Friday, April 3

“˜Make Believe’ reveals real magic

Documentary features student, following her passion and growth as a young magician

"Make Believe," featuring UCLA student Krystyn Lambert, will be showing at the Majestic Crest Theater in Westwood on Saturday.


Ivana Wynn / Daily Bruin

Hiroki Hara (left), Derek McKee, Bill Koch and second-year philosophy student Krystyn Lambert star in “Make Believe,” a documentary about teen magicians.


For her 10th birthday, second-year philosophy student Krystyn Lambert visited the Magic Castle in Hollywood, an exclusive venue for magicians. She was fascinated by the Victorian-style castle and its portraits with moving eyes, hidden trapdoors and piano-playing ghost.

By the time she was 12, she was accepted into the Juniors Program at the Magic Castle, where she performed, appeared on television and attended magic conventions.

In high school, Lambert became one of the six magicians featured in the documentary “Make Believe,” which won Best Documentary at the L.A. Film Festival in 2010 and will be screening Saturday at the Westwood Crest Theatre.

Director J. Clay Tweel and producer Steven Klein followed her around with a camera for a year, from her home to high school to competing at the World Magic Seminar in Las Vegas to become the Teen World Champion.

“Using magic ““ a thing that seems inexplicable and miraculous but is, underneath, accomplished through ordinary steps ““ as a metaphor for growing up is a brilliant idea,” Klein said.

Ticket sales will go toward United in Harmony, a charity dedicated to providing impoverished and homeless children with the self-esteem they need to follow their dreams. According to Tweel, the charity’s mission parallels the perseverance of the magicians in the documentary.

“Our hope was that we would end up with an uplifting story of dreams and determination as we watched these kids learn valuable life lessons that will carry into adulthood,” Tweel said.

Early in her career, at a luncheon hosted by Lance Burton for a magic convention, Lambert met Jamy Ian Swiss, a magician known for his sleight-of-hand card tricks. She had read his book “Shattering Illusions” and approached him to discuss it.

Swiss, whom she calls her “Magic Dad,” gave Lambert lessons on close-up magic and tried to become a mentor for her in the magic world by introducing her to people with whom she remains close.

“I spent a great deal of time talking with Krystyn about the art of magic, about its literature, its history, its artistic culture and community ““ all the many elements that contribute to making one an artist,” Swiss said.

It is the more intellectual aspects of magic that Lambert is particularly interested in, which makes studying philosophy especially relevant to her. In an ethics class she is taking this quarter, the professor excluded theater and magic, as they are unethical in their deception.

“In fact, magic is one of the most honest professions, because by nature of being a magician, I’m saying I’m going to lie to you and hopefully do a good job of it,” Lambert said.

Despite Lambert’s point of view, she said magic does not receive as much respect today as it deserves, particularly because of the Internet.

“I once attended someone else’s magic show, and you see all these people Googling what he just did, trying to figure it out. People aren’t interested in the performance aspect. They just focus on how it’s done,” Lambert said.

Lambert said she hopes to leave her audiences with a sense of wonderment rather than an obsessive desire to figure out the technicalities of her magic.

Much of the research and analysis that goes into her routine planning is geared not only toward perfecting her technical dexterity, but also conveying subtle themes.

Her routines have discussed Descartes and his theory of perception, as well as the numerous ways in which Shakespearean plays have been interpreted.

Lambert has become a novelty in the magic world as a successful female magician, though she continues to struggle with her gender in this male-dominated trade. She said she has sometimes been thought of as just a dancer or as someone capitalizing on her gender.

“The things I do are perceived very differently if a man were to do them,” Lambert said.
“It’s so discouraging when people say “˜she’s just a girl.’ I have a genuine and deep love for magic. I feel like I really have the right heart about it.”

Lambert, who will be attending the screening, said filming the documentary helped her to evaluate and shape the opinions and philosophies she maintains today.

“I think she has the desire to really bear down and excel in something that will set her apart ““ beyond her youth and beauty and the things that have gotten her this far,” Swiss said. “It’s the process that’s important and she is on the quest.”

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