Magicians Chat with ...
Jason Latimer has been performing the art of magic since the tender age of nine. By the age of twelve, Jason was performing professionally for birthdays and numerous party events. He soon became the regular magician at a small entertainment venue in town and quickly began to catch the eyes of those around him as well as by the surrounding community. Then after all of Latimer’s constant studies of numerous books and videos Jason became a member of the famous Academy of Magical Arts Junior Program. In 2001, Jason received the highest award possible for the students of the Junior Program the Award of Outstanding Achievement in "recognition of his pursuit for originality and perfection in the art of magic."
When Jason was awarded the title "Grand Prix World Champion of Magic" on July 26, 2003, he became only the third American in history to be awarded the Grand Prix of magic.
Wilm Weber: Today we are chatting with Jason Latimer, one of only 3 Americans to ever win the "Grand Prix World Champion of Magic." Jason has stunned audiences worldwide with his unique and clever routines and regularly appears at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA, where he himself jokes he was raised "by a pack of magicians." Thank you very much for taking the time.
Jason Latimer: Thank you for joining me.
Wilm Weber: I had chance to catch you at the Magic Castle last time and really enjoyed your show. How do you develop your programs and what affects the selection of effects you present?
Jason Latimer: The effects in my stage show now are usually based on space available and time needed while maintaining a beginning, middle, and end. I don't have a real formula but I do have trends that are starting to show up in the development of my shows. In my stage show, I open with usually a high energy appearance, followed by a high energy manipulation routine, a small "meet and greet" with the audience, and follow that with a comedy routine. It’s a strong way to grab and relax the audience...you want to catch them and keep them on your side. After the comedy bit I usually have a much smaller softer bit about the real way for an audience to view magic. After all the high energy acts and the jokes...this becomes a true sincere way to say "Welcome to the show." I try to make my stage shows flow from one theme to the next. As for the development of what goes into a show, I try to make sure my acts or routines are all different in how they affect the audience. If the show can be full length, I try making sure I have a bit of everything the smiles, the laughs, the sincere, the heartfelt, the romantic, the childhood dreams, and the high energy excitement.
Wilm Weber: Do you create all your routines yourself or do you prefer to create shows mixed with classics or other commercial routines? How did you develop your FISM-winning clear cup Cups and Balls routine?
Jason Latimer: I have quite the motivated group of individuals that enjoy working on new magic with me. However the development of the illusions or routines, I am the creator behind my magic. I tend to work on illusions or routines and for the most part finish them before people tear it apart. I tend to perform all original routines and illusions, or as much of it as I can provide anyways. I strongly believe that much like in the clear cups and balls routine if you are the only one that can do it then you are going to be the best at it. It’s what I call the "be the best of one" theory. The clear cups were a development of a lot of hard work of time and effort. As it grew I kept careful notes and documented how the effects would flow together. Once I had more than enough moves created I selected the best that I could think of, made sure that each movement blended into the beginning of the next set, meanwhile planning for the ending of the routine. No joke, it took a long time. However one of the most influential parts to the cups was my research and studies on “Inattentional Blindness” at the University of California Santa Barbara, it was a formal study on vision and natural tendencies. Armed with the knowledge how to take advantage of what people do on their own, combined with the sleight of hand, and a lot of spare time... intensely working on magic. The clear cups were created. It took a little under two years before anyone really saw it and then straight practice to make it work with the right timing. It was quite the undertaking and that’s only the parts I can talk about...I wish I could say more but...some secrets have to be kept a secret.
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?
Jason Latimer: That’s a tough one. I don't usually look at other magic books... in fact my magic library is really about work that I appreciate and not really about the mechanics of tricks. I tend to draw a lot...listen to music...day dream...or I spend a good amount of time doing what I call "zoning out." It’s a joke amongst my friends but it works. I look at modern art, movies, science magazines, modern applications, the internet...anything can give me ideas. Just headphones, a drafting table, and a good idea...that’s all I do. Lately, I look at my stage show and look for gaps that need to be filled or weak points that need to be strengthened. This last year I realized that one of the emotions that I never considered was the emotion of being Sad. So I created a routine around the concept of wishing you could have just “One More Night” with someone you lost for whatever reason. That sounded like a pretty sad theme so I went with it...and it wrote itself. Going through all the emotions and mimicking what a person would do if they thought no one was looking at them while they remembered, or wished for, one night seem pretty straight forward. In short...I use manipulation into making a table setting for two, complete with a candelabra, and following it up with a silk dress coming to life to share one dance playing on the my imagination and hope. At the end the dress collapses and the night is over, as I walk away the dress waives goodbye and slumps over...and I missed it because I was facing the wrong way. It’s absolutely beautiful, in my opinion, but it can be really draining on the audience...so it’s important to follow it with something strong and able to bring the audience back up. You can’t end a show with it and it definitely can’t go first...so that illusion has its limits of finding its way only into the middle of the show. As for classics...I keep in mind more of their methods then for themes...but I did learn a huge lesson with classics in my show when I built a huge levitation. What I call a “Matrix Levitation.” It involves a 10 foot turntable stage and the couch where the women lies...she levitates up...and then as the hoop is passed over her the entire scene rotates around with the woman suspended in the air rotating at the same speed. The whole scene flips 360 degrees as in a scene from the movie “Matrix” when they rotated the camera around...however, in mine, the audience stays still and the scene flips around so you have the same effect. I think it’s an engineering marvel...but I tend to hear that it’s still just a levitation. That was a very expensive, but extremely valuable lesson. I think it’s better to stay new for laymen then redo classics for magicians. But for me, I find the challenge of how to make something work in general the best part.
