Gone with the Wind: Re-thinking French Drop

Any magician who's ready to present a casual coin trick should ask themselves: what's going on inside the spectator's head? These are assumptions we can reasonably make on the psychological needs of our audience and we ought to cater these needs by setting up an economical but powerful routine. Audience members generally expect to be entertained -- to be slightly surprised by the magician's skill set. As they watch a performance, they're assessing the magician's eagerness and ability to utilize their skill set as well as the width and size of its volume; and to give an overall rating of their little roller-coaster ride. Even a trick as simple as the French Drop should, therefore, be supported with, however simple but nevertheless necessary, a theme and patter that follows, elements of surprise and emotional triggers, all to be delivered through the magician's choreographic, misdirection and storytelling skills.

The exploration on assumptions made by spectators sheds light upon correcting mistakes in our performance and understanding what could be missing in our routines. Very often, when a beginner does the French Drop maneuver, they begin by setting up a coin carefully into the Spellbound position. The stiffness of the hands and the setup of the coin in a mandatory position result in an impression that the magician is perhaps doing something fishy or even using a gimmick. When I watched those viral video clips in which pet owners do French Drop for their pets, I couldn't resist the urge to suspect that they were setting up the coin on an invisible pulley of some sort. The get-ready move diminishes the impact of the overall effect before it begins, by hinting a gimmick that isn't even really in use.

The advantage of an impromptu effect is that even hecklers can feel the casual look it gives. When a spectator hands you their coin, either because they are requested to or when someone wanted to test if you could perform with their currency, they perceive the magic as casual and fair. Getting a coin into and out of Spellbound position must be covered by a plot so that the casual impression is kept. To maintain the consistency of the plot, we need a theme. My favorite theme is a sucker effect, and the nature of which is often misunderstood, even by professional magicians.

A good sucker effect should be welcoming and built around rapport. For me, it entails the invitation to my spectators to join me in the journey of trials-and-errors and to enjoy the frustration of failures together until my final destination is arrived. Proverb says, "Don't try to be interesting. Be interested in what you do." To begin with, I raise my spectators' expectation by claiming I will make the coin appear to be bigger to them -- by hypnotism. I then surprise them by holding the coin in an upside-down Spellbound position at eye level; and by moving back and forth towards and away from their eyes, I'm able to fulfill my claim. As I mumble, "Bigger, smaller…" as if I'm caught up in the linguistic trick, their expectation for my magic drops. They were the fools to have believed in me but I am the real sucker in the scene.

In the aspect of choreography, several things are going on in terms of misdirection. First, Spellbound position is used purposefully as a position for displaying and "enlarging" the coin. Second, the on-beat and off-beat moments are defined by raising and lowering of the hand as well as adjusting my posture and the distance between us so that the key move can be done with just the right amount of attention. Third, the frame of vision is set up during the period of putting emphasis on the coin at eye level. And fourth, the invasion of the spectator's intimate space is done without their realizing, which will allow me to dump the coin easily by moving it out of the frame of vision.

After the "taking" action of the coin, hold the imaginary coin as if you're holding a real coin. That means your fingers should be straight and flat. Leave the palm open and keep your fingers pointing towards the sky. Talk about what you have done to "the coin" and what you're going to do with it which is implied to be in your hand by your speech. This may be called form maintenance and time misdirection. As long as your hand isn't closed, the spectator does not think of it as a key moment for the working of the effect. After dumping the real coin, place the imaginary coin into the other hand and close a fist around it. This is called simulation. Finally, the vanish of the coin is accomplished by rubbing the coin into dust with both hands and letting wind blow it away.


since 2018 by Calvin Sze