Preparing for FISM
By Gaia Rossi - Tuesday, July 26, 2022
This week in Quebec City, the "olympics of magic" are taking place. FISM attracts the best magicians from all over the world and this year, we're particularly excited because one of our team members is taking part. Gaia Rossi is twenty years old, and lives in Italy. We asked her to keep a diary of what it feels like to be just days away from competing at the World Championships of magic.
Seven Days To Go
“You may have known it since you were a child, you may have discovered it in high school or maybe later, maybe you haven't found it yet, but it exists. Your dream is there, hidden somewhere, you just have to hunt it down”. My Mum used to tell me this before bed each night. And my dream, since I was little, was to be a magician. "A magician?" everyone said. "But you're a girl, go play with dolls, magic is a boy thing". But I blanked out those voices... It felt good to let my eyes close, to feel the stage lights on my face. Today I open my eyes. I am 20 years old. It is July 2022. And in a few days, I’ll be competing at FISM: the World Magic Championships. I almost can’t believe it!
I can’t begin to describe the pressure, and preparation that is involved in building an act for FISM. It made me appreciate that there are hundreds of details that you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of. The hours spent reviewing videos of your own performances (which can be excruciating!), working on your pacing, your scripting, your movements, and even your breathing! I count myself lucky that I already had a background in theatre and singing. That has definitely helped me. It also made me appreciate some advice that I heard many years ago: The best magicians don’t just study magic. They look elsewhere too. To music, to mime, to circus, and more. The experience of preparing for FISM has made me understand this advice. In order to improve your magic, it really does help if you look to other performing arts. I know that my singing has helped with my breathing, and my dancing has helped me know how to move on stage. And I could list countless other examples.
The blog you are about to read is a pretty personal diary. It chronicles the final days before I appear, on stage, in front of my peers. Even as I write this, it seems strange to say that I’ll be competing at FISM. What you’ll read here, is what I was thinking, how I felt, and all the thoughts I had in between. Regardless of how I do on the day, this experince has been amazing for me, and I hope that this blog gives you a little insight into what it feels like to compete at the largest magic competition in the world.
Six Days To Go
My name is Gaia Elisa Rossi, I am 20 years old and I’m from Italy. I’m taking part in the World Magic Championships (in the manipulation category) and there are 6 days left until FISM. On stage, I will try to combine my passions of dance, theatre and magic. The name of my act is “Kiss”.
I think the most special thing about creating a FISM act is trying to make it understandable not only for your country, not only for your continent, but for the whole world. It has to work for everyone, no matter the ethnicity, no matter the culture and society they come from. FISM is a global competition, and the acts have to reflect that. This is an amazing challenge, and to try to achieve it I spoke to so many people from so many different countries: magicians, artists of all kinds, laypeople, children, adults, and the elderly, trying to understand how they perceive magic, what they expect from a magician on stage (which, being a woman, makes things a bit more complicated), what they would like to see and what they would not. And then I had to test what I had learned on stages all over the world.
Five Days To Go
I am 20 years old. I still have so much to learn, so much to do, and so many people to meet, but in this moment, right now, FISM is the only thing I am focused on…
One of the best magicians in Italy, Raul Cremona, says that magic starts at school. You learn how to work with others, and how to dedicate yourself to a subject. I couldn’t agree more. I take my inspiration from all sorts of subjects (both inside, and outside of magic): from languages that I have studied like Latin and Greek, from Philosophy, or English Literature. I’ve always felt that I am more creative when I draw from my hobbies and interests.
One thing I love about FISM is that it allows you to meet wonderful artists, see how they work, ask their opinions, and become one big family where everyone brings a piece of themselves. This has always helped me so much. The more questions you ask, and the more you watch and listen, the more you learn.
Four Days To Go
More rehearsals. Even though the performance is only four days away, I can't stop rehearsing yet. I tend to rehearse, once an act is almost complete, with two types of rehearsal days: full rehearsals, and segments. On both days I always start by doing a complete run-through, as if I were going on stage. I even try and make myself nervous, so I can then try and control my anxiety. And of course, I film my rehearsal. Watching back a performance is always useful. Sometimes you’ll spot a hundred areas for improvement. On other occasions, it might be the smallest detail. But there will always be something.
If I am spending the day doing complete run throughs. I watch back each performance after I do it. I take notes, and I figure out what I can tweak, remove, or improve. I repeat the process all day.
The other type of rehearsal day begins with a full run through. But thereafter, I hone in on specific sections of the act. I break the act down into pieces that vary from 3 to 10 seconds depending on the level of difficulty, and I rehearse each piece for 15 to 20 minutes, and then I continue with the following piece. I hear Luke Jermay talk about this approach in his lecture. Once you feel happy with something, that’s the best time to hone in on the tiny details.
Three Days To Go
“Switch off your brain”. That’s what my Dad has always told me in the days leading up to a big performance. Trust the process. Be confident in the fact that you have rehearsed every detail, and through through every possible scenario. Don’t let your brain play games with you. You’ve got this.
All of that is true, but these last few days are crucial.. Even from the age of six, I was so obsessed with not wasting time that I would take mum's computer and create Excel files, marking out my plans minute by minute. I know… I was a pretty weird kid!
Call me crazy but I think I might have been onto something all of those years ago. I know that in these last few days, planning my time has really helped. I write out my rehearsal goals for the day, and when I achieve them, it puts my mind at ease.
Two Days To Go
A six-minute act. All of this for six minutes. The act doesn't have to be more than ten minutes, but it can’t be less than five. You go on stage or you approach the close-up table, you blink and it's done. Seriously. I doubt I’ll remember much of the experience on the day. It will go past so quickly. That's why you need a lot of preparation. Because once you are there, you won't have time to think. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get my personality, my character, and my magic across in that time!
One Day To Go
Fear. I know it’s to be expected, but I’m really nervous. I am afraid of not being received as I would like. I am afraid that all the months of rehearsals will not come out in the performance because of distraction, tiredness, and lack of control of the situation. Fear of having regrets about my performance. Because no matter how many rehearsals I’ve done, at the end of the day what matters to the audience is not the journey I’ve been on, but what they see on that stage.
I hope I can do the act well for the audience, for the people who have supported and encouraged me over these months and years, for me. I would like to put a smile on the audience's face, make them feel good, and forget about reality outside that theatre for a moment. It would be nice to be able to give them a magical experience or a joyful release…
If I manage that, even for a few people, all of this will have been worth it. Because the moment you create a a connection with the audience, anything can happen.
But I’ve got to be honest, even though I hope that I manage to do well, or at least feel that I did my best, right now, what’s occupying my mind is nerves. I’ve always felt at home on stage, but I just hope that I can feel at home on the biggest stage of my career.
The morning of the performance (in the hotel)
I've been up since 5.30 a.m., I've had breakfast, washed and straightened my hair, checked for the umpteenth time that I have everything for the performance, and got my props all ready (I did that last night actually!). I always have a written checklist. It helps me so much because when you are at home, rehearsing, without any pressure, everything seems very clear in your head but, on the day of the performance, everything is blurred and I understand nothing. So having a checklist reassures me because everything is written in black and white, I don't have to think about anything: taking my props becomes an automatic action. All I can do now is hope for the best. This is the most excited, and the most nervous I’ve ever been.
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