In April of 2015 I filmed and released a jam video titled We Shuffle Like That. Filmed in New York during the days leading up to – and following – Cardistry-Con 2015, it was a jam video full of familiar faces. I don’t think there’s ever been that amount of cardists in one video at the same time – ever. It was also a video that seemed to resonate really well with the community, whether it was inspiring the new generation or bringing a sense of nostalgia to the old schoolers and those who were there.
It got me thinking about how important I think jam videos are to this artform and this community, so that’s why I’m going to share some of my thoughts with you on jam videos. I’m choosing to use my own work as examples because I’m very familiar with them, and because I’ve made many more jam videos than I’ve made performance videos. So while I might seem to focus only on my videos – please keep in mind that some of my favorite jam videos of all time were made by others – and I’ll get back to that later! But, before we venture deeper into the jam video genre, I want to show you what I’ve actually made over the past ten years.
A Decade of Jam Videos
In October it will be ten years since I filmed my first-ever Cardistry jam video. The other day I decided to re-watch a lot of them – and to sum the experience up, I took the liberty of editing the following “supercut”. I’ve assembled clips from nearly 25 jam videos I’ve filmed over the last decade into a 4-minute video. It is very unlikely that there is anyone out there that has seen all of the videos featured in this supercut – but if you’ve been around for a while and you’re an “old schooler” – you’re more than likely to feel your nostalgia sense tingle. And if you got into the community more recently – you didn’t really miss out on too much. I promise. Please enjoy:
What Defines a Jam Video
I think jam videos can be similar to performance videos, and sometimes it’s kind of a grey area and kind of hard to tell where one genre ends and the other begins. But generally speaking, there are a few characteristics that make a jam video easy to identify:
– Spontaneity. It feels spontaneous. It doesn’t feel like it was rehearsed. It’s okay to include mess-ups and errors in a jam video; in fact, it will actually enhance the video. It makes it seem more fun and laid back, it doesn’t seem like everyone is trying to take themselves too seriously, and it adds to the humanity and community aspect of things.
– People being people. I feel like a lot of performance videos feature people with very serious expressions, taking themselves very seriously while doing moves in some epic location. I’m guilty of shooting and releasing videos like that, too! And they’re without doubt really cool for showing off how great Cardistry can look. But for inspiring members of the community, it’s important to show the human/fun side of it, too. I mean, after all, we do this because it’s fun, right?
So, segments and shots of people traveling, people laughing, making jokes, getting food, doing normal non-card related things as well as sharing moves with each other, is really important to get that aspect across. We have fun when we hang out, and we want to share that in our jam videos.
– Humor. Jam videos are generally very funny. It seems to almost be a typical trait of the genre to include shots of people messing up, saying something funny, doing something funny or playing a prank on someone else. It’s good. Funny is good. It makes the video entertaining to watch.
A Brief History
I started making Cardistry videos ten years ago, in 2005. I first met Chris Hestnes, and we quickly became good friends. Chris introduced me to the world of Cardistry by showing me Dan & Dave’s The System DVD. Our first ever jam video came along in the fall of 2005. It was filmed during a night out in which we went for dinner at a pizza place in our hometown of Trondheim in Norway, performed card moves and later hit the streets to perform street magic for Greek soccer supporters. I saw it again recently and it’s incredibly cringe-inducing, but it was a start.
One of the first jam videos I ever remember seeing was “MWM – Messin’ With Myles”. I’m not 100% sure when it was made, but all my clues so far point to late 2005 or early 2006. It features Scott & Sean Watters along with Myles Nakouzi, roaming around in London. They’re sitting in a Starbucks coffee shop sharing moves, and later they hit the streets. This video features lots of distinctly funny moments, like trying ridiculous collaborative moves and one of the brothers balancing on top of a pillar with one foot while trying to do a Vertigo Hacky-sack move with the other foot. “That Night” by The Virts also deserves a honorable mention here, in terms of early jam videos I remember seeing.
