Magic as Craft

"Craft is the sum total of all means used to draw the audience into deep involvement, to hold that involvement, and ultimately to reward it with a moving and meaningful experience."

Robert McKee, Story

My friend Pat Cook is a playwright, songwriter, musician, former actor, and amateur magician. This means that he has spent time around many different kinds of creative people. He once mentioned to me that, of all these groups, magicians are the only ones who constantly prattle on about "art." According to Pat, other creative people spend their time talking about craft rather than art. Perhaps they realize that art is a subjective and solitary pursuit, little helped by endless discussions. Craft, by contrast, is something that they can help each other learn and understand.

They probably also realize that pursuit of art is futile without first achieving a complete mastery of craft. Every endeavor that aspires to being an art form is also a craft. You can't create art without first mastering the tools and techniques of your art form, which is exactly what craft is all about.

It's only in magic that many seem to feel that talking about art can substitute for mastering craft. This may partially reflect an inferiority complex stemming from the realization that no one except magicians considers magic an arc form. It's also, I think, an excuse for laziness. Talking about art is easy; working at your craft is hard. My own feeling is that, if we can improve the generally low level of craft in magic, the art aspect will take care of itself.

This raises the question: where does the craft lie in magic? On the rare occasions when magicians address this question, they usually focus on acting skills or storytelling skills. But acting and storytelling arc art forms in their own right. Magic may borrow from these areas but, if it doesn't have anything to offer that's unique to magic, it's hard to justify its existence, let alone its claims to arc.

Filmmakers don't talk about the craft of filmmaking by telling you to go study live theater. Indeed, the best proof that film is an art form is that it has its own elements of craft distinct from the legitimate stage or any

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Film Making

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