Magicians Chat with ...
David Minkin is an international champion of close-up magic and a cast member and writer on the MTV series, Room 401. His close-up magic amazes people at corporate events and private receptions worldwide. David recently won the 2007 International Brotherhood of Magicians close-up magic competition and regularly performs for celebrities like Johnny Depp who noted "That's the greatest thing I've ever seen! Really... that was staggering!". David also performs for many corporate clients like Disney, IBM, Mercedes-Benz, the American Heart Association and many, many more.
Wilm Weber: Today we are chatting with David Minkin, David is an international champion of close-up magic and a cast member and writer on the MTV series, Room 401. David can regularly be seen at the Magic Castle in Hollywood and is available for corporate and private bookings. Thank you very much for taking the time.
David Minkin: It’s my pleasure, Wilm.
Wilm Weber: I had chance to catch you at the Magic Castle a few times and really enjoyed your shows. Your close-up magic is fresh, different and not as card centric as often seen with others. How do you develop your programs and what affects the selection of effects you present?
David Minkin: It depends on many things, but I usually look at the effect first and evaluate how strong it is magically. As magicians, we’re often tempted to perform something, but if we really look at the strength of the effect involved, it falls short of 'miraculous'. So, at least in theory, I strive for miracles.
Wilm Weber: Do you create all your routines yourself or do you prefer to create shows mixed with classics or other commercial routines?
David Minkin: Some of the pieces in my close-up show are original routines. Others are variations of routines in print with original presentations and handling touches.
Wilm Weber: Can you walk us through your creative process? How do you come up with material? Where do you get inspirations? Do you look to classic magic books for ideas?
David Minkin: It happens in a myriad of ways. I may come up with a simple idea and then work a routine around it, or I may have an idea for a presentation and then search for an effect to express it. It really depends. Classic magic books are great… Uh… I should probably read more of them! When I first got into magic, Bill Goodwin suggested that I try creating ideas by thinking of effects first and then worrying about how to accomplish them. That advice helped me immensely in creating ideas for television.
Wilm Weber: You are also a cast member of the MTV show Room 401. The show seems to be less focused on magic but more on people’s reactions when confronted with quite shocking, not to say disturbing situations created by using principles of magic i.e. I saw a psychic surgery in a sushi restaurant. How did you get involved with this project and what are your thoughts about the show.
David Minkin: Yes, the show began as a magic show, but as the project unfolded, it became focused on the elements of horror. The magic was de-emphasized. While I would have preferred that it had been shot and edited for the magic, it was a great learning experience, nonetheless. I understand the medium now, and I’m excited about upcoming projects that will focus entirely on magic. I got involved with Room 401, when several people called me and told me they had recommended me to the casting director of a new show for MTV. I auditioned, got a call back, met with Ashton Kutcher, and then got a call to be on the show the following day.
Wilm Weber: Who influences / has influenced your work most and how so?
David Minkin: Tommy Wonder’s “Books of Wonder - Volume 1” had a huge impact on me. Other influences include Teller, Derren Brown, Bob Fitch, Cyril… I tend to learn bits and pieces from many different people. I remember watching Michael Weber perform in the close-up gallery a few years back. About 4 minutes into a routine, I realized he hadn’t even performed an effect, but I was completely riveted by what he was saying. What a great moment it was to realize that that was possible.
Wilm Weber: What tips can you give fellow magicians who want to improve their audience management techniques and presentation styles? How did you learn these skills? Any skills in this area you initially learned from books and threw out as a result of experience? What is are your top 3 tips for fellow performers?
David Minkin: These skills come from performing a lot. So, my advice would be to perform as much as possible. As for presentation styles, everyone is different, but I try to simply relate to my audiences as people. A show is nothing more than people interacting. Sure, I have some interesting things to show them along the way, but that doesn’t mean I have to behave or talk in a way that is anything other than myself.
Top Three Performance Tips:
- When speaking, look at a specific person as you complete a given thought, rather than talking to nobody in particular.
- As a performer, don’t seek approval from your audience. Trust that they will come to you.
- Lead them along, but also be open to their gifts of spontaneity and playfulness. When you go off script with them, they’ll love you for being present.
- Videotape yourself. WE ALL HATE to watch ourselves on video, but you’ll see opportunities for improvement that you were completely unaware of.
Wilm Weber: Do you have preferences, for performing magic? Magic areas? Audiences? Venues? Countries? How did these preferences take shape?
David Minkin: I love close-up magic. I enjoy the interaction and the conversation and the transformation that happens in people. I guess you might say I prefer more upscale performing environments. I enjoy elegant events where people are dressed well and there is an air of enchantment. I prefer those gigs, but of course I work in all types of environments.
Wilm Weber: How did you get into magic and how were you able to make magic your main profession? Did you have any other job before you went "professional"? If so, how did you get to be successful enough to quit your day job and follow your passion?
David Minkin: By doing magic part-time for a number of years, I discovered that every year, I worked more than the previous one. Referrals increased steadily. As they say, “The more you work… the more you work.” Still, there comes a time when you have to realize that your day job is preventing your magic career from reaching the next level. For me, I went full-time out of necessity. If life hadn’t made that decision for me at that time, I don’t know if I would’ve had the nerve to try it. Sometimes, difficult circumstances lead you to wonderful things. When you put all of your time into magic and work diligently to book gigs, your career tends to accelerate rather quickly.
Wilm Weber: What's next for David Minkin? Any new books, DVDs or other projects coming up? Any lectures or Magic Castle performances scheduled? Where can people catch your shows?
David Minkin: I’m developing a number of new magic pieces for television, and I’m excited about them. As for lectures and DVD’s, I’m still undecided for now. If I eventually release my working repertoire, I’d prefer to do it in the form of a book.
Wilm Weber: Thank you very much for this interview and continued success!
David Minkin: I appreciate this opportunity, Wilm! Thank you.
Interview Date: 11/09/2007