Recently I've been organizing my mentalism book and DVD collection into various categories. One day, while watching a DVD as I cataloged the phone rang with a telemarketer. Because I answered the call, I proceeded to mute the TV. While I sat there half listening to the sales pitch, I became focused on the screen. Much to my shock, this performer looked emotionless. All I could understand was he was talking with someone. No gestures, no facial expressions, nothing!
Therefore, I compared the DVD's to standard television shows. Now which type of show stood out? The "telenovela," or Spanish soap opera. After a few minutes trying to figure out why, it clicked. These soap operas, just like great films, share certain key theatrical attributes. A structured story arc and enticing framing that engaged the audience.
The 2 Hit Combo for Effective Routines
How can we craft awesome mentalism routines? With a structured story arc and visual imagery? For imagery, we will capitalize the movie poster concept. And, for the story arc we will use the classic 3 act structure.
The Movie Poster Concept Explained
This simple technique forces you to stop thinking about effects and moves by transitioning you to a static image that is visually engaging. Just as movie posters are designed to entice you to see the movie and ask what is going to happen next, so are your static images.
It is often commented on the various forums, "How can I make my effect more visual?" Then posters reply with, "do a drawing duplication" or some other variant. While these replies answer the request, they do a disservice to the original poster because they don't answer the underlying request, "how can I make my performance more compelling?"
Mentalism needs to be engaging to keep people interested. We do this by using body movement, changing the pitch of our voices as we speak, and facial expressions. To make it memorable we need to create a "snapshot" or a compelling picture to be seen by the audience. Ask yourself, "If the snapshot were shown to a stranger, without any idea of what was going on, would she be interested to see more?"
3 Steps to Using the Movie Poster Concept
- Identify the "scene" and its layout
- Think composition of a picture or a photograph
- How does each component and participant relates to another?
- Sketch out the "framed scene" with placement of each participant and the performer
- Is it memorable?
- What emotion is being conveyed?
- Identify the movements that lead in and out of the "framed scene"
I'm not going into the details of the 3 act story structure, instead I am going to show you where to incorporate the Movie Poster Concept within that structure to engage and provide visually appealing memory anchors.
The 5 Markers in the 3 Act Structure
- The Hook
- The Key Event
- The Moment of Truth
- The Climatic Moment
- The Conclusion
Each of the above five markers need to have a "snapshot." Once you've identified each moment in your routine, proceed to move in and out of each scene as identified in step 3 of the Movie Poster Concept. You will find that your routines will flow better and be more appealing visually to your audience.
Want to know if you should incorporate this technique? Start by recording yourself and play the video muted. How much of your show still visually interesting? Can you understand what is going on without words or does most of it fall flat?
Do you use these technique or something similar? How has it worked? Let me know in the comments below.