Brendon Peel & Black Jack creating ‘video magic’ on set.

Being a magician on the set of an advert, film or video is not an opportunity that comes around too often in South Africa, but luckily the demand for ‘magic’ incorporated into TV, film, and other media is growing more and more. This is a positive thing for magicians all over South Africa! [Click here to find out how to cast magicians for your video]

Previous filming experiences

I have been fortunate enough to be part of a handful of TV and film magic projects that have been really great fun and very educational for me. My first taste of a TV magic opportunity was in 2015 when I was asked to be the sole magic consultant for a Lexus car advertisement that was shown in Europe and the U.S.. With that particular project, I spent barely any time in-front-of-camera but predominantly provided idea-creating, script-writing, and consultancy skills. It was strange for me to ‘sell my ideas’ to other people and large corporations, however, that is all part of the game: if you are not willing to sell your intellectual property then consultancy is probably not for you. Since the first TV magic opportunity I have done a small handful of appearances on SABC, M-Net, and Dstv, these were all ‘in-front-of-camera’ performances as it were where I essentially performed a bit of magic or did an interview.

Recent project

I honestly never thought filming this type of project would take so much time, precision, and effort. Filming a close-up visual magic trick and making it look convincing is no easy feat.
— Brendon Peel
Recently a group of magicians and I from Magic Africa Productions were part of a high budget corporate video; I am not at liberty to say the name of the particular company just yet or give too many details about the project, but I am sure you will get a chance to see it soon as it comes out. This project saw Marcel Oudejans and I working as magic consultants, script-writers, idea creators and performers in the video. It was absolutely awesome but it was a lot of work!

Idea phase

At the idea phase, I had to develop over 100 different magic tricks that would be potentially incorporated into the video. It was a creative challenge but I managed to send the ideas through within just a few days. Marcel assisted on the admin side and liaised with the clients while still contributing to the creative process.

Magic Africa Productions - Magicians on set

Magic Africa Productions – Magicians on set. L to R: Brendon Peel, Black Jack, Li Lau & Marcel Oudejans. (Not pictured: Mawonga Gayiya)

On set

It was not just the two of us in front of the camera though: the other performers in the video shoot included my good friend and phenomenal magician Mawonga Gayiya, the absolutely magical Black Jack, and the bizarre entertainer Li Lau (who I will be performing a duo act with at this year’s Grahamstown National Arts Festival). All the magicians involved are very talented guys and it was such an honour and a privilege to work with all of them.

I honestly never thought filming this type of project would take so much time, precision, and effort. Filming a close-up visual magic trick [“What kinds of magic are out there?“] and making it look convincing is no easy feat. It sometimes took a team of 5 riggers to set up the lights and other equipment up to an hour to get the lighting and positioning perfect – just for one scene. Excluding the magicians, there was a team of 15 crew and staff members, these included; the director, riggers, cameramen, admin people, art department, sound engineers, and even an animator all of whom were truly top-notch people. Everyone part of the ‘team’ had a role to play and played their roles like clock-work, watching the team was almost like watching an artwork that manifested itself in front of our very eyes.

I am very excited to see how the final product will turn out but I have no doubt (from what I’ve seen of it so far) that it will be a world-class video. Marcel and I spent more than 36 hours on set over the course of 3 days and only really had a break to eat and sleep. It was very important for both of us to be there so we could each review the performance on the camera as it was happening and to give tips and pointers to each other, as well as to the other performers involved.

The lesson learned

Before going into any of these projects I was unaware as to how much time and dedication each set, scene, and shot takes, but now I know the effort it takes. I learnt so much on this film shoot and I am extremely excited to take part in another project like this soon.