Monthly archives for February, 2011

Snow Day Blues and REVIEW: Dream Prediction Lite

Hey everybody…

Sorry for the delay of this week’s blog but due to my super-crazy schedule, I can honestly say that trying to launch a new business – my upcoming hypnosis clinic – is going to chew up any free time I have.

On another note, this week saw yet ANOTHER school show get snowed out here in the Northeast US, where we’ve been getting hammered by snow. It’s frustrating to have your client call and say the gig has been snowed out…however, the BEST part of all of it is the fact that schools ALWAYS want to reschedule!

Schools are often very flexible with their scheduling so it means that losing a gig because of weather is rare indeed…compare that to the corporate market, where if you are unavailable for a certain date for a certain client, in most cases, you’re completely out of luck.

If all of this sounds like I’m building the school market up it’s because I am – for years I chased the mystical thing in the magic biz known as stability and it was not until I devoted myself to the school market that I actually achieved stability that now allows me to devote time to a new business.

The school market is FANTASTIC and you can learn all about how to excel in this market this coming July! Email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net for details!

Other topics…the new issue of “Cause & Effects” ezine will come out in a few days. Sign up by emailing me today!

Also, I’ve added a few things to my list of goodies that I’m selling. Shoot me an email and I’ll send you the list…

On to this month’s review…

It’s Dream Prediction Lite by Paul Romhany. It’s available for $199.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=9513

EFFECT: It’s the Canfabulation plot built for stage! No more do you have to restrict your prediction to a small card. ANYTHING your audience says you can show to have predicted.

WHAT YOU GET: A DVD with two performances (two different routines) and Paul’s in-depth explanations. You also get some gimmicked envelopes, a clipboard and pen.

QUALITY OF STUFF: The gimmicked envelopes are made of mostly paper so you can’t drop them in the bathtub.:) The window that the audience can see the folded prediction paper through in covered nicely in plastic so it looks really nice from stage.

The instruction provided by Paul is top notch. Rather than just breeze through instructions like some pricier effects’ DVDs do so often, Paul takes the time to cover the important performance points of an effect. Good stuff.

Also, to expand on the DVD for a moment, the live show clip Paul provides is from the original Dream Prediction DVD, in which Paul performs this on a cruise ship. This is something I find extremely satisfying…seeing a routine performed in a live setting for real people REALLY reassures me when I’m looking to add something new to my act(s). Oh sure, the L&L stuff looks great, but seeing a live show just feels better.

The second performance is Paul demonstrating the effect with the new, improved handling and with a second type of presentation. This presentation is just done for the camera, with Paul’s lovely wife Natalie helping out.

Other than showing the differences in handling, what’s interesting is the effect plays just as innocently and cleanly “close up” in the second performance as it does for the cruise ship performance in front of 1500 people…meaning the effect is extremely versatile.

For me, this is great, because my ‘primary’ customized theme corporate show is something I may do for 20 people in a board room or for 200-300 people in a hotel banquet room and while I have in the past(and still do) change up the effects based on the size of the audience, I’d vastly prefer not to do this…meaning Paul’s answer fits my needs hand-in-glove.

ANGLES: Very forgiving, especially for large audiences. Paul tells me he does this ‘almost’ surrounded and I can see this working nearly anywhere. Awesome.

MARKETS: I will say this is ideal for teens or adults. The first time I performed this for a school, it was for K-5 grades and teachers. The teachers loved it, the kids…not so much.:) It doesn’t mean it’s a bad effect…simply that it’s best for adults. (Believe me, I don’t whip out PB&J for my corp shows either – LOL)

In short, stick to the adult/college/teen markets for this one.

DIFFICULTY: None of the workings are difficult, which is typical for mentalism, yet the physical actions are highly motivated, meaning nothing looks unnatural. In particular, the ‘move’ that allows you to show the envelope front & back before dumping the prediction out is a lot easier than I thought it would be. It’s technically very easy, maybe a 2 out of 10, but it’s one of those moves where it truly and honestly needs to look as though you are doing NOTHING, so put in the practice. I say this as a warning: Paul teaches it well and it really is simple, but even the simplest moves can ‘look funny’ if we don’t have them committed to our muscle memory.

