Reel-to-Real Magic


I just finished watching a wonderful conversation with actor Jason Alexander being interviewed by magician John Lovick. They talked about Alexander’s magic act at the Magic Castle a few years back. Alexander, of course best known as George from television’s Seinfeld, spoke expertly about how he put together his Castle act, the importance of overall premise, and how he scripted the act. There are some wonderful clips of him performing his act interspersed with the interview.  Now you might think it a little pretentious for an actor of Alexander’s stature to be “slumming” with magic, but it turns out that Alexander is no poseur when it comes to conjuring; he has been involved with magic since the age of ten, even before he got interested in theater. In fact, he says in the interview that when he first became interested in theater it was because he understood it through the lens of  illusion making.

I greatly enjoyed this interview, and now I’m making kind of an enthusiastic plug here for the Reel Magic website which hosted this interview. I had primarily known Reel Magic as a DVD-based magic periodical which I occasionally picked up in the magic shops. It has reviews, tricks and interviews, and some blatant but relevant plugs. For the $12 or so it costs per issue, I considered it an entertaining watch. But it wasn’t until recently that I understood that Reel Magic also has a website as well as the DVD, and that therein lies an excellent magic bargain. For $5 a month ($60 a year), you get full online access to the site which is just jammed pack with great magical content, for as long as you remain a subscriber.

Let me just run down a couple of the resources available to you as a subscriber. (Full Disclosure: I have no connection with anyone who runs the site. I am just an enthusiastic subscriber.)  First off, you get access to every extant issue of Reel Magic magazine. They are up to issue 45 at this writing (Philippe Petit is on the cover) and still going strong,  so that alone is a useful archive.  The first thing I turn to in each issue are the reviews videoed by David Regal, who always makes me laugh with his witty takes on the latest effects. And then there have been some great interviews, such as the one with Jason Alexander, and I’m looking forward to watching the current issue’s interview with Philippe Petit.

Aside from the magazine, you also have access to all their “live” lectures by some excellent performers. There are about eight of these available presently , and so far I’ve watched some terrific ones by Carl Andrews, Chris Capehart, and Doc Eason. They are all of high quality and I only wished that each one could go on longer than the allotted two hours.

There are also downloadable lecture notes available from the likes of Paul Green, John Guastaferro, and Caleb Wiles (The video content above is not downloadable.) And then there are two Online Courses, each of which is a series of video instructions in some of the basics of close-up work. So far there is one on Coin Work taught by the incredible Kainoa Harbottle, and there is another one on Finger Rings taught by Garrett Thomas. Wow.

But wait, that’s not all says the man with the potato peeler and Svengali Deck in his hand: there are also some special projects unique to Reel Magic. One of these is an extraordinary record of legendary street magician Jim Cellini’s Baltimore and New Orleans Lectures.  I’d heard about Cellini for years, but one really sees in these videos what a truly humble and knowledgeable man he was.

There’s  more  on the site,  and each month more content is added. In my opinion this is definitely a Best Buy, and for an extra $3 more a month you can also receive  a hard copy of each Reel Magic DVD via snail mail. A new DVD comes out about every other month.

Reel Magic can be found at where you can also find some free content without subscribing. If you like what you see, I highly recommend  a subscription for anyone who enjoys performing and learning about magic.


2 thoughts on “Reel-to-Real Magic

  1. Hi Jack!

    Thanks for that heads up about *Reel Magic*. I watched the fascinating interview with Philippe Petit. What I wonder is aren’t these guys breaking the rules by showing how tricks are done to the public??? (Interesting insight re: bull fights. Kind of sad, for the bull, of course!)

    Re: the Dylan music, I love that song. It reminded me that when I was teaching economics at CAS (did I tell you this story already?) I used *Memphis Blues* as the music when I had the kids play musical chairs to demonstrate how more and more of the wealth in the economy over the past 20 years had ended up in the hands of the richest 10% of the population. Starting out at some mythical time long ago, the wealth had been distributed relatively equally, etc, with each 10% of the population having approximately 10% of the wealth. So the 10 kid volunteers each stood behind a chair to start out. One wore a sign “wealthiest 10%” and the others wore signs making them one or another kind of worker, etc. That’s when I started playing Dylan’s song. While the music was playing and they kids were walking around the chairs, I would move a chair to the kid who wore a sign “wealthiest 10%” and stop the music, until finally–moving closer to the present each time I stopped the music–by the time we got to the current year, the number of chairs “the top 10%” kid had was 9. while the kids representing the “bottom” 90% — these nine kids had to fight over the one chair! It was a lot of fun and I think it taught them some political and economic lessons about capitalism pretty rapidly! But the most fun about it all for me was the chance to play *Memphis Blues* in the middle of the work day!! 😀 (Did I explain that well? You probably got it.)

    Thanks for that Monday morning lift!!

    Kind regards, mar

  2. Well…it’s not really meant for the general public. It’s a funny kind of line to walk, but the general consensus seems to be that if you have to take some effort to learn a magic trick—say, read a book, or buy a magazine, then it’s all right; however, if it’s something that laypeople (i.e. muggles, in Harry Potter-speak), would stumble across with no effort, such as a television show exposing how-to, then that’s not kosher. Summary: customer effort=learning, no customer effort=exposure. My general policy for this blog is that I don’t expose or teach anything, but I do provide links for further investigation.

    Re your class: That sounds like a great eco lesson and class! My eco class in high school was excruciatingly boring and made little sense to me. Not until I got older did I understand the quantity of nonsense that needs to be spoon-fed to young people in order to justify the status quo view of things…

Leave a Reply