This is going to be more like a civil rant than an essay.
Improvements and making a trick your own. This is a big issue for me. It seems that everyone is marketing so-called improvements to teenagers that don’t know any better. Unfortunately, we live in a time when it’s alright to replace a Pass with a Double Undercut or a Shuttle Pass with a Spellbound Change and call it a new effect. Worse is when someone takes a great effect and tears it apart, adding in there own touches as an improvement. This is a serious problem that magicians just can’t ignore.
When did changing a move make something new? When did that become acceptable? It’s no different than me copying Romeo and Juliet word for word and using a word processor to replace Romeo and Juliet and George and Shaniqua. If that’s alright, I have a soon to be classic book just waiting to be published. What makes it alright to publish an effect replacing the Side Steal and Top Palm with a Spread Cull and Bottom Palm? Replacing one move doesn’t make it new. If you want to improve an effect, change the handling to one that works better. Making something work best for you and your style is what it’s all about, right?
As for making a trick your own, it’s something that has to be done to grow. I’m not recommending that everyone tries to create brand new acts of their own material. Some people just aren’t that creative, at least not at first. I’m talking more along the lines of working on your own presentations that fit you and modifying some of the mechanics to things you’re more comfortable with. As I mentioned before, changing a move or sleight doesn’t make the effect new. It does make it better for you to perform though. That’s the key. If your effects aren’t your own to some degree, you’re no different than any other magician in the eyes of your audience.
As for marketing improvements, make sure they improve the effect. I’ve heard of people marketing improvements of effects designed to eliminate a certain move. In this effect, the performer wanted to eliminate a Palm. In doing so, he had to add a Shift, a DL, and a Top Palm. Yeah, in trying to eliminate a Palm, he added two other sleights and a Palm. Why convolute the effect like that. Towards the end of his life, the Professor admit that he was “now trying to remove the moves from the effects.” He was trying to simplify the handlings of the effects to make them clearer to the audience and easier for him to do. This is Dai Vernon saying this, not some lazy kid sitting on his parents couch with a box of ding dongs and the remote control. I have no problem with people marketing improvements, but make sure they improve the original. A great example, at least for me is Vernon ’s Travelers and Ortiz’ Hitchcock Travelers. Darwin Ortiz thoroughly improved the main problems in the original so that it works better in my shows. That’s a noticeable improvement. That’s how you market a new item.