Hmmmm…that’s good advice for anything in magic.:)

MY THOUGHTS: This is about as good as it gets, and it’s such an improvement over Paul’s original Dream Prediction. That’s not to say that it was bad (it was really good) but this is better for the main reason that you can now show BOTH sides of the envelope before dumping the prediction out. THAT my friends is a HUGE convincer, and takes Paul’s already terrific original product and elevates it to sheer genius.

In my opinion, the Confabulation plot is just about the strongest thing you can do in mentalism – to the audience, they think of literally anything and you have someone open up a prediction that’s in full view the whole time that predicts whatever the audience thought of. No restrictions, no fishing…just pure amazement.

I’ve been closing with my own Confabulation routine for 12 years that slays audiences, but I always wanted something written on a BIG piece of paper yet was still a one-man, real-time routine.

I can’t imagine anyway to improve upon this product…and a heck of a way to end Paul Romhany Month! I know I’ve rated Paul’s stuff very highly, and even though he’s a friend, I never felt ‘obligated’ to rate his stuff so high. Paul’s been a full-time pro for 22 years….which blows me away! I’ve been a full-timer for 8 years and most of the time feel incredibly confident in what I do. I can imagine the experience I will pick up by the time I’ve hit that 22 year mark!

10 out of 10.

NEXT WEEK: I take the controversial Nomad Pad!

Best,

Cris Johnson

HUGE Announcement & REVIEW: Artist’s Dream By Paul Romhany

Hey, everyone!

Strap in tight and make yourselves comfortable because today’s blog will be longer than usual because I have a LOT to say and I’m making a big announcement! That’s right, no “wait for 21 days,” no count down, nothing. It’s been something I’ve been considering for (literally) years now.

Before I get to that, I want to thank everyone for their kind comments on my past issue of “Cause & Effects,” in which I introduced a way to ‘zero in’ on your audiences and connect with them in ways that had nothing to do with magic. Fun stuff! Signing up for the monthly ezine is FREE by emailing me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net.

Second quick announcement (before the big one) is that I have a lot of stuff I’m looking to find a home for in regards to magic. Shoot me an email at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net and I’ll send you the list of goodies I’m getting rid of. Most of it is DVDs and smaller effects – stuff I’ve been intending to work on for years and never got around to it. It’s all great stuff, but I just want to focus my efforts. I’m only adding three things to my set lists this year – two are Paul Romhany products (one is this week’s review) and the third is a custom prop Nick Wenger is building for me. No unreasonable offer for this stuff will be refused as I just want to clear space.

OK, here’s the big announcement…

This summer, I am hosting a special weekend seminar/training/pow-wow EXCLUSIVELY on the subject of performing in schools. First, let me make my case as to why schools are one of the BEST markets out there, then secondly, why I’m even doing this, and finally, I’ll give you the dates, details, etc.

First, I’ve been a school guy for 15 years and a school specialist for about the last 10 years. I’m going to talk about my experiences here, NOT to brag (because there’s a ton of people out there making a LOT more money than me) but merely to back up what I’m claiming.

For the last eight years, my business has seen incredible growth that I attribute mostly to school shows being so stable. When the US economy went into the toilet a couple of years ago, my income was going up each year, with 2010 being my best year ever, and this was after several conversations with corporate guys and most told me their businesses dropped out badly. (I’m sure many others did great – I’m just talking about the ones I spoke with.)

Anyway, schools will always have grant/PTA/other sources of funding.

Now here’s why I’m offering this training…I’m very serious when I say that I want to stay home more often. The hypnosis training I talked about last week was really an incredible experience and while I have ZERO plans to end my performing career, I also do want to start using hypnosis to help people. That means less time on the road…more time with Wifey and our two doggies, Frodo & Sophie.

Another reason is…and this may sound corny, but I really want to pass on what I learned over the years. Quite frankly, there are a lot of BAD magicians out there working for money. School shows are incredibly fun, but if more and more bad magicians keep mucking it up, it’s going to hurt the market.

I want school shows to be my legacy. There are roughly a zillion schools in the US and Canada and zillions more in other countries, so I know the work can be out there and since I can’t do it all, I want to educate those looking to get in to the market so they do it the RIGHT way.

