Malibu teen magician in new award-winning documentary

Malibu’s Krystyn Lambert is one of six teen magicians from around the world featured in “Make Believe,” a 90-minute documentary film that won the top jury prize in its category at the LA Film Festival in downtown Los Angeles last Saturday.

The documentary film, directed by relative newcomer Clay Tweel, follows the teens as they prepare to compete in the holy grail of teen magic contests- the annual Teen World Champion event hosted by Lance Burton in Las Vegas.

Lambert just completed her freshman year at UCLA as a philosophy major. A 2009 graduate of Malibu High School, many locals and fellow classmates remember Lambert’s performances at the school’s annual “Masque” events, where she won the “Best Stage Presence” award in 2005. Like most professional magicians, Lambert became hooked on magic at a very young age. She was inspired by a mime pulling quarters from her ear at Universal Studios when she was only four. Her mother bought her magic shop tricks, and she took her first step to becoming a professional act when she auditioned for the Magic Castle Junior Society at age 12. Since then, she’s received a number of awards for her performances, and her stage and screen appearances include “Masters of Magic,” “Masters of Illusion,” “America’s Most Talented Kids” and the “2007 World Magic Awards.”

Although nearly 50 individuals competed in the Teen World Champion event in the documentary, the “Make Believe” filmmakers specifically chose Lambert and the five other teen magicians portrayed in the film based on their passion about magic and ability to pop off of the screen. Each of the teens chosen represented something different to root for-each had different challenges and represented different things. For example, Lambert tends to be the only female in a field still dominated by males. Another duo came from the poverty stricken “marginalized areas” of Cape Town, South Africa, and a Japanese contestant grew up in a small rural town with no resources for practicing magic.

“Magic has a lot of interesting characters,” Tweel said. “Magic is the vehicle for some people coming of age.”

Some magic tricks, like one called the “split fan,” take years to learn; and the documentary shows the obsession of almost every one of the young magicians with practicing up to five hours a day until an illusion is perfect. Although some of the young magicians were lucky enough to have older mentors, many grew up without knowing anyone else the same age who shared their interest in magic, which is another reason the competitions are so important.

Teachers of magic say the best magic acts reflect the magician’s own interests and personality. Krystyn’s act is described in the film as “classical.” Her emphasis on interlocking rings had one promoter bill her as “the lady of the rings,” although she also develops new twists. She does what fellow magicians call a manipulation act, which is said to be difficult because so many things can go wrong. Others in the movie individualize their acts with costumes, humor and high-tech gadgets. The documentary shows that being a great magician isn’t just about the magic; it’s about how much the magician can make the audience care. It’s also about stage presence, energy, confidence and stage movement. Tweel said, “By and large, magicians are exemplary students.”

For the uninitiated, The Magic Castle featured in “Make Believe” was the first private club for magicians. The Harry Potter-like atmosphere includes a 100-year old Victorian mansion clubhouse in Hollywood serving the 5,000 magician members worldwide that belong to the Academy of Magical Arts, Inc. The Magic Castle Junior Society’s goal is “to take amateur kids that come in and prepare them to work as professionals.” Lambert said, “For my 11th birthday, my parents took me to the castle. It really is a Mecca. Everyone is there-everyone in magic throughout the world.” She now works there off and on; and she and several of her documentary co-stars will appear in the “Future Stars of Magic” show the week of July 26 – August 1.

When it came to being in the documentary, Lambert said she and the other magicians “really trusted Clay [Tweel, the director] and Steven [Klein, Producer]; and we trusted their integrity not to reveal our magic secrets.” As far as being followed everywhere by a camera, she said “You had to make a conscious decision to just ignore the cameras.” Tweel, meanwhile, looks forward to spending the unrestricted $50,000 grant he just won at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

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