Welcome to our new series called How I Found My Magic. Its goal is to discover why magicians specialize in the genre of magic they do. What brought them to it, what fascinates them the most, and why it won them over other types of magic? Let’s get started!
A lawyer by training, a magician by years of practice mixed with endless passion for the craft*. Michael Feldman discovered magic as a kid, and it stayed with him until now.
He presents a unique analytical, logical, and realistic approach to magic, where he loves to tell the spectators what is going on and let them be fooled anyway.
His first book, A New Angle, was a collaboration project between him and Ryan Plunkett. You can discover his magic, presentational style, and humor in full in his first solo book, The Pages Are Blank, published by Vanishing Inc. He shares his most used tricks and sleights in it.
We have the honor to have Michael start this series. Enjoy!
The Interview with Michael Feldman
What made you start with magic? Was it the wonders, curiosity, getting to know the secrets, or something else?
I found magic at that time in childhood when it seemed like there was infinite time to learn as many things as I wanted. I dove headfirst into magic, theater, a capella, yo-yo, karate, pottery, rollerblading, hockey, and a bunch of other stuff. If it was interesting, I was obsessed. I started studying magic seriously after seeing a magician named Keith Boudreau performing contact juggling and Paul Harris’s Immaculate Connection in a restaurant in San Diego. My first magic book was Paul Harris’s Art of Astonishment Volume 2. I skipped volume 1 because it didn’t have the linking playing cards. My first magic DVD was Rune Klan’s Three Pieces of Silver.
So, I got thrown immediately into the deep end. I just loved tinkering. I loved performance. And probably most of all, I loved complicated, challenging sleight of hand. I think it was actually the challenge of mastering knuckle-busting sleight of hand that really hooked me on magic. It was only later that I came to care more about the story and the message.
How did you find yourself specializing in card magic, and what fascinates you about it the most? Was there any other type of magic you tried to pursue or explored in the past? If yes, what made you go with card magic instead?
Cards provide the greatest variety I’ve found in method, plot, and presentation, as well as the deepest complexity and difficulty of technique. At first, I was really drawn to the difficulty of the sleights, but when I started creating my own tricks, I just felt a lot more freedom with card magic than any other medium.
I actually stepped away from magic for a few years in my early 20s, and when I came back, I decided I was a coin guy. That didn’t last. I felt creatively frustrated. I created a few coin routines I was proud of but then struggled to create weird, off-beat plots. I slowly started to put more and more energy back into card magic.
Who are your “magic heroes,” people you admire most, and why?
Over the last ten years or so, I’ve found my voice as a magician presenting odd, intellectual, self-aware magic tricks that often press against and challenge the medium of magic and convey some kind of message about how I see the world. A lot of that inspiration actually comes from outside magic. For instance, I love Bo Burnham’s and James Acaster’s comedy, and I’ve learned a lot from their self-awareness, the way they use the medium of their art to their advantage, and their unapologetic intellectualism on stage. I have also learned immensely from Becky Chambers, Rebecca Sugar, and Brennan Lee Mulligan for their virtuosity in seamlessly weaving important lessons and perspectives into their storytelling without feeling heavy-handed.
Of course, there are also magicians I have learned from tremendously:
I’m in awe of the depth of Garrett Thomas’s thinking about every move he makes, how he consistently creates new, unexpected plots, and how those effects so often carry a deeper message and metaphor for how he sees the world.
Teller is unmatched in his ability to use magic as a vehicle for important messages to the largest audiences without sacrificing any quality of effect or performance. Though, I will give Jared Kopf and Francis Menotti enormous credit for finding messages and stories that magic is uniquely suited to and running with them.
Derek DelGaudio is the first magician I am aware of who used his show to so thoroughly challenge the medium of the magic show, test its boundaries, and question what it means to be a magician. I am both inspired and intimidated to see how skillfully he dismantled constraints to our art that I hadn’t even been able to see.
Why did magic stick with you for that long?
Part of why magic has stuck with me for this long is that it scratches many different creative itches at the same time. It gives me the opportunity to perform on stage, design new effects, write compelling scripts, create devious methods, and build interesting gimmicks and gaffs. There’s always some aspect of my magic I can focus on and improve, and it's always an interesting creative challenge to pursue.
What keeps you inspired after the years?
Magic is the perfect medium for the stories I want to tell and the artistic statements I want to make. And I don’t think there has ever been a more exciting time to study and perform sleight of hand. As magicians, we get to focus on mystery at a time when we are more aware than ever of the scope of just how little of the universe we understand. We perform live at a time when our interactions are often designed, filtered, and manicured before we share them with others online. And we openly deceive in a time when it’s getting harder to tell the difference between truth and a mistake repeated so often that people have accepted it.
Magic is uniquely suited to explore misinformation. It’s uniquely suited to examining the enormous gap between people’s stubborn confidence in what they believe and the underlying reality that has deceived them. Wielded well, it can be a captivating way to emphasize the need for people to think critically and actually be open to changing their minds. Magic is in itself inherently interesting and is a fun medium to use to explore the intricacies and nuances of what it means to be a magician and do magic. Even after all this time performing and creating magic, I always feel like my work is on the cusp of the next big thing I want to explore. I love that feeling. It drives me forward.
If you could give one tip to your younger self, what would it be?
Figure out what you find most fascinating and bring that into your magic. But don’t preach. Your audiences will explore your fascinations with you if you are genuinely interested in bringing them along for the journey rather than lecturing at them. People will be interested in what you have to say if you are interesting. Be interesting.
Do you want to learn more about Michael and his magic? Make sure to follow him on Instagram. Also, check out his YouTube channel, where he uploads videos of the tricks he comes up with.
We hope you enjoyed this introduction to our new series. Which magician would you like to see next in our series? Let us know!
*Part of this sentence is a direct quote from Michael from his Fool Us appearance. You can watch it here.