Wilm Weber: Who influences / has influenced your work most and how so?
Jason Latimer: Everyone...I watch everyone. I want to see what to do and what not to do. All the greats have their reasons for being influential...from their stories given in their show, their technical skill, their ability to make illusions over the top and spectacular, to their pure creative talent. I love magic...everything influences me.
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 are your top 3 tips for fellow performers.
Jason Latimer: Experience is the only way...I know it works. I jumped into stage magic...and I thought I had it all planned out...I do this, then I say that, and then I move on to this...well...when my first show went on ...It never worked...things had to change on the spot, audiences reacted different to specific words...people needed to be guided more than I was planning...etc. Luckily I had been a close up magician for so long I had a little to go off of for reading an audience...but even then those skills were developed over a long time ...so my best tip. Do it over, and over, and over. If there had to be a real set of tips...hmmm I would think it would be: -Don’t be scared to try something new three times especially patter...if its not working dump it and move on...try something else -Plan for everything. Emergencies happen...make sure you have “outs” or backups -Video tape everything...and then watch them over and over...take notes and learn to adjust the points that need it.
Wilm Weber: Do you have preferences, for performing magic? Magic areas?Audiences? Venues? Countries? How did these preferences take shape?
Jason Latimer: I love any venue that can fit all of my gear. I work very hard to develop a large magic show that flows from one effect to the next...if the space is limited we have to leave illusions out...then I have to quickly decide if the new gap can be jumped from one piece to the next. That’s tough...I am always planning a different show...it seems like anyways. I look for theatres that sit about 750 -1200. At that size I can bring in most of my gear and anything larger might be stretching it because of the people in the back may not be able to see. Preferences of one group or another... it doesn’t matter to me where the audience is...as long as they get into it and they have the energy. I have had great shows in bad areas and bad shows in great areas...I don’t think I could narrow it down.
Wilm Weber: You have won many prestigious awards at a fairly young age. Did you plan to do so or did things just fall into place and lead you to compete in these venues by accident?
Jason Latimer: No never planned it...I am just happy to hear people enjoy what I do...the awards have been an incredible experience and an extra bonus...but if I am doing magic...then I am happy.
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?
Jason Latimer: I started at a very early age...and I kept it up. It was a hobby turned profession. I have always worked as a magician while I was growing up. I went to college and I have a few formal degrees and backgrounds with Economics, Mathematics, and Physics. I didn’t go into college knowing what was going to happen. I won the World Championships while I was in college so I was doing magic full time but I was also full time student. Needless to say college ended up taking a while but it helped prep me for my next step...which was building a foundation to work with when college was over. As I came closer to graduating I was planning to a professional magician on multiple levels. I started planning the finances for my work, designing and building my illusions, finding management, agents, and other individuals that were equally motivated all in the last couple of years of school. I knew this would make my transition easier. I also teamed up with special effects studios as a consultant to design illusion in front of a camera and to help in the construction of my own personal gear. Magic is my passion. And now I have a full workshop to develop new illusions for myself and any other magician that feels he or she wants to pursue the construction of a dream. We specialize in building and designing live special effects for concerts and events. Meanwhile I continue to perform with my gear and develop new projects for my own personal use.
Wilm Weber: What kind of performance venues do you enjoy most and why?
Jason Latimer: Live. I think live performance s rock! TV is great...but I think camera tricks need to be directly addressed...I don’t know how exactly to address them... but with individuals that work hard to make effects happen live, camera tricks just take away the fun for me.
Wilm Weber: What's next for Jason Latimer? Any new books, DVDs or other projects coming up? Any lectures or Magic Castle performances scheduled?
Jason Latimer: For me? I think the next step is to focus on my stage show. I want to develop it into a fully high tech, modern day illusion show. No more rabbits out of hats or sawing women in half...this is magic for the 21st century. I am always building and always looking for the next step. The illusions that are coming out are really pushing the limits of science and magic. With illusions like shaping water or manipulating light I think this next year should be pretty exciting. As of right now, I have a couple new illusions coming out and I think they are really going to be something. I can’t wait for you to see them.
Wilm Weber: Thank you very much for this interview and continued success!
Jason Latimer: Again, Thank you. Thanks again
Interview Date: 10/01/2007