An internet controversy has grown from a dissagreement between Russ Stevens (of RSVP) and Kieron Lefever (known in the magic world as Kieron Johnson) over the contents of a “Gentleman Agreement” for a trick which allows a performer to produce a block of ice from fire. You can watch the trailer for the original effect here:
The new Ice routine by Keiron Johnson. Includes special To the Max Ice Holder that finally makes this effect possible. Reputation making magic at it’s best!
According to Stevens, he was approached by Johnson three years ago, asking him to work on some ideas, in particular the production of a block of ice – Stevens recollection of the event is that a verbal agreement was made which included a fee to be paid to Johnson, along with a supply of DVDs in return for the rights to the effect. Stevens wrote: “Our gentleman’s agreement of course included the rights to the effect that became ‘To the Max’.”
Johnson claims he never received the promised fee, and had to wait for a year for the supply of DVD’s to be delivered to him. He admits that he isn’t a great businessman and was unclear on whether the rights to the effects were discussed. He assumed that the copyright of the DVD would be owned by Russ and the Intellectual Property of the effects would stay with him.
To add to the confusion Stevens didn’t provide a written contract – meaning that it is one persons word against the other.
Johnson recently partnered with Ellusionist to create a new product entitled “Element” which includes as one of the effects, a much improved version of the Ice Appearance trick, along with further handlings. Johnson has worked hard over the last 3 years to improve the effect and the gimmick to allow it to hold a block of ice for up to an hour in the Dubai heat, up from the previous 20 minutes. The effect is very similar, but the product itself has been upgraded to higher quality materials and has been researched further to give better insulation for the ice.
Stevens took to Facebook to put in writing his dissapointment in how his trust in Kieron appeared misplaced. He wrote:
What I don’t see however is how a producer like Ellusionist can simply take products that are already on the market and copy them without any contact of any kind to the original producer. Of course they’ll say they own the rights and legally they do. I stupidly trusted Kieron and never thought he’d screw me over like that and it makes me very sad that he did.
Ellusionist pointed out that this situation was something between Kieron and Stevens and Steven wrote that he totally sees that viewpoint.
Jamie Raven, who is managed by Stevens, featured this trick on Britains Got Talent as part of his second place winning performance. Seeing his work on BGT was a big surprise to Johnson, as he saw it being performed on TV at the same time as everyone else. He wasn’t asked if the effect could be performed, which if Stevens believes he owned the rights wasn’t necessary, however Stevens didn’t even let Johnson know that his effect was being used. Johnson told me that he would have of course given Jamie his permission, and would have travelled to London to help Jamie in any way he needed, at his own expense, without requesting any sort of fee.
Stevens main issue seems to be that Element contains effects that he believes he owns the rights to, although he is unable to provide any contracts that prove this.
I contacted Stevens to ask for a statement but he declined to comment.
Johnson called me to discuss his side of the story – and his passion for magic came through loud and clear. He said that he wanted to release new versions of his effects and Russ wasn’t interested, or was busy, and Ellusionists were interested in releasing them.
When talking to Ellusionists Johnson insisted that the product be made in the UK even though they could have been made much cheaper elsewhere, giving him more commission for him, however Johnson wanted to keep production in the UK to give jobs to this country, even though it meant earning less in commission. He told me that Ellusionists listened to his concerns and ideas, talked through the contract with him and held his hand throughout the process. It is clear to me that he wears his heart on his sleeve and he spoke to me at length about how all of this has affected him and his family.
Talking about Stevens, Johnson said
“I look up to him and wish him all the best, and I thank him for the exposure he has given me.”
He followed up with
“My work puts food on people’s tables, which I love. All I ever wanted to do was to release and share new magic. The deal I have with Ellusionists will pay my mortgage for the next year… I would like to thank all the people who have messaged me with support. I am very grateful to them.”
The lesson to be learnt from this is to make sure you always have agreements in writing in case of misunderstandings in the future, and ensure that all parties read and understand them fully.
How different does a method or presentation need to be before it is considered a new product? Johnson believes he had made significant improvements to the original effect, along with updates and new routines, and needed a partner to release them. Ellusionist were willing to meet Johnsons requests and a deal was made.
The new Ellusionist product “Element” is available at the following link:
Produce a block of ice from anywhere… Turn scorching flames into a frozen block of ice in their hands. Element is a jam packed two-volume masterpiece crafted by one of Britain’s most prevalent working magicians. Element includes a revolutionary precision gimmick, handmade by JM Authentics. Element began with one man and his obsession with superheroes.
The RSVP products are still available at the following links:
To the Max by Keiron Johnson (complete with special holder) – Check out the trailer at the bottom of this page Imagine producing a block of solid Ice at aby time during your act! That’s right. At any time hold out the spectator’s hands and produce, from nowhere, a block of Ice in their own hands!
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For those of you who are friends with Russ Stevens on Facebook – the full thread (which Russ has said will not be taken down) can be read here:
So here I am sitting backstage at a major West End Theatre, where the act that I manage and create magic with, is headlining for two months. I should be…
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