Ma’am, first of all tell us something about your love for movies. How were you first drawn towards the world of movies?
I used to go to the movies every Friday after school with my dad and my brother as a kid for a couple years. I used to act out lines alongside a TV character of whatever show I was watching and just thought it’d be so cool to be a part of that. It eventually developed into wanting to be the creator of those movies and working behind the scenes. It feels more rewarding to know you were a part of something from beginning to end.
Tell us something about the title of the movie. Was the title solely given for the story? Do you have any fascinating incidents to narrate about magicians and their tricks?
At first I was relating the film to Tarot cards and thought it’d be fun to make a series of short films associated with the Major Arcana and it’s themes. Mainly I called it The Magician because it’s about Eric’s relation to Harry Houdini, though he’s actually an Illusionist, my whole life myself and the media regarded him as a Magician. A magician can be a Manifestor, and beginner psychic in tarot. They are very powerful and in negative lights can be master manipulators, and really that’s what a magician does right? They manipulate the audience for entertainment.
Tell us something about the story behind writing such an innovative script. About Houdini of all people!
I wanted to write something with mystic elements, my friends and I were riffing ideas back and forth as I was trying to come up with something for my senior thesis film. At first it started with wanting a psychic to push the story along, but a realistic one, not stereotypical as I know a few psychics in real life. I had a pattern of writing about ancestry in my short films while in school and thought, “what if you found out you were related to someone you idolized?” I made it based in 2004 so that Eric couldn’t just use his iPhone and reverse Google image this photo, to make it more ominous. I wanted him to really search for this answer and for it to not come so easy for him. When first drafting it out I started in the garage with him finding that picture. I also did my research on Houdini, he never had children, so he had to be Eric’s great uncle etc. Why Houdini? Honestly he was just one of those mysterious characters that stuck out to me for years. I was procrastinating writing this script for two months, and I kept getting signs. I was seeing Harry Houdini everywhere, on social media he would pop up. In my directing class he was friends with Buster Keeton’s father… It was insane. I knew that I had to make this movie.
Could you suggest to us a few of your favorite movies? Like your top 5 movies of all time.
The Parent Trap (1998)
Freaky Friday (2003)
Mean Girls (2004)
Easy A (2010)
Lots of early Lindsay Lohan appreciation here.
The story revolves around family dynamics. We find chaos in them and scuffles between them solidify the belief. How did this contribute to your story in the course of the big revelation towards the end of the movie?
Eric is like the black sheep of his family. He and his step-sister Claire make jabs at each other, his stepdad cares, but also doesn’t want to be bothered in their childish arguments, and Eric’s mom can be a little overprotective. As she says after Eric finds out, she felt he was too much like Houdini “dancing with death… that wasn’t gonna be my baby”. She felt that it was better to never tell Eric about this because he may want to finish what Houdini started. Claire knew of this relation but didn’t care enough to mention it. And in her own twisted way, Claire did care enough to keep Eric’s secret from the parents. She diverts the attention about Eric’s old magic kit, by saying he can throw away that “ratty old teddy bear” instead. To the parents, she’s just being her mean self, but in reality she was protecting Eric. No one seems to support what Eric does, they sort of invalidate it, and I felt that was relatable to people that work in the arts, including film. People see our craft as a hobby. Meanwhile Claire is the early 2000’s It Girl that can do no wrong, making Eric stick out even more like a sore thumb in their otherwise mundane middle class family. And he feels that tension.
Could you tell us something about the trope of the psychic that you have used in your movie? The trope is not a new one and it has successfully maintained the sense of suspense around it. How did you see the trope work in your movie?
Once again I wanted this revelation to play out in a fun way and not have it be some easy search. It was a little dance, to make Lisa this stereotypical “gypsy” psychic and have her put on a show, or to have her be a real psychic that you meet in a small house shop in NJ. Those are the psychics that I know. Lisa is retro-cognizant, so she can see the past vividly, and also Claire-sentient, she can feel the pain Houdini felt. I wanted the reading to speak for itself and not have it be this whole exaggerated show, because at the end of the day everything that we see in this story can be real. She gives Eric a clue from her reading, but because the reading gets cut short due to the intensity, he is left to connect the dots on his own. Readings can be like that, detailed without being too specific. I am a little psychic myself and I have those moments where I will see and feel certain things, or get spiritual downloads that feed into the answer and resonate with the Querent (person getting the reading) so I wanted to portray it in an accurate way. In fact, the actress that plays Lisa, Kathy Biehl, actually is a psychic and the one day we filmed with her she says that the reading was so accurate.
Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead”. Do you see this line describe your movie in an appropriate way?
Yes, I feel like time isn’t linear. It’s all happening at the same time and we are just living in our own timeline. Eric is able to connect to Houdini in his lucid dream because he lives within him like a guide. This is a popular belief for the spiritual community. In general the past always repeats itself, will Eric live out Houdini’s career? Learn from his mistakes and improve?
Writers like Javier Marias believed that at times it was best to let the past stay hidden in the dark. It must be treated as a non existent entity. Keeping your movie in mind what would be your opinion on this?
I feel like what’s meant to be revealed will always find a way. No matter how much his family tried to hide this information from him, he was destined to find out where he came from.
Towards the end of the movie, your protagonist is given precious advice by one of the greatest magicians of all time about the mortal impact a profuse amount of confidence can cause. He advises the protagonist to always have an escape plan. Tell us about the explain man we all must have in our lives. Is it like getting away from our troubles or eradicating them forever?
I felt that line was more literal for Houdini, but for Eric and the audience it speaks of being able to escape your day to day life and have something to keep you youthful and free. Sometimes you just need something to keep you grounded, but you also need something to allow you to have your head in the clouds for just a moment, as long as you can come back down. You need to know when you’re reaching a point of no return and not let your ego destroy you.
Finally ma’am, tell us about your definition of magic. Do you believe as Michael Caine did in ‘The Prestige’ that a magic trick had three parts: the pledge, the turn and the prestige? Does it exist in some metaphysical form or is everything a trick of our vision?
I believe magick (and in this sense it is spelled with a k) is all consuming and exists in the metaphysical form. We’re constantly shaping our reality, manifesting what we want to become, meeting certain people that will play an important role in our lives… it’s not always a big gesture in our faces, but magick is all around us, sort of hidden under a veil.