Scott Wells – Missed Opportunities

Columnist:
Scott Wells

By Scott Wells

How often have you wished that you had a chance to do it again? We encounter more missed opportunities more than we know. Times that we wish that we could have a “do over.” Times that we wish that we had known more about this situation or that person before your encounter. Times that we should have spoken up or times that we should have been silent and listened. Although this question can be applied to anything in life, let me focus it toward our craft.

Hasnít there been several times when you wished that you could take back what you said or what you did? If you could just do that trick over, you would handle it better. Your misdirection would be better. Your patter would be more direct and entertaining. Your handling would be smoother. You wouldnít forget one of your funnier lines. This is where practice enters in. Although you could practice an effect for what you think to be an adequate amount of time, your performance in front of a real audience will differ from your performance in front of the mirror. Even though you may rehearse your script, it will play slightly different for each audience.

It is true that you can practice everything but your timing and misdirection. You can, of course, anticipate audience reactions but you can not be sure of them until you actually do it for “real” and do it several times. This way you learn all of the little nuances of the trickís handling and find the places where something could go wrong. You also find through actual performances how spectators might react different from the response you expected. Itís through repetition of performance that the routine becomes an act. It becomes solid. The lines, the responses, the handling, all become set and, as they say, “commercial.” With the proper mix of practice and performance, you should never have to worry about that missed opportunity to be the consummate conjurer.

What about those times that you failed to ask the right question when attending a magic lecture. Too often we never ask questions in magic lectures because we donít want to seem trite, uninformed, nor amateurish in front of our peers. Other times we may ask questions directed at “how” the trick was done (e.g., “how” the fingers are held, etc.) rather than “why” the inventor devised his particular method. Often we are so enamored by the trickís handling and/or cleverness that we overlook “why” a trick works or “why” it was constructed just so. A more appropriate line of questioning might be to find out if the inventor developed this trick or method to avoid “flashing,” or did he intend to make the effect more angle proof, or did he want to provide better misdirection, or was the move devised in order to introduce the “gaffus,” or was there some other equally practical reason. We need to better understand “why” the trick works before we can fully comprehend what really makes the trick into real magic. Asking proper and direct questions aids our learning process and stimulates our creative juices to come up with our own variation or application to another of our effects. Never be hesitant to ask a question because the odds are that someone else is also curious but harbors your same fears in asking the question. Youíve heard it before in school . . . the only “dumb” question is the one never asked.

There are also times that we pass unknown opportunities like ships in the night. There may be a fairly unknown yet very skilled professional magician sitting next to you on an airplane. His skill, knowledge and potential friendship that you could have shared will slip into oblivion without you ever having met. A missed opportunity. Unless one or the other of you happens to be reading a current magic publication or playing with cards or something, the other party will never know of the interest that you share. How will you ever know? Perhaps you wonít and that could be better than knowing that you had the opportunity but missed it. I would hate to think that I had been sitting in an airplane just two rows away from (fill in the blank with the name of your favorite magician) only to learn that he was aboard after I deplaned.

Then there are the times that you missed booking a show. Perhaps you were overpriced (under priced?) or that you had a conflicting engagement. Perhaps you just missed the phone call. Your answering machine was broken or full of messages. Maybe you could have had a repeat booking but this yearís program director didnít know how to get in touch with you and you havenít contacted them to see what their needs were. It could be that you havenít adequately “networked” with agents or other business contacts. More missed opportunities and these mean lost revenues. These kinds of missed opportunities are due to negligent business management. They could have been easily avoided by planning your work and working your business plan.

Whether or not you are losing a show because of price is food enough for a whole column; however, let it suffice now to say that if you are losing more than 20% of your bookings because you are too high priced, then you should lower your rates. If you are not losing any bookings because of price, then you are working too cheap and you need to raise your rates. Start high and negotiate down if you must, but donít give yourself away before you know what the client can afford. There are times when they can afford more than they are telling you that they have in their budget. They often want the cheapest entertainer that they can get, not necessarily the best quality. If they want a cheap magician, then you may fill the bill as your conscience (and mortgage) dictates. Keep in mind that cheap magicians cheapen the appearance of the art and contribute to the death spiral of professional rates.

Some opportunities are missed because we procrastinate. We might put off practicing that trick or buying that book until tomorrow. Sadly, tomorrow comes all too quickly. Then we wish that we had practiced that trick more or bought that book before it became a collectorís item. The opportunity comes then passes when you could have performed that little impromptu effect and made it look like a miracle. Perhaps, for example, you wanted to see David Copperfield, but when tickets to his live performance became available, you put it off until it was too late and they sold out. Another missed opportunity.

We are all going to miss opportunities . . . thatís life. Even after reading this article, you will still miss some opportunities. But the best way to miss the fewest opportunities is to be aware of whatís going on around you, know what you want in life, plan ahead and be prepared for that next opportunity so it doesnít miss you.