Film shows Malibu teen’s quest to be World’s Best Magician

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The screening next Sunday follows six teen magicians from throughout the world, all aspiring to be the best at their craft.

By Paul Sisolak / Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu Film Society will screen a new documentary next week featuring a local teen and her quest to become one of the world’s best young magicians.

Krystyn Lambert of Malibu is one of six performers profiled in “Make Believe,” which will be shown on April 10, 7 p.m. at the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue’s Screening Room, as a sneak preview to its upcoming theatrical run. The film follows Lambert’s and her peers’ involvement in the world of the sleight of hand, and their subsequent trip to Las Vegas to compete for the title of World’s Best Magician.

“Make Believe” gives time to each performer, Bill Koch of Chicago, Hiroki Hara of Japan, Derek McKee of Colorado, Siphiwe Fangase and Nkumbuzo Nkonyana of South Africa, and Lambert, showing their struggles as average teenagers growing up, trying to break into a small, sometimes unhip show business niche not normally associated with a younger crowd.

“It’s got a lot of advantages and disadvantages,” Lambert, now 20, said. “A lot of magic is written for men in suits. You have to rewrite a lot of stuff in terms of message.”

Yet Lambert, already seasoned at the art of magic, came to the movie through Los Angeles’ most famous pantheon of classic and old-time wizardry-the Magic Castle in Hollywood, where she has been a member of its Junior Society since age 12.

There, she connected with Steven Klein, producer of “Make Believe.” A one time a teen magician himself, Klein had been collaborating with director J. Clay Tweel on ideas for a film about magic, but was unsure at the time of who or what their story should be about. Film was the perfect medium for a magic documentary because, the producer said, magic performance is the perfect allegory for storytelling.

“I saw every magic trick as a distilled story,” Klein said. “It has a beginning, middle and end, and is a good exercise in storytelling. Every trick is like a distilled story.”

After seeing Lambert’s talents-the blond Malibuite’s signature act is the Chinese linking rings trick-the movie’s focus took shape around her and five other high school students from across the planet.

“Make Believe” took nearly two years to film and culminated with the final competition in Las Vegas. The filmmakers declined to give away the ending, preferring for people to come out to see the film next week. And like magic, the end isn’t always as important as the evolution of the magic trick. Tweel prefers viewers to see the movie with that mindset: the magic act as a growth process, a reflection of maturity in the movie’s six players.

“It was interesting to me to see how these kids are asking questions of themselves that are artistic and introspective, at an age when I didn’t think on that level,” Tweel said. “They’re asking themselves, ‘How does my magic act reflect who I am?’ That blew my mind.”

Lambert discovered this when she joined the Magic Castle as its youngest member, and uses this thinking now as a student at UCLA, where her experiences as a professional magician inform her academic life, and vice versa.

“That’s when I learned there was more to magic than, ‘Now you see it, now you don’t.’ There’s so much more thinking involved,” she said. “I feel so much of what fuels my muse is intellectual. Being a philosophy major has really fostered my growth for the way I analyze and approach problems.”

Lambert’s forte is “platform magic,” a mix of close-up audience interactions, card tricks and the like, intertwined with intricate, choreographed stage acts. As “Make Believe” will reveal, part of the difficulty that magicians face, Lambert admits, is the balance of sharing their craft and not giving away their trade secrets.

“The art is to hide the art,” she said.

Lambert said she hopes the movie will inspire others to their callings, that true magic is fostering self expression, and love and passion for something.

“What the documentary really conveys is just the importance of having a passion, whether it’s knitting or soccer or singing or anything, but to really have that love and passion and just dive for your dreams,” she said. “I think that’s important when people don’t have that outlet.”

Following the film, Lambert, along with Klein and Tweel, will be on hand for a question-and-answer session with audience members.

A special live musical performance by Cimorelli will take place before the screening.

Cimorelli is comprised of six sisters from California: Christina, Katherine, Lisa, Amy, Lauren and Dani, who have been making music together since before they could walk.

The Malibu Screening Room is at 24855 Pacific Coast Highway; general admission is $15, $10 for MFS members, and $5 for students. More information can be found online at malibufilmsociety.org