But then, in the summer of 2006, Chris and I meet Jordan Lapping, Jonas Haglund, Erik Jansson, Ross McCourt and several others for the first time ever. We make a long, nearly 10-minute jam video from the FISM convention in Stockholm and post it on the Dan and Dave forums. That’s when it all begins.
From 2006 I made around two or three jam videos every year, until 2010. The ones that will be remembered by most are the Blackpool videos and the Magic Weekend videos. I had a slight break while in my last years of film school, but in 2012 I made the Magic-Con video, which seemed to be very well received!
That more or less brings us to this year.
I hadn’t made a proper jam video in over two years, though in January 2013 I went to The Session Convention in England and filmed a little video that featured a lot of familiar faces.
What do almost all of these aforementioned jam/convention videos have in common?
They were filmed at a magic convention.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love magic conventions more than the average guy. I only do magic nowadays. I go to many magic conventions. I think they’re fantastic. But now that I have some perspective on it, they’re honestly not really ideal for filming jam videos. At least not when you compare them to Cardistry-Con.
Why was Cardistry-Con different?
So here’s a couple of reasons why I think the Cardistry-Con videos turned out so good:
At Cardistry-Con, filming would never really interfere with the talks and program. There were set aside hours for jamming and mingling each days, and we had no late night events, so it was ideal to film at night when people went out for food or went back to the house after the day’s events.
At Cardistry-Con, there were only cardists present! Which means that instead of having to follow one group of magicians who also do flourishes for the whole convention, you can kind of walk around the convention venue and capture both staged and candid shots of people doing flourishes. Everywhere you look, someone is doing a flourish!
Cardistry-Con was a historic event. No, it really was. It was the first time many of these people had ever met. It was my first time meeting some people I had known for almost 10 years online – ever since the Decknique days. How crazy is that?
If we manage to capture any of that on video, it will almost inherently and automatically be interesting. At magic conventions you have to be in the right place at the right time – at Cardistry-Con, something interesting happens all the time.
The problem I’d usually have with the earlier jam videos was that I’d get home and realize I didn’t have enough footage. That’s why they would often be intercut with lots of B-roll of travel shots and funny bits, but then again that kind of accidentally ended up being a formula that worked really well.
At Cardistry-Con, I ended up with way too much footage. I had so much footage and almost all of it was great. So I had to just pick the best/most interesting/most relevant footage for the video, otherwise it might have been half an hour, and I feel that the kind of videos I make are best when they’re between 5 and 10 minutes in length. It’s just long enough to properly capture the mood, but not so long you get bored. However – if you look at Tobias Levin’s Los Angeles 2014 and New York 2015 videos – they’re really long videos – but they’re also really interesting. The format and style he chooses allows the length, and I’ve seen both of those probably two or three times each without being bored. It’s about finding your voice and style. The length of the video doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s interesting, flows well and has a structure.
Keep making jam videos. I want to see more great jam videos. Show us how much fun you have hanging out. Show us your practicing process and your idea jams. Give us a peek into the life and world of a cardist
It’s one of the most important things we can do for the community.
Some of the jam videos I’ve seen throughout the years have stayed with me and I keep going back to them and revisiting them often, wishing I were there, hanging out with those people. Recently I feel like Tobias Levin and Zach Mueller put out some really really interesting jam videos, and almost all of the jam videos that came out of Cardistry-Con (and there were a lot!) were all super fun, entertaining, and some were exceptionally well shot and edited. That makes me really happy, and inspires me to keep improving my video-making skills as well! The videos I have the fondest memories of are probably from the Dan&Dave forum and Decknique days, like some of the videos I mentioned earlier. I’m sure I’m remembering these videos through rose-tinted nostalgia glasses, though, and they seem much better than they actually are. But they were fun.
I hope I’ve managed to inspire many people with my videos. My goal is to make people feel like they were there with us, jamming and hanging out. Many people can’t make it to these meet-ups and conventions, but I want them to feel like they were there all along.
I hope I succeed. And hopefully I will keep making these videos for years to come, if time and opportunities allow it. I will definitely make an effort.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for watching!
PS: I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!