Things By Simon

FISM Oceania and Last Minute Assistance

Last night I won the inaugural FISM Oceania close-up magic championships. This is a ludicrously exciting development, and one which will almost certainly lead to all kinds of great things. While we wait for that to happen though, in between the glitz and excitement of it all, there’s a story from backstage that I think is worth telling.

For those who don’t know, FISM (Fédération Internationale des Sociétés Magiques) is essentially the organisation that runs the world championships of magic and illusion. The competition is held every three years in a different city around the world, and usually involves about 150 entrants across several categories. I won a third prize in close-up magic at the 2009 FISM in Beijing, and last night used the same act to win the first regional Oceanic FISM.

One of the things nobody in the audience would have realised was just how rushed and last-minute the preparation for the act was. Without giving too much away, the act requires the secret assistance of a person who has to be reasonably well trained for their role. This person is essential to the act, and in the chaos of the past few months I’d completely neglected to make sure there was someone available to help.

After getting back from LA last week and finally starting to think seriously about the competition, finding someone was the first thing on the agenda. No problem – I figured – I know at least a few people who have done this before.

The first person to ever play the role was my sister Alex, back in 2007 when I was first working on the act. Then Georgina Lee briefly took over in 2008 for a huge stage show that had requested the act, and then it switched to Lee Cohen in preparation for the actual FISM world championships in 2009. In addition, German legend of card magic Pit Hartling briefly played the role at a special performance for the IMX Convention earlier this year. Plenty of options.

But my lack of planning caught up with me. Alex was unavailable, Georgina was in overseas, Lee was fully booked with other festival matters, and Pit was, well, busy being a German legend of card magic. In Germany.

So freaking out with one day to go before the competition, I called my friend Carl Knox who had been involved in the original rehearsals with Georgina way back in 2008. And thank [insert deity here], Carl saved my sorry ass. We smashed out a few hours of rehearsal, which combined with his previous experience was just enough to make it work. With the timely help of the rest of the team (plus two particularly helpful members of the MMF Festival Crew) the act came through, and the rest is history.

I just goes to show – though it’s obviously far better to be properly prepared, you can sometimes pull off a miracle even when flying by the seat of your pants.




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