Thursday, April 8, 2010

Why a Magic Show?

My beautiful and talented girlfriend, Alexandra Barreto (who is producing this short, and without whom Shiloh and I would be utterly lost) has raised a good point about nature vs nurture. When she was a kid, she was always told she was "such a good little actress!" or "such a good performer!" or "such a good singer!"

Now, she has no clue what came first: the instinct, or buying the hype. Is there some kind of performance gene, or did she just get so much encouragement that it became the reality?

Shiloh and I were the same way. Because we started super young, we just sort of assumed there was some natural talent.

But unfortunately, we have videos.

My God.

I can say, unequivocally, there was an absolute absence of talent.

This is a frame from our first magic show.

So lost. So scared.

We performed for our entire school. We brought the principal up on stage, the whole deal. I guess we thought that homemade gold capes, a too-big plastic tophat (is Shiloh wearing a bedazzled headband?!), and some store-bought tricks would make us magicians.

And it did, sort of. We did shows at birthday parties - I mean, we actually got paid. And so all these years, I've carried around this self aggrandizing narrative that we were young, go get' em, born performers. Until Shiloh and I got ahold of the VHS footage.

At which point, reality set in. We were awful.

You can't even understand half our tricks. At one show - in front of a classroom of older kids - I completely blow a trick. My oh-so-quick response? I freeze, turn to the camera, and very urgently whisper, "I messed up Mommy!"

It gives me a stomach ache just to think about it.

I think our only real asset - besides an incredibly patient and encouraging set of parents - was our drive to do it. We enjoyed this crap.

We acted in plays. We did skits. We always put on the haunted house at our school. We made our parents and our friends star in countless alien/werewolf/detective/time travel movies.

Basically, a day without a costume rarely passed through our childhood.

Which is a different thing than "natural talent." More like, natural geekery.

Ok, ok, I'll put it more positively: it was an insistence on the power of imagination. We weren't going to let something like lack of talent get in our way.

Even when it was bad (which, trust me, was all of the time) we wanted to be on the other side of the curtain. And that hasn't changed.

We've put away the magic wands and never looked back, but I think way down at the heart of our filmmaking...it's pretty much still the two of us standing nervously side by side with a bag of tricks.

So when it came time to say "A Strong Brothers Film" in the credits of Irish Twins, we decided it made more sense to call it A Strong Brothers Magic Show.

And hey, if you can't find a clown for that next bar mitzvah - look no further.

This is just awkward on so many levels.

Shiloh gives his hackiest "just getting water out of this newspaper" look.

Shiloh tosses a "magic ring" in the air.

Drops it.

The hat wasn't enough, I had to go with a jumbo bow-tie, too.
(And thank God I had that embroidered "R" on there, who knows what would have happened if Shiloh and I got our capes confused).


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  2. Hello Rider Strong.
    First let me introduce myself. I'm from France and my name is Sabrina.
    I didn't have the chance to know you as a magician at someone's bar mitzvah, but i met you as Shawn in Boy Meets World (which in France was awfully named "Incorrigble Cory"), when you were not much older than you look on the pictures, i think, and so was i. Let me tell you, you were talented at this time, i don't know if you were, a couple of years earlier, in your charming cape, but you must have been good because i was really believing you were Shawn and your best friend was Corey, and you were poor and everything, And i wanted to be in your school so much! Maybe it was cause i was watching you through my child eyes, but i remember having pretty good tastes at the time.

    I was also doing movies with my friends when we were around 6, and we never became actors, or directors, because, i'm sure what you're calling "lack of talent", well, we were far far behind!

  3. Instinct comes first, definitely and fo shizzle.

    Clearly, your house and your girlfriend's house was nothing like my house, where all I got for MY instinct was, "Well, that's nice honey, and you look real pretty, but no one makes a living at this, so pick something else."

    My parents GRUDGINGLY paid for everything I wanted to do - modeling classes, singing lessons, the NYU drama program - yet gave me no moral support whatsoever. They HATED the fact that this was my passion and made no secret of it - I knew that I was expected to one day (sooner rather than later) return to planet Earth and get a "real" job. (Yeah, I'm still bitter. Sue me.)

    But that never stopped me. I did everything I wanted to do, happily, and well!

    Instinct is instinct. Buying into the hype is a choice. IMHO, at least.

  4. Rider, this so funny!!! Especially when Shi drops the ring! (Sorry Shi, but I just couldn't stop laughing at that one!)
    And so true -- my dad was over recently and told me I should enter my dog in the Westminster dog show. She's a pound puppy. I just had this epiphany "Oh my god, this is why I always thought I was so talented. This man is delusional. The mother fucker set me up!!!" But God bless 'em for it, right?
    Man, just found these thanks to your pop -- so great! I can't wait to see the D&D flick.