing them all in. The student often comes away having witnessed twenty ideas, but finds himself later confused when he can’t make even the simplest version play as well as he hoped.

 

Ideally, when you release one piece at a time, you force yourself to choose your best item. Now you’ve got a piece worth teaching, your task comes into focus – to communicate every nuance of the effect, presentation and handling. Now, the student can gain enough confidence from your instruction to take the effect out of the basement and into the world. Of course, from this first step, the student gains only more questions. Hopefully, if you’ve done the job correctly, his dawning concerns have been anticipated. He can go back to the source, and find all the information he needs.

As of this writing, I am happy to report that Theory 11 supports these values. They not only wanted to release my trick, but they were more than supportive in allowing me to teach my magic the best way I know how. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t have chosen to work with them.

 

All over the world, passionate, thoughtful people care about improving the quality of magic performance. For anyone who shares these values, the emergence of T11 holds wonderful promise. Finally, we might be a getting closer to a viable model for teaching magic in the 21st century – modern technology, combined with detailed lessons, taught by people who actually know.

 

I’m sure many of you will have ideas related to these issues. First, make sure to go and watch the demo of Panic and check out Theory11. Even though the site just launched, you’ll find plenty of ideas to explore. Then drop a comment here, or on T11’s new forum or both. It’s useful to write down your ideas. Not only will it help you clarify your own thoughts and beliefs – it will help people like me deliver content you can use. If we can really understand each others ideas, then everyone creates better magic.

Gratefully,

Aaron Fisher

 

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7 Responses to “Theory11, my new trick Panic and why you should care.”


  1. 1 Michael Kelley September 5, 2007 at 1:24 am

    Hey Aaron – great read. I hope you enjoyed magic camp. The theory11 unveiling I thought was great – albeit a bit anticlimactic. I say this only because of the pre-launch buzz. The videos and messages. The revolution that is theory11. I was hoping for a bit more of that “revolution” at launch. All in good time I suppose though. That said – I think the products at launch are great. These look to be some fantastic effects. Yours being my favorite of the bunch by far. Not to brown nose – you don’t need any more of that :-p But I admire your work thus far and you have succeeded and exceeded with this new release.

    I personally am not sure I agree with the “single release” method of thinking entirely however. While I certainly appreciate the point made – and note that I believe it to certainly be a valid one, I think it’s a bit lacking. The single release DVD at a cost of $25 or $35 is a bit much. I know what goes into these things, believe me, and I’m not saying that the price isn’t fair – after all, you need to make a buck to survive to create another day. The issue is that for that same $35 or maybe $5 more, I have purchased video’s and or DVD’s that have a weatlth of info and effects on them. Not all are as thorough as I’d like, and this is one of well taken your points above, however, I think the scaling down of 13 great effects or routines into 1 for a small difference in price is maybe too big a leap. I do appreciate the amount of description, advice, et.al. that is included in these single productions however I don’t know that it is always a good thing. I feel that each purchaser SHOULD have to put some of his or her own hard work into a routine or effect to learn it’s best execution and presentation for themselves. It’s part of the experience in learning and applying the new material.***

    Again – I don’t think this method is a BAD thing and I hope the above comes across as such. I think this has great potential…truley. I look forward to purchasing PANIC! in the very near future.

    *** Of course I COULD just be a cheap SOB. 🙂

    Sincerely,

    Michael Kelley
    http://www.RandomActsofEntertainment.com

  2. 2 Steve Johnson September 5, 2007 at 6:14 am

    Let’s begin with congratulations and well wishes as they’re most certainly in order. It’s reassuring to see a prolific, published creator and performer team up with like kind in an apparent effort to expand the art and the minds of their peers, clean up the business a bit and, of course, make a few bucks on the way. Kudos to you and your colleagues in this, Fisher – Combined you make a force in magic that I’ve not seen before. If you’re all true then we all need you to succeed. Make it happen.
    Everyone has an opinion (Fill in joke here) and I’m no different. I’ve done some thinking about the “One trick on a disk” trend and I’d like to share my thoughts.
    When I shop for a disk containing common material, the classics if you like, I expect to get a lot of tricks and techniques for the price I pay and fortunately for me there’s plenty to choose from.
    Perhaps, on the other hand, I don’t want a nine disk set of card tricks performed by a charming fellow and created by Vernon, Marlo, Miller and other greats. Perhaps I already have these volumes or, lucky me, the text books that contain these wonderful concoctions. Suppose I want something new. Well then…I need modern brilliance.
    Most of us will experience at some point in our lives the indescribable flash of creative brilliance and, if we’re lucky, we might experience that sensation more than once. Some of us will react and act upon this moment. A few of us will work hard to smooth and control the creation and one, one, in millions of us, will be able to do all of these things and most importantly be able to teach others not just the method but the finer psychologies necessary to create magic out of deception. What’s it worth to us, as magicians, as performance artists, to learn from this person?
    Would you pay twenty-five to fifty bucks for a private lesson with Aaron Fisher? With Lee Asher or Wayne Houchin? That’s what a single trick dvd is, a private lesson. Whether that’s something you’re ready for depends on who you are. Me? Well, it’s seems like a pretty darn good deal.

    Widespread.

    Steve

    PS: Speaking of lessons I have an idea for the T11 artists:
    My favorite portion of the T11 site so far is the beginners video. It gives some GREAT advice and shows the real soul of the artists involved. I’d like to see T11 produce a disk on performance techniques and the theories of showmanship, audience control/interaction, etc… How about a lesson in how to more effectively use all of the stuff we’ve collected?
    I have a lot of secrets…I’m hoping you guys can help me learn to use them.
    We’re all excited to see what happens next.

