How to Become an Illusionist!


For all magicians, the nature of what we do is to create illusions as we perform magic tricks – entertaining and amazing people through one of the many types of shows in the business, whether through sleight-of-hand or comedy magic.


But in this article I’m going to talk specifically about the professional category that we magicians know as “illusionist” – the full-time performance and presentation of middle-sized or large illusion shows on stage with big equipment, lights, dancers and music – and what it takes for professional and aspiring magicians to become one.

Do I need to be a magician first before becoming an illusionist? 

Yes, it is highly recommended. Keep it in mind: to be an illusionist on stage – with large equipment, lights, music and dancers or even television cameras – does not automatically make you a great magician.
To be an illusionist is to be a type of magician as much as performing card tricks, close-up magic, kid’s magic shows or comedy magic – with some key additional elements. 
But as with those other categories, it is important to first study the roots, principals and techniques of magic, to see which of the styles of magic you enjoy most and to educate yourself on tricks, presentations and shows.

What Type Of Magic Tricks Do Illusionists Perform?

There are mid-sized illusions and big illusions. Normally illusionists use big magic equipment to perform on a large stage, magic illusions such as: making someone levitate; making a person fly on stage; making a person or animal appear or disappear; cutting a body; making predictions; and many more!
Prepare yourself as a showman and a businessperson, learning how to handle different types and sizes of audiences, as well as marketing and promotion of your magic business, before moving forward to create your illusion show.


What do I need to consider before becoming an illusionist? 

There are many aspects to becoming an illusionist, so I will organize this answer into five parts:

1. Equipment: The equipment of an illusionist is very important. What we mean by equipment refers to the large magic tricks needed to perform on a mid- to large-sized stage. This is a major investment – with costs for things like levitation tables or helicopters for magical appearances ranging from several thousand dollars to $50,000 and more. It is also very heavy and takes up space, which I’ll discuss more below. 
2. Space: Now that you have the large equipment, you need a place to put it between shows, and also a place to rehearse. This might require storing large illusions in your home or paying for storage space. It could also mean renting out community centers or other buildings for practice sessions when you can spread the illusions out and work them. 
3. Presentation: Having illusion equipment is not enough to impress the audience. The way you deliver the illusions is, and it is a major part of the act. Performing one illusion after another in rote fashion – levitating a person, sawing yourself in half, disappearing – may get some applause. But the real magic comes through storytelling – presenting these illusions through a sense of wonderment, surprise and awe, knowing how to establish rhythm in your show and build momentum. 
4. Your team: There are three types of assistants that you as an illusionist might need, and it is important to take your time and use good judgment in your choices. The people you hire will not only need to be talented, but they must be dependable, punctual and trustworthy to maintain the secrets of the illusions. Many famous illusionists have additional personal assistants or staff to handle the press and show bookings, but in general, these are the three categories you’ll start with: 
a. Muscle: this means the people breaking down the heavy illusions after the show, loading them into boxes and a truck and moving them to the next destination, unloading them and setting them up again. Of course, if you are presenting back-to-back shows in the same place, you can cut some of these steps, though you may still need help with set-up between shows. 
b. Stage assistants: this can be dancers or someone who is part of the illusions and show, someone you are disappearing or sawing in half, for instance. 
c. Behind-the-scenes coordinators: this is usually the person or people in charge of handling the curtain, music, lights, microphones, dressing-room or make-up. 
5. Training: For the illusion show to be successful, many pieces need to fall into place. Training, practice and rehearsal are very important, not just by you, but by the whole team. You want to make sure that timing and presentation – from music, dancing, lights, and microphones – work and flow perfectly.

Am I ready to become an illusionist? 

Only you will know the answer to that. My goal here is not to discourage you but rather the opposite: To encourage you, by setting you up with the steps needed to plan out your goals.
Since the age of 8, when I first saw amazing illusionists on the television and decided that’s what I wanted to be, it has taken a long time for me to realize all that was involved – from years of learning magic tricks and techniques, the different styles of magic shows and performances, to mastering marketing and business practices and finding illusion builders and a reliable team.

There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in creating a great illusion show and career as an illusionist. But once you know more about the reality, the sooner you can take steps to making your dream of being an illusionist come true.

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