Here’s just some of what I’m going to cover in this live event:

- blocking on stage
- Stage equipment to “fill” the stage
- The challenges it took me years to learn
- The BIG argument AGAINST “pack flat, play big”
- performance material for stage
- who’s who in schools…and why it matters
- payment issues
- Show structure
- Openers & closers
- Humor: Do’s & Don’t's
- costuming
- subject matter for educational shows
- PA systems
- Grade levels and why it affects your shows
- Tricks to avoid
- Working with teachers
- Working for Parent-Teacher groups
- Fundraising
- The “business” side: contracts, W-9′s (in the US) and more
- how to work with kids in schools
- several critical things you must NOT do in schools
- The language of schools
- Travel
- Character Education topics
- How to GET the gigs
- Handling phone calls (NOT cold calling)
- Referral programs
- Working with districts (and why it’s awesome)
- Fees
- What you MUST include on your demo video
- What you must NOT include on your demo video
- Promo Packages – what to include, what not to include
- A really slick thing to give to your clients
- How to get your clients to book shows for you!!!
- To Discount or Not to Discount
- Vendor numbers, PO numbers and other headaches
- Phone message advice for answering machines
- Microphones
- School sound systems
- A super source for FREE lists of schools!!!!!!!
- Direct mail letters
- Direct mail postcards
- Insurance
- School policies
- Generating leads online
- Key website advice
- Key email advice
- Different performing scenarios you can expect in schools
- Why the phys ed teacher must be your friend!
- Maximum length for set-up/break-down and why it’s so important!
- Maximizing your day
- Back-to-Back daytime assemblies
- A sneaky way to get killer testimonial letters
- The mindsets of the ‘key players’ in schools
- What clients REALLY want (but they never tell you)
- Tax Deductions (US workers)
- Show introductions
- Music for your shows
- The most CRITICAL thing you MUST do during EACH AND EVERY school show!
- The mindset of kids in schools and why 400 kids in a school are so much easier than 10-15 kids at a birthday party
- US performers working in Canada (This is huge! As a US citizen, I work legally in Canada and pay NO GST taxes, require ZERO work permits, etc. I lay it all out for US performers wanting to perform in Canada and what you can and canNOT do)

That’s just for STARTERS, right off the top of my head of some of the key topics. In short, you will understand all aspects of performing in schools, you will understand all aspects of working in schools, the business side, and I will share a TON of booking secrets I’ve NEVER shared anywhere. (And I do ZERO cold calling!)

This is going to be an incredible, eye-opening weekend into one of the most stable markets in magic.

The School Magic Summit will be held in Niagara Falls, NY from July 15- 17th. July 15 and 16 will be the business side of schools, marketing etc for primary or elementary school shows, roughly grades K-6, although I will touch upon some aspects of private/charter schools where often the grades are K-8 or PreK – 8.

The third day, July 17th, will focus entirely on performing in high schools, grades 9-12 typically. In other words, teens.

Because I know not everyone wants to perform for teens, I’ve decided to let you choose. The investment for the two-day main Summit (July 15 & 16) will be $995. If you want to attend the July 17 high school day, the total fee will be $1295.

“But That’s Not All!”

To make it more enticing, everyone attending will receive the following three bonuses:

“The Perfect Way To End Children’s Shows!” – Retail Value: $97.00. This is CRITICAL for school work. Here’s the product link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=12136

“How To Make $1000 in ONE Magic Show” – Retail Value: $179.95. I’ve been using this for years and it rocks…and it’s designed primarily for school show performers! Link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=12457

“How To Make A Ton Of Money Performing In Schools” – Retail Value: $299.95. The title says it all, and while I get into a great deal more detail at the Summit, including online work, this system really blows the lid off of the school market…and I hand you THREE of my best-selling school shows. The link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=9533

These three courses total over $550 in retail value (and my stuff never goes on sale!) so over half of the investment is covered in FREE stuff!

In addition, you’ll get a great big fat workbook that we’ll spend the time going through. You can also ask me tons of questions after each session and pick my brain clean.

Oh, and this is super-important: I am NOT lining up a ton of guest speakers who are going to “pitch” you on their latest product. This is all about me giving you information. A fellow school performer friend of mine may come up to assist me as he’s been in the game a LONG time too (plus he builds the BEST performing tables!)

To get further information, email me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net. I’m limiting the class to just 20 attendees so I can really focus and answer any questions. Act fast, because I don’t offer classes like this and do not know if I’ll do another one. I’m willing to pass along 15 years’ experience and help anyone who wants it.

