• Spell Casting Lessons From The Movie Biz

    by  •  • Magic • 6 Comments

    Send to Kindle

    There is a little trick I picked up in film school that has found many, many applications in my life beyond merely breaking writer’s block… Which was the reason I was initially taught it.

    I am going to share the trick with you but it strikes me that there are actually numerous parallels between film making and magic.

    • Both start with an intangible and end up in the real world.
    • Both rely on a freakish mixture of luck and talent in wildly differing amounts.
    • Both have a similar success rate.
    • In both, all it takes is one decent result and you are set for life.
    • Both can change the world.
    • Jim Cameron is probably crap at magic as well.

    The biggest similarity is that movie making begins with one idea in one person’s head that kickstarts a very complex and involved series of events, leading to an end result that (in theory) represents the physical manifestation of that original idea.

    Just like Big Magic.

    Working with these similarities, here is a magical process that takes the best of Hollywood techniques and manipulates them for your own nefarious purposes. This is built for those of you interested in shoaling your spells but it can certainly be used in pretty much any way you see fit.

    100 Bad Ideas

    This is the trick. And it’s a doozy. Or to use old timey Hollywood jargon, a humdinger.

    Think of it like brainstorming for one.

    If you are stuck on a scene or if you are looking to generate new ideas for an episodic TV series, get a whiteboard or even just a blank sheet of paper and write down -just like it sounds- 100 bad ideas.

    Give yourself the freedom to write down some truly sucky ideas. Just write quickly and without judgement. You won’t even get to twenty before you go “hey, that’s pretty fucking sweet!”

    Now… Think of this in terms of the most common Big Magics: Wealth & Love. Or any magical result that

    • has thus far eluded you.
    • has an unclear path to your preferred result.
    • could potentially have dozens and dozens of manifestation pathways.

    Write down 100 bad magical objectives and keep going until you get a couple of potential humdingers. This is completely open. Don’t censor yourself in the slightest. Pretend you have unlimited resources and possibly even a helicopter.

    Money examples might include: start an etsy store, become an eBay antiques trader, sell my hair, start a sex website, learn how to trade commodities, tutor kids in math in the evenings, rob graves, become a world famous singer, build a free energy machine, grow commercial quantities of marijuana and/or tulips… And so on.

    Then immediately discount the criminal ones. (That last sentence constitutes my legal disclaimer.) Leave in the improbable ones. They are just ideas at the moment. Pick the ones that you like. Pick the potential humdingers.

    Now put your humdingers through development hell.

    Development (hell)

    The next and most painful step in any commercial creative endeavor is development hell. This is where your precious script or treatment is “developed” by an endless string of middlemen who constantly dangle the eventual possibility of small amounts of money in front of you.

    It can last for years.

    But the basic notion behind it is that your idea is fleshed out into something more holistic and achievable.

    It’s much more fun in magic than in movies.

    Take your humdingers and put them one by one through the universe’s least annoying development process: your preferred card deck.

    Getting a holistic overview will help you identify weak points in your idea, throw up new ways of approaching it and ultimately decide whether or not this humdinger is worth being greenlit. Record the feedback.

    Once one or more of your humdingers are greenlit, you are officially in pre-production.

    Pre- Production

    I include this step for the other massive nerds out there. Or anyone who has ended up with a string of very positively developed humdingers and thus a potentially complicated delivery schedule.

    Plus, we’re using the metaphor of the world’s greatest ever dream factory here. Why wouldn’t you think big?

    Break the larger humdingers down into smaller actions. Be sure to include any relevant steps that came out of your development card readings. This is essential if you are shoaling and optional if you are not.

    Even if you aren’t going to shoal, you still need to make sure you have identified what are known as finish to start deliverables.

    These are events or items that have to be in place before you can move onto the next task. More information on this is available in the free ebook that you can get if you subscribe to my posts (by email or reader).

    And here’s a super-helpful list of 15 templates for project management and tracking.


    Finally the fun bit. The actual spell casting.

    In my case, this would be when I start the rounds of sigil shoaling. But it can be however you do these things. Hollywood is very open (unless you’re gay or a woman over forty).

    Be sure to track and update if you have a particularly complex piece of Big Magic going.


    Learned anything? Have your results so far shifted your objective or changed your approach to achieving it.

    Then start again and put these new learnings through development hell.

    Have a flexible release window

    Where the movies/magic metaphor falls down is at the very end. Unless you are actually spell casting to get your movie made and released, you don’t have to time for the summer release window/pre-Christmas DVD market. You are in charge.

    I think this is a wider failing within modern magic; the whole notion that you do one spell, wait a bit and then write down whether or not it worked.

    Sure, there are some results that are binary: Either that chick in the bar came home and had sex with you or she didn’t.

    But most enchantments and all Big Magics -wealth, love, etc- are by their very nature open ended. Which is, incidentally, why I like lots of little enchantments toward one big goal rather than one large spell. It provides the opportunity for ongoing improvement.

    What does all this mean for your spell casting? What is the last bit of Hollywood advice?

    Don’t ship it till it’s cooked.


    London-based occultist and pseudo-pseudohistorian. Messes about with sigils. Travels a lot but is otherwise extremely lazy.


    6 Responses to Spell Casting Lessons From The Movie Biz

    1. July 17, 2010 at 6:33 pm

      I take it you weren’t overly thrilled about the Blue Cat Folk on Pandora, either?
      Jack Faust´s last blog post ..The Good- the Bad- and the WTF

    2. July 18, 2010 at 8:50 am

      I don’t think it’s fair to single out just one film he’s made. :)

    3. July 27, 2010 at 2:21 pm

      I tried that “100 Bad Ideas” thing. Very interesting little exercise. An emergent pattern appeared. One of my greatest challenges doing sigil magic has been what I should actually ask for, because motivations are subject for change. I think this solves the problem quite well. Now I have a lot of material to work with and more clear picture of a bigger pattern that build from small ideas.
      Fractal Based Life Form´s last blog post ..Sitting Down

    4. July 27, 2010 at 2:24 pm

      Glad it was helpful.

      I certainly get a lot of mileage out of it.

    5. Pingback: The Happy Home Project « Lion's Paw

    6. Pingback: 10 Universal Sigils To Bulk Out Your Shoal

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    CommentLuv badge