A magician never reveals his secrets…
Directed by: Rob Bowen
Written by: Rob Bowen
Starring: Mark Lutinski and Chris Medina
‘The Magician’ was an extremely exciting project for a number of reasons. Not only was it our first Hitchcockian thriller, and our first short film of 2015, but it was also the first film I have worked with make-up effects! When an old friend I had been out of touch with for a couple of years reached out to me via Facebook mentioning he was doing make-up and prosthetics and wanted to work with me once again in our new lives and capacities, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. The new semester’s Film Studies classes had given me a lot of new insights into Hitchcock and the techniques he would use in his films (from the identity uncertain being draped in gray and overall meaningful use of wardrobe color choice, to the psychologically tense scoring instrumentation over music, even the MacGuffin itself) and so I wanted to work in the same waters and homage his masterful storytelling with a tense short film.
Enter ‘The Magician’.
The short film I penned that let me bring all of these elements together. Not only did I get to bring Matt on board as Key Make-Up Artist and allow him to bloody up Mark a bit (a request Mark made upon seeing the conversation on Facebook between Matt and I), but I also got to do some interesting things with the script and camera to nod to the masters who have come before me. From intentional nods to Hitchcock and Welles, to the unintentional channeling of Ingmar Bergman and his film of the same title (in its US release anyway) I really used the film as a way to explore means of creating tension via the visuals and audio.
Through the script, I tried to impart another layer to the film’s narrative, giving the MacGuffin some weightier inferences and focus (from the character’s name to the titles of his books hint, hint), while simultaneously leaving it somewhat unanswered, and in the end, irrelevant beyond driving the dark conclusion into being. Hopefully the answers we do get by the end are satisfying enough to keep the whole thing afloat and impactful, even though the audience perhaps never gets to the top of the “hierarchy of knowledge”.
Throughout this short, in an attempt to really capture the psychological edge Hitchcock thrillers always carried, we see the unraveling of one character, pushed beyond his breaking point by the haunting circumstance and questions that he cannot escape, seemingly orchestrated by the hands of another. In one final desperate act for answers, we see him slipping further into the darkness in which he will become completely lost by the end. By tying his questions to those of the audience as the film unfolds, I hope that the tension of the characters transfers freely to audience and the thriller enters the realm of the psychological. Throughout the writing I kept thinking of the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Earshot in season three where the character of Oz asks something along the lines of “I am my thoughts. If they exist in someone else, then who am I?” That is a major point of tension for the character, and I wanted to channel that into my own character too, and via him, my audience. Hopefully it comes across.