  3. 3 Harapan Santoso Ong September 5, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Congratulations of Theory 11 and PANIC, Mr Fisher.

    I am hoping Theory 11 to be a revolutionarily different site from all others – one site that can produce good magicians that respect the art, and not wannabes who can’t do magic for nuts.

    I am sure with the 11 of you behind one goal, it can be achieved.

    Like many have said, I am not very agreeable with the one-DVD-one-trick method of selling effects. As you said, the large pool of young magicians out there respond better to such single-trick DVDs, and also I see the “Quality-over-Quantity” thing about Theory 11, but generally, I cannot afford a $25-$35 DVD teaching me just one trick. It’s pretty expensive, especially when there are other DVDs out there that teach more stuff for only a slightly high price. Sure, it’s less thorough, but its sufficient to learn.

    Also, I hope Theory 11 can set out to stop the trend in magic from turning sour. You may know of exposure tutorials on websites such as Youtube and Metacafe, which to me isn’t exactly the best for magic. As mentioned, I hope Theory 11 can focus more on educating newcomers how to respect the art, and teach them the proper “magic ethics”. The beginners video is a good start, I hope to see more of it.

    I wish you and Theory 11 all the best.

    – harapan. magic!

  4. 4 TheCuso September 6, 2007 at 7:59 am

    Panic is one of my favourites but i agree with MAK. I thought that t11 was going to be more revolutionary.

    and about the single trick dvds… (i also thought that t11 was going to be a series of dvds full of material from you all)

    anyway. im loving it 😛

    Alejandro

  5. 5 aaronfishermagic September 6, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Hey Guys –

    I completely appreciate your point of view. When i was in my teens I only bought books, because for one low price i got forty or fifty tricks. If that’s the way you like to study magic, there is good news – any time we want, we can all go study magic the old fashioned way. In fact, that’s my preferred method of learning. No one is for one minute suggesting that T11 can substitute for reading books.

    However, when it comes down to choosing a trick for your formal repertoire, I suggest you decide what to purchase strictly by looking for the strongest material – not based on what you can purchase bulk.

    As for T11, we can’t say yet how important it will become. It could possibly be very revolutionary indeed. A lot of smart people are working hard to make sure that it becomes what we want it to be. And of course, a great deal of whether or not that comes to pass has to do with you. If T11 becomes the learning tool we’re hoping to build, it can help improve significantly the quality of magic performed around the world.

    We are trying to do something relevant and meaningful by offering a serious alternative to the way magic is taught on the internet. It’s been like the wild west out there, with scoundrels and bandits robbing people in the streets, and no sense of justice or integrity. I, for one, would like very much to be a part of a different approach. T11 may in fact help us all.

    Thanks to you guys for thoughts. I know we’re all excited to see what happens next.

    Gratefully,

    Aaron

  6. 6 Jamie Sanden September 10, 2007 at 2:42 am

    Aaron,

    I’m curious about your approach to the vanishing deck, demonstrated in your new effect, “Panic.” In the preview video you discuss your failed search for a quality method to vanish a deck of cards. Given that you published an effect in The Paper Engine using David Williamson’s 51 to pocket, I’m curious as to how and why your opinion has changed. I use Williamson’s method all the time as the final effect in a card to pocket routine (a very popular approach, I know) and it never fails me.

    Your new effect is more direct, but the handling (at least as it was presented in the video) seemed very cozy. The display of the deck seemed unnatural. I would argue that, if you were to show a deck of cards naturally, you would spread them between your hands (ala having a card picked), not fanned the way you did in the video. (I realize this presents a lot of new problems on its own.) Any thoughts on that?

    I love how much thought and effort you put into your work and your magic. Thanks for providing this space for a dialog.

    Take care,
    Jamie

  7. 7 aaronfishermagic September 10, 2007 at 6:31 am

    Jamie,

    Your point is well taken – the display used in Panic does not utilize the ‘natural’ spreading style expert card handlers have come love. For many years, I wouldn’t consider using an item that didn’t conform to the ideals espoused by Erdnase in Expert at the Card Table – I valued a ‘natural’ aesthetic above everything else. When I decided to follow these rules, my magic, on the whole, became more elegant. My work got a lot better.

    ‘Natural’ magic happens in normal situations – sitting at a dinner table or in a small group or at a bar. You simply pick up objects and, for example, they vanish. In casual situations, where magic with ordinary objects and no preparation reigns supreme, I still think Williamson’s method from Williamson’s Wonders can’t be beat.

    These days I perform regularly, and frankly, the situations I’m in don’t feel terribly natural – they feel formal. There tend to be crowds – a lot of people are watching and I’m at work. I want to do the strongest material I can – every time. That’s why I’ve recently begun favoring the ‘theatrical’ over the ‘natural’.

    That which is ‘theatrical’ draws audience attention. Many use juvenile jokes in part to get there, like the producers of the American Pie movie series. From a standpoint of drawing attention, these guys have been quite successful. Shakespeare applied similar tactics at times, but used the tension and release created to craft the some of the finest plays in history.

    Panic uses stylized handling – frankly, it was necessary to get the illusion I wanted. I wanted to achieve an approach to the Williamson type effect without any ‘overt’ misdirection. At first, I too was concerned about the deceptiveness of the spread display. But I discovered through performing that the handling only serves to draw focus – focus I need to do my job.

    First Panic draws your attention. Then, when everybody is watching closely – magic happens.

    Thanks for raising this valid, important point. You’re thinking about the important issues and making real choices based on your findings. That’s what this blog project is for. I hope this response helps.

    Gratefully,
    Aaron Fisher


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