My most negative professional working experience

In our recent magicseen magazine interview, Ning & I were asked what our most negative experiences have been. Extracted from our 10-page interview is my answer:

” Working with a particular TV production house as a magic consultant for a local Malay language Street Magic show was by far the worst experience of my professional career.

Every element of it was an agonizing experience due to the production company’s unprofessional approach to anything, dishonesty, disrespect and incompetence. The director/ producer was a tyrant who did not listen to anyone including me, which begged the question of why he even hired me in the first place.

I designed several illusions for the show but none of the requirements of props that I required were built at all. There was little planning or pre-production work, especially for the magic. And, they were late for shoots because they constantly drank at night and overslept.

Another problem was that the other star of the show, who was a non-Singapore magician, was happy to rip-off other people’s effects especially many of Cyril’s effects, including his Bungee Jump Card Stab. He also wanted to do Copperfield’s Laser but could not do it properly so abandoned the idea. When I found out, I told the magician and producer not to do any of the pirated effects as that was one reason why I was on board as a consultant, to ensure a high standard of magic and credibility. They refused so I asked for my name to be removed from the credits.

Ultimately, the final product, as you can imagine, was not very good. I did not even watch a single episode of it. The only reason I did the show was because one of my talents at that time was one of the stars of the show.

Actually, I threatened to walk out when my first down payment was not made but decided not to for the sake of the talent. To top if off, I was never paid the balance of my fee. It is now clear that they never intended to. (Their first cheque bounced so I pulled the plug on production on the first day of filming at Vivocity. The crew and talent sat around doing nothing. Eventually, a wad of cash was ‘magically produced’ so that production could continue)

After the filming of the show, I had to fire the talent in question because of unethical and unprofessional behaviour on his part… but that is another story altogether. I doubt that anything would top this experience, as I will never work as a consultant with any other TV production company unless I’m paid in full upfront. In addition, I’m very selective with who I work with now.”

Here is more background info on this project not in the interview.

To share some of the workload at that time (as we were developing “Ultimate Magic” and Ning’s “The Impalement Cage” mega escape at that time), I brought in a good friend and brilliant magic thinker who I paid in full (even though I was only paid half my fee) to develop some of the Street Magic routines and be on-site for the Street Magic shoots.

To make things more frustrating, we were only brought in to consult for one talent (who we represented at that time) but in the end was practically arm-twisted to provide material for the other talent. Well, if we did not, that other talent was just going to rip off effects and routines from other magicians he saw on YouTube. Our professional ethics and integrity did not allow us to permit that.

You are probably wondering if I took legal action to get the balance payment. No, I did not even though I’m protected with my contract. I did not take on this project for the money. It was purely to help our talent at that time get a break and use it to springboard him to leverage off this media project. I did not want to waste any more of my time on the project, plus it is highly unlikely that they would have the money to pay up even if the court rules in my favour. And, chances are I am not the only one they owed money; so it will be a long line to wait to get any money.

Actually, Ning & I spoke to someone in the broadcast/ production industry before taking on the project and we asked about this person/ production house. He warned us that everyone who works with them never works with them ever again. Now, we clearly know why. I’m honestly surprised they are still in business actually.

For those in the industry who are reading this and know who I’m talking about – stay clear and do not have anything to do with them. This negative experience doesn’t bother me or keep me awake at night but I would hate for this to happen to someone else.

You will also realize that all references to this project has been removed from my websites and blogs as I do not want to be associated with this project or the production company behind the TV show.

And, I do not want them to piggy back any of our promotional tools to bring publicity to the show or production. If you remember back in May – Jul last year, we had tremendous support from the media and public on Singapore’s first permanent illusion show and our mega events. The production company actually wanted to piggy back off Ning’s mega escape to promote their show. They were upset/ angry when I refused (good call with hindsight now. Whew!) and the show never really got any decent PR which is probably why you have not heard of it…. but that is a good thing.


About J C Sum

International Headline Entertainer, Content Creator and Investor
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