A Moment with theory11 – ‘PURE’ DVD Magician Ekaterina on Her Signature Effects and Rewarding Performances
As a filmmaker who is constantly trying to figure out how my work can sustain itself, I sought out to learn what makes it possible for Ekaterina Dobrokhotova, a Russian Canadian artist who performs card flourishes (skilled visual displays of playing cards such as fans, cuts, shuffles and sleight of hand tricks), to do magic as a profession rather than a hobby.
Documentaries aside, movies are a type of illusion, created out of necessity from the sheer pleasure of seeing figments of our imagination come to life. This is what keeps many of us going despite the sacrifices that come with such a costly endeavor; where the chances of getting paid to do what we enjoy and see our works play out on the big screen, are pretty slim to none. Based on what Ekaterina has accomplished so far, there are a few things writers, directors, actors, and anyone who works in a creative field, can learn from someone who built a career for herself by manipulating playing cards.
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Which area brings in the most revenue for a professional magician – performing, developing new tricks or teaching new techniques?
Ekaterina: Personally, I earn a living by performing my craft. It's a great feeling to leave a legacy in the magic community as the first female magician to release a cardistry DVD and one that creates beautiful magic, but it's not something I do for profit.
Dobrokhotova’s ability to monetize her live performances tells me that, if anything, people do enjoy a good show and they (whether that be presenting companies, venues, audiences or all of these) are willing to pay for said appearance. Although favorable box office results aren’t what they used to be – unless you’re making something like “AVATAR” or “THE EQUALIZER” – theatrical releases are still worth taking into consideration. The common practice of studios and filmmakers using their final product as loss leaders to support other avenues (i.e. VOD, DVD, Merchandising, Gaming, etc.) where we hope to gain distribution/revenue seems to defeat the whole purpose of going through the hassles that making movies entail.
If we’re creating one thing just to sell something else, we might as well skip the feature presentation and follow the money trail wherever it leads us, which is usually still not very far, given that simply being on Netflix, iTunes or even YouTube won’t make you rich. Zeke Zelker, whose one-night film screening raked in an impressive $10,000 and Jay Craven’s six-figure earning DIY theatrical tour of alternative venues in Vermont prove that profiting from theatrical revenue or related live showings such as concerts or book signings can be done. Yes, getting a return on the investment is hard as hell….but not impossible.
The trick to making it work appears to lie in how well you can get your main attraction to be as sensational as possible. What you have to offer – be that talent or skills -- is much more valuable when audiences are highly anticipating a particular show.
Ekaterina is well aware that building anticipation involves controlling where and when she demonstrates the skills people respond to most, which helps her keep audiences on the edge of their seats. “Because I am first a performer and second a creator, I keep the best tricks to myself,” says Dobrokhotova.
Just as Ekaterina knows that there is value in not giving all of her tricks away, creative minds could stand to benefit from keeping the finest aspects of our work under wraps. Even award-winning actors Denzel Washington and Daniel Craig believe that sharing the who, what, when, where and why of how our feature presentations came to be not only ruins their magical appeal, it’s also nobody’s business on how a movie was put together. I know that showing audiences some parts of the moviemaking process has its place, especially for educational or promotional purposes where landing distribution/earning revenue is concerned. However, I do understand the need for maintaining the wonder among people who are viewing our work for the first time.
Ekaterina: I recently fooled Penn and Teller on the show “WIZARD WARS” and received a lot of requests to release my card effect. However, I decided to keep this trick as my signature effect and be the only one to perform it.
Consider the possibility that any disclosure of how we create our motion pictures to people will make them less likely to still pay to see any signature moves these films contain, in action. If this happens, I think we run the risk of having to work much harder to earn a living through our work – unless our primary business or bread-and-butter is teaching other people what we know so they can go out and do it themselves. Still, I believe that to be taken seriously, the best teachers are those who do the work just as much, if not more, than they talk about it. Dobrokhotova’s priority on her performances is a leading example of someone who walks the walk.
Ekaterina: There's a lot of magicians who can indeed make a living out of only creating magic, but for me, if I don't go out there and perform, I don't feel like a magician and entertainer. The real secret is not about how good you are, but how good you make people feel.
Before learning about Dobrokhotova, I didn’t know female magicians even existed. If asked to name one, in fact, I bet very few of you reading this probably wouldn’t be able to either. It’s pretty cool that a she is succeeding in an art form that has gone unappreciated for a long time.
Ekaterina Dobrokhotova is among over a dozen respected magicians and acclaimed artists behind theory11, an elite team of performers, creators and producers who strive to advance the art of magic by producing the latest tricks, instructional DVDs and playing cards, including Monarchs – a regal deck of cards featured in the heist movie “NOW YOU SEE ME” and made in the USA. Now available at theory11.
What are YOUR favorite card games to play?
When was the last time YOU either watched or attended a magic show?