Now, on to this week’s review…Artists’ Dream by Paul Romhany. It’s available for $495. Here’s the Hocus Pocus link:http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=7325

ROUTINE: The magician gets a volunteer onstage and into a chair. After several comedy drawing ‘renditions’ of the volunteers, the magician gives the volunteer a glass of milk to drink. After the milk is all gone, the magician holds the glass up to the volunteer’s mouth…when the milk is promptly dumped back into the glass! After prodding by the magician, the volunteer drinks it again…and the milk is ‘poured’ out of the volunteer’s ears!

WHAT YOU GET: An extremely well-made glass gimmick that is durable and made to last. I know Paul travels a ton, so he wants this to last. You also receive the comedic drawings in vinyl, so they’ll last. You receive a DVD with NINE different performances as well as an audio CD with custom music on it.

QUALITY: Like I said earlier, this stuff is built to last. Kudos to Paul for putting out tough, durable props. Looking at the glass gimmick, I can only wonder what a pain in the butt it is to get this made! I especially love the custom music for the routine. So much of the royalty-free music out there just sounds bad to me, but this CD is great. The first time I saw the trailer, I thought, “I hope that’s the music included with the set.” It’s whimsical, fun and most importantly sounds like real music. No offense to the composers of past custom music tracks for magicians, but I just didn’t care for most of what I’ve heard that’s royalty-free.

DIFFICULTY: This is an extremely simple routine and if you perform it as Paul does (silently) you needn’t say a word, so literally the only ‘tough’ part of the routine is blocking! An easy 1 out of 10.

INSTRUCTION: While this routine is dead-easy, Paul still does a thorough job of walking you through the routine as well as a few additional gags and ideas to make the routine even stronger. I can’t think of a single thing that he left out. The fact that the routine is so easy to do would have led any number of other people to phone it in when it came to the instructions but not Paul. I really appreciate the fact that he put NINE different performances on the DVD. For someone like me who always wonders, “Will this play in the real world?” This question was clearly answered by Paul’s live performances. Well done. 10 out of 10.

ANGLES: This is a stage piece and the ‘secret’ to the drink trick part might be revealed if your audience is too close, so I recommend this from stage only, a distance of 5 feet or so from the front row. As for angles themselves, you could probably do this surrounded.

MARKET: I believe this is such a strong routine for families and adult shows because it’s an interactive routine. The drawings might go over some kids’ heads, so I probably will not be using this for daycares/child care centers, but this will go right into my school shows, particularly my family night shows.

MY THOUGHTS: If you’ve seen the trailer, you know most of the routine, so in that regard, kudos to Paul for letting prospective buyers know what they’re receiving. I can see some people looking at this and thinking, “well, that doesn’t look all that amazing,” and perhaps it’s not a mindblower, but it’s certainly a worker for the real world. Paul told me that this is his favorite thing to perform out of everything he does and I can see why.

This is comedy, a series of sight gags, and I can see audiences being totally charmed by this. In some ways, this may be a product that working pros, seasoned by years of earning their keep in the trenches, appreciating such a routine, knowing it’s been fine-tuned by a pro who earns it each night from a different audience.

I can also see someone relatively new to magic seeing this and thinking, “Well, that’s not nearly as amazing as –INSERT TRICK HERE.”

As I get older, I continually re-evaluate my magic and what I keep in my acts and what I toss, and more and more, I’m going for the fun stuff. Although I certainly want to keep the secrets of magic as secrets to my audiences, my first duty is to entertain the audience and therefore, to me, this routine is a no-brainer. I’m giving it a 10 out of 10.

Next Week: Paul Romhany Month concludes with Dream Prediction Lite.

Upcoming Weeks: The Nomad Pad, Retro-Gravity, Get Nyman DVDs, Larry Becker’s Russian Roulette and more!

Til next time….

Best,

Cris Johnson

Clinical Hypnosis and REVIEW: Entertaining on Cruise Ships by Paul Romhany

Hey everyone!

Cris Johnson here…Whew! The last ten days have been INTENSE and FUN! I haven’t had to absorb this much information in such a short amount of time in decades!

(Before I get to that, let me plug that the March issue of my FREE ezine “Cause & Effects” is going to be a whopper!! Sign up for free by emailing me at crisjohnsoninfo@verizon.net)

Getting back to my last 10 days of intense learning…of course, many of you who know me personally know I’m talking about my certification in clinical hypnosis! 80 hours crammed into 10 days…that’s more than your typical 16 week college semester for a 3-credit hour class.

