I don’t think Theory 11 and Ellusionist are that far apart, but this video just felt so appropriate for me to use to get my point across.
For years, we’ve had excellent magic from L and L magic, giving us quality material although with less than stellar production values. They may not have slick sets and great split-cam angles, but they more than made up for it with the quality learning that you get from magicians like Aldo Colombini, Richard Osterlind, Daryl, and Bill Malone.
See, these instructional videos were around even before David Blaine burst into the scene, and they were doing very well, and influencing a very meticulous new generation of magicians who had a kind of esteem for their craft and were fully capable of versatility, given the nature of the product. Was it perfect? Of course not. But we could do without the sizzle if there was a lot of meat in the steak, and more often than not, when it came to this facet of the material, the L and L videos delivered in spades.
And then came Ellusionist.
Not much is readily available about Ellusionist’s history, save for the fact that it is nowhere near as old as L and L or even Penguin magic, and that its frontman, Brad Christian, has an abnormal amount of attachment to wearing eyeliner (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.). I would peg it to have started only around the 2000’s, maybe the late 90’s, at the earliest, and it certainly revolutionized magic videos as we know it now. Gone were the days where we only needed to see a magician perform, then explain, but there had to be some slick production values behind it. Snazzy music, awesome editing, great DVD packaging, maybe even some easter eggs.
And the tradeoff? Well, you get one trick per DVD, more often than not, and woe upon you if you fall for Ellusionist’s copy writer, who seems to have taken some lessons in exaggerations and half-truths from either politicians or Doc Hilford. You will find yourself flabbergasted half the time how Ellusionist could publish such dreck, dress it up with some bells and whistles, and then price it at $30 plus shipping and handling.
Ellusionist has become a haven for gimmicked-looking *normal* decks, and routines that don’t really deserve to be published, let alone as a one-trick full-priced DVD. Occasionally, some really good effects will come out worthy of your attention, but more often than not, you’re better off just going somewhere else that gives you more than just hype.
The thing is, I want Ellusionist to be so much more than what they are right now. Unlike Criss Angel, I actually wish they would succeed, but not in this way. When you have to separate two coin-in-bottle effects instead of just selling both in one DVD, then you know it’s turned into a money-milking machine instead of a genuine desire to uplift magic for everyone.
Ellusionist, as a person who has supported your products for a long time, I feel dismayed it’s come down to this. I wish I could continue telling people to run to you whenever they want to learn magic, but outside of “How To Do Street Magic” and maybe Brad Christian’s “Crash Course” series, I really can’t do that in good conscience.
In all honesty, let’s give props where they are due: Ellusionist has certainly changed the production quality of magic videos in subsequent releases even from other publishers, but what we now need is quality of material, and truth in advertising. Otherwise, we end up alienating many budding magicians because they would feel gypped after buying an E video that offers them nothing but empty promises.
I wish E the best, in all honesty. I wish that they continue developing, and learning to up the quality of the material they release. I may not have awesome effects out there to compare, but that also means I don’t charge $30 a pop for them, either. The E gets to do that. The least they could do is be honest about their deceit. I mean, we’re (hopefully) all magicians here, after all.