Noah J Nelson on Tuesday, Jan. 8th
Marcie Hume is a documentary filmmaker whose latest work, Where The Magic Happens, is entering that oh-so-critical step: the editing phase.
The film is a labor of love for Hume, whose passion for stage magic runs deep. Hume and her co-director Christoph Baaden have gathered hundreds of hours of footage at this point, and are now turning to Kickstarter to raise the funds to bring on an editor and get the film ready for audiences.
What intrigues me here is that the lives of the magicians Hume follows can echo the struggles of artists and freelancers of all types. Only in the world of magic truly wild success is even more elusive than in other fields of entertainment. Which is a shame, since the level of inventiveness that is the professional magician’s stock in trade piques the interests of experience designers and storytellers who know what’s what.
I reached out to Hume by means of the techno-magical tool we call email. Read the full interview after the jump.
TURNSTYLE: What motivated you to start shooting a documentary about magic now?
Marcie Hume: I had been interested in magic (perhaps a slight understatement) for many years, and started spending time at the Magic Castle. It was a real luxury to visit a place where you could have serious conversations about magic. The documentary idea naturally seeped in, and the angle quickly became clear: I love the fact that many magicians are making a living at something that has consumed them, inspired them, and seems like the only thing they can do… but ultimately it’s pretty tough to make a living at, and to achieve their artistic goals. There’s no set route to success for magicians, and they have to carve out their own trajectory.
The recession adds another complication to an already difficult path. Gigs for magicians started to get slim when the recession hit, and the effects are still very much felt. That only further illuminates how difficult it can be to merge your passion and your livelihood.
But the main reason to make the film now may just be that there isn’t a documentary about pro magicians. The world of magic is so complex – the social and political aspect, the invention, creativity, competition, artistic aspirations – there are so many potential areas to explore. The one that resonates the most for us is the fact that professional magicians are making a living at this art form they’re in love with, which many people don’t even see as an art form. It’s an uphill battle.
TS: How many magicians have you followed at this point? Who?
MH: We’re following 5 at the moment, covering a broad spectrum. We’ve been filming an incredible mind-reader in England, a renowned card guy who’s a big figure at the Magic Castle, a fellow who was once Johnny Carson’s favorite magician, a German stage illusionist in Las Vegas, and a magician who is seriously pursuing television. It sure is a broad spectrum, but so it is in the world of magic.
We’re also shooting interviews with some greats of magic, as well as celebrities who you’d perhaps be surprised to hear are deeply into magic.
TS: You’re raising funds to bring on an editor. At this stage of the process, with all that footage, what do you see the structure of the film being?
MH: We’ve been filming for well over a year, so we’ve been there for lots of setbacks and achievements, and we want these moments to translate to screen. We don’t just want character portraits, but strong stories of people who are pursuing something big and meaningful.
There is a huge spectrum in magic, between glamour and grittiness, and the sweet spot is always to allow the audience to experience that world, while revealing more information that gives deeper understanding of why they have ended up there. And intertwined with this we’ll address something of what magic is, what it can be, and why it can give us such a unique experience.
TS: Why go the crowd funding route? Why not seeking funding by traditional means?
MH: Crowd funding is a pretty stunning change in independent filmmaking. We’re now suddenly able to reach our audience much earlier and much more directly.
We’re continuing to seek private investors (which was our sole funding source for our film Hood To Coast), but crowd funding has been fantastic thus far in already finding an audience, establishing new connections with those who are interested in coming on board in some capacity, and generally getting some of our footage and intentions out there.
Independent financing is the best it gets in filmmaking. It allows you creative control and to explore your stories and themes to whatever depths you see fit. But it’s the toughest road financially, and you have to stay determined every single step of the way.
TS: What do you see as magic/magicians place in the entertainment ecosystem?
MH: When magic is done well, with a great deal of thought put into every aspect of the performance, with attention to beauty and meaning and the nuanced experience of the audience, it has infinite potential. It can give you an experience like nothing else, make you lose your footing and suddenly the world tips on its side. It can be ecstatic.
But this is admittedly quite rare… many people who perform magic grab a trick out of a box and think that’s all the work that’s needed for a magical experience. Many writers have compared magic to music, which I think makes the point very clear: taking a trick out of a box and just performing it is like buying a clarinet for your 4th grader. The interest in the art form is wonderful, but it doesn’t inherently make for great music.
I tend not to think about this much because it’s so depressing, and instead focus on the good stuff… what magic can be, what it can do. So when people speak mockingly about magic, I imagine they’ve just seen really mediocre performances or a couple of party tricks.
For this film, we’re not really focusing on the low end, but reaching toward that place where magic fulfills its potential. And of course we follow some of those magicians who are reaching that far. I have bigger hopes for magic, and thankfully so do many magicians.
Learn more about Hume’s work at her site NonFictionFix.