Quick background: About 6 years ago, in addition to performing magic, I become captivated by the idea of doing stage hypnosis shows, and then I took a quick 3-day course….by DVD.

Let me tell you from experience, learning hypnosis from DVD or any home study course is not the same as a live training. I became a very good stage hypnotist and after having done around 200 or so hyp shows, I know I’m good. However, I also wanted more skills and techniques for specialized situations.

I’m also tiring of life on the road so my agent suggested I get into clinical hypnosis…taught by her husband. I signed up and for ten days I have done nothing but think about hypnosis. Let me repeat: I’m a good hypnotist, but the knowledge I had up until 10 days ago was strictly for stage work.

The stuff I have learned is amazing, from helping people overcome childhood traumas to the stereotypical (and much-needed) smoking cessation. I’m really looking forward to this next chapter in my life as a Consulting Hypnotist certified by the National Guild of Hypnosis…represented in over 60 countries. Wayyyy cool.

(By the way, if you’re willing to invest 10 days of your life and spend those days in beautiful, sunny, scenic Florida less than a stone’s throw from Disney, check out Doug’s site: http://www.worldclasshypnotist.com/ It’s truly the best investment I could have ever made…plus you can get Doug to tell you the “two thumbs” story from one of his stage shows!!)

Onto this week’s review!

Week Two of Paul Romhany Month involves Entertaining on Cruise Ships Book by Paul Romhany. It’s available for $29.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/product_detail.cfm?item=11132

WHAT YOU GET: A big, thick book that gives you an incredible amount of detail on working in cruise ships.

QUALITY: This looks like a softcover bookstore book. As with Paul’s other releases, I’m amazed by the quality of not just the knowledge but the visual appeal of the book. TOP notch.

VALUE: As soon as I went through this book, I immediately emailed Paul and told him this sucker was wayyyy underpriced. I told him he could have split this material up into a few separate books and released this as a home study course a la Dave Dee. This material is something I would have happily paid several hundred dollars to acquire. It’s THAT good.

MY THOUGHTS: OK, I’m going to sidestep alot of my usual review categories because unlike a magic routine or prop, first and foremost this book is about educating the reader about a specific industry.

There are many markets in magic that over the years have been heavily ‘romanticized,’ that is, magicians daydream about these markets without realizing the realities of those markets.

For instance, trade shows…highly coveted by magicians for the good pay, but the truth behind the romance is trade shows involves standing on your feet for 8-10 hours a day performing magic for people who don’t want to see magic. I’ve done it and hate it.

With the cruise ship industry, there are many great things about it – compared to other markets, a very soft schedule for the money you can earn, the opportunity to see exotic locales, performing in beautiful ship theaters and on and on.

The downsides include tricky travel issues from a legal standpoint, being away from your family for long stretches of time, and more. Paul is extremely candid and forthcoming about the realities of performing for cruise ships.

He covers a lot of travel issues including passports, vistas, the nuances of many countries’ governmental headaches for traveling performers, dealing with crew members, passengers and other matters of fine points.

Performance parameters, music, material, effect selection and much more is covered. Paul even tips the workings of several effects out of his own performing material as well as others his fellow cruise ship performers have graciously shared. What’s interesting about this section is that even if one chooses not to use the material (frankly, it’s awesome stuff and highly commercial) it’s still beneficial to see what a seasoned pro uses in his/her professional cruiseship shows…and why.

The most enlightening part of the book is where Paul shares several journal entries from his own personal experiences that really illustrate the realities of cruise ship performing. A lot of it is great. Some…not so much. Some of the stories are more than just a little frightening.

A fellow performer friend of mine once said in relation to making a living with magic that “the thing is not the thing.” In other words, just having a great act is not enough in any market….it’s all the little details that truly season a pro for a particular performing niche.

I feel I’m at the top of my game in the school market. While I know a certain hypnotist from Florida who works on cruise ships (and he kicks butt on them), in terns of magic, after reading Paul’s book, I cannot fathom how any other magician could lay claim to being at the top of their game more than Paul Romhany.

Most highly recommended and a perfect 10 out of 10.

NEXT WEEK: I review Paul’s Artist’s Dream, which Paul has told me is his favorite thing to perform. After studying this routine, I can certainly see why. Stay tuned…

Best,

Cris Johnson