Magic touch

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Columbus just doesn't see it coming. The city's full of somewhat-gullible folks who enjoy being entertained, say magicians performing street magic in town.

And that's a good thing for the staff of Paper Crane Productions, who bring magicians to town and create instructional magic videos. They get raw, unrehearsed emotion from students and other people recruited from restaurants and sidewalks to watch the tricks.

Their year-old venture wouldn't be doing nearly so well if they'd started it in New York City, said videographer Mandy Hartley. Paper Crane's three principals were friends before becoming co-workers, with Ian Martin managing audio and composing original music and magician Shaun Dunn handling marketing.

The DVDs are sold in stores and online at - mostly to magic enthusiasts, though some tricks have been performed nationally, including on a David Blaine TV special.

There's probably about 100 professional magicians in Columbus, Dunn said, and most got their start like he did: seeing someone else do a trick. "They're going to tell their kids about what I did," said Dunn, who performed some tricks for Alive's video camera. "You're going to be famous in their mind."

What's the magic scene in Columbus like?

Dunn: One of the largest conventions in the world is here, Magi-Fest. We have a great magic shop in Columbus. We have lots of just natural, homegrown talent.

Hartley: We have one of the top-selling magicians that lives in Columbus. His name is Justin Miller, and he's put out some of the best-selling magic tricks on the market.

Dunn: You have lots of guys that are performing as mind readers, lots of hypnotists, lots of just the common trickster at the bar trying to impress girls or just trying to be an interesting person. But the Columbus magic scene is very simple, and it's very strong, powerful magic. Very artistic.

What's the role of Paper Crane?

Dunn: We go out on the street, we film it, we make it look appealing to our potential buyers. And we really sell the dream of the magic, the effect. We're really trying to raise the awareness and artistic levels of magic, and make it something that's really credible and stands out.

People perceive magic to be, you know, somebody walking around in a tuxedo and a big top hat, or David Copperfield with his shirt busted open and his hair flowing and girls flying around and stuff. And to us, it's not about that. It's about creating art for art's sake. And it's not about these big productions. We try to keep it real.

Hartley: You might see us around town, just on the street, doing magic for normal people. Normally it's real David Blaine-inspired. And I think it makes it a little more believable, because you're like, "You're standing right here in front of me."

Martin: The other thing that's cool is the businesses around here have been really great to us. They've allowed us to come in and film in their establishments. And it's important for the magician to feel comfortable in the environment that they're working in.

Who buys the DVDs?

Dunn: We're selling to people that are amateurs and professionals in the field. We get basically the 18-to-30 crowd.

Hartley: I would say most people who are into magic probably got into it in their early teens, late junior high. And professional magicians [in town], there's probably really only a hundred. But there's a crapload of people that it's their main hobby, they spend hundreds of dollars on this hobby a year.

There are also people who are just normal, everyday people that see magic tricks on YouTube or demos of ours and just want to know what the secret is.

How has modern-day magic changed?

Dunn: People see so much technology that's so amazing, and it's so hard to compete with that. You really have to take it five steps beyond anything that people are seeing in their normal, everyday life to really make an impact on people. And that's what we try to do.