Learning From “Behind The Scenes” Magic Of TV!

I really love this magical business that I am in; the shows, the keynotes, and creating illusions for theatrical performance and specialty promotions. However there is another aspect of my work that can be an “out of the ordinary” real treat, even for me!

What I am referring to is working magic on television and in the movies. And over the years these experiences have been quite varied and unique.

I was the con artist hands in the original Shell Game movie, helped actors like Keir Dullea (2001 A Space Odyssey) and David Carridine (Kung Foo ) make on screen magic happen, magically consulted on TV shows like Friday The 13th, made dozens of celebrities from ex Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman to International Skating Star Kurt Browning magically “appear out of thin air” (in real time and without camera tricks), and appeared on far too many talk, news and variety shows to mention here.

However to be honest, it has been my “behind the camera” magic that has been the most fun and the most challenging. And this past month’s work on a new series pilot for TV is a great example.

The show is a new comedy entitled “The Altar Boy Gang.” And while I cannot let the premise out of the bag, I can tell you one of the bizarre scenes I was involved in.

Imagine this scenario. It is a beautiful August afternoon in a peaceful, historic cemetery. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and there is a gentle breeze in the somber air. And yet if you look closely in the middle of this serenity is a sight your eyes just cannot believe.

For here in the midst of this tranquility is a twenty plus member TV crew filming “Jesus sawing a Priest in half”, just like a magician would in a magic box!

Yes this is one of the “fantasy/dream” sequences from this new show. The cameras, equipment and the crew are all real. The actor Todd Simon Witham is playing Jesus, and the Priest is marvelously portrayed by the legendary comedian and TV icon (and really nice guy) Jack Duffy. And where am I?

Well, you will never notice me in the scene, but you will witness my handiwork. I am the one orchestrating the sawing illusion and making it possible for this scene to be done without any camera tricks (yes we really did saw Jack Duffy in half). But there is even more to this magic.

The real magic here is how everything and everybody work together to turn a vision into a reality, and the pressure that they are under to do this.

A TV series has one week to shoot and edit, each and every week. That may at first seem like a long time, but when you look behind the scenes at what has to be done, it sometimes seems like a miracle it can happen at all.

And like a magician working on stage there are no second chances; if the trick does not work the magic does not happen, if the show is not completed it will not air on time. And in television that can be very, very expensive (and bad magic).

Even more amazing than this is the technical aspect of what happens behind the scenes. In the final episode what you will see is Jesus sawing the Priest in half and the lines and appropriate action being delivered. However what is really happening is even more incredible.

You won’t get to see the two-dozen people holding lights, recorders, reflective screens and various other pieces of equipment; or the boom operator that holds a microphone just out of the scene and the sound operator that records the sound.

You also don’t get to see the writer, director, producer, camera operator and other specialists from departments that range from Art to Camera to Wardrobe to Electrics. Yes they are all there making sure this magic works.

And interestingly enough you won’t get to see myself, and a prop operator, on the ground just out of camera range, helping Jesus separate the two halves of the magic box. (Yes props don’t roll that smoothly on the ground in a cemetery). Again all part of what needs to be done to turn illusion into reality. But there is also much more at play here.

To my mind the REAL MAGIC is the TEAMWORK required to make this magic happen.

At first glance, each and every member of this TV crew seems to be totally focused on their own individual job, almost seemingly ambiguous to what else is going on and the final audience that will appreciate their work. They are very much master wizards, specialists in their own individual world and yet an overall, vital component to creating the ultimate, final magical experience.

However they are all still very committed to working together as a team and doing what needs to be done to make this magic happen and bring the story to the screen.

The writer and producer create the story, the director makes sure the story is told true to their vision, pre-production takes care of all those little details necessary before filming, and then the technicians work their magic behind the scenes as the actors use their art to suspend the audience’s belief and take them into a world which was magically created for their amusement.

When all these elements seamlessly work together, real magic happens. A vision is turned into a reality. That is the true power of teamwork. Being the best you possibly can be, and working together with all the other vital elements to make the final goal a reality. And never losing site of ultimate “big -picture!”

It is what every successful TV show, Movie, magic show, organization and business must do in order to turn its vision into a reality. And to achieve this, we need to continually remind ourselves just how important ALL the elements, customers and the people who work with us are.

What can you do in your life and vocation to remind the other members of your team of their importance? By helping others to remember the ultimate magic they are creating, you can get them to see the true magicians they are, and the real magic they create!

Remember Real Magic can happen only when people believe in themselves and are passionate about making a difference in their own life and the lives of others! Have focus! Be passionate about what you do! Create your own real magic!!

PS: I’ll let you know when the show airs!