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Watch The Hands

Dealt ... Overcoming the Odds By Miles Weston

The toughest critics an Indie filmmaker can face are the people who attend film festivals.

They come, not just to be entertained but to be knocked out of their seats by the story that is told and how it is told.

In addition, there's more than a few of their peers in the audience

So, it was easy to understand why Andrew Lee, of Ralph Smyth Entertainment, was "a little" on edge when we met up with him last Spring at SXSW.

For more than four years, Lee and others had been working with Luke Korem, director and creative head of one of the most unique documentaries to be shown at this year's SXSW.  

The story line seemed a little improbable.  

It's centered on 62-year-old Richard Turner, who you quickly learn is one of the most renowned card magicians in the world.

He's also completely blind.

During a phone conversation, Luke's dad reminded him he had introduced him to Richard as a youngster and added, "I've been telling you that you need to make a film about this guy!"
It turned out that Richard Turner now lives in San Antonio, just an hour away from Luke's and Lee's home town Austin

Even with his father's long history with Turner, Luke knew convincing him to let them tell his story would require his cooperation and assistance. He had already turned down a number of offers before the team approached him, but they all felt they were up to the task.

Turner vetted all of the creative/production team's work before agreeing to let them do a documentary on him.

During the four-year shooting/production odyssey, Turner continually mesmerized the crew.

But more important than his handling of the cards, the film focuses on Turner himself, how he overcame challenges and how became so adroit at card slight-of-hand.  

One of the first things he tells you during the 85-minute documentary is that he's not a magician, he's a card mechanic.

"A magician cannot do what I do with cards," he emphasized.

As you watch the film and Richard's trademark sleight-of-hand, one of the first things you learn is that you never want to sit in on a card game with him.

In fact, you may swear off card games ... forever.

Card Close-Up - While Turner manipulates the cards, the crew focuses on capturing his artistry.

Turner's rapid-fire, card-controlling deception is mind-boggling.

It's a blinding mixture of light-fingered, deal-from-the-middle, hide-in-plain-sight hocus-pocus.

He makes you question your own eyesight because you simply can't believe you saw what you saw.  

The script that Luke and Brad Jackson developed goes much deeper than superb card handling.  

The film, which is scheduled for theatrical release in October, moves back and forth between Turner's personal experiences and his resolve to let nothing - even blindness - stand in his way.

Turner began losing his eyesight when he was nine but it didn't deter him from his career goal of becoming a master at handling 52 cards to mystify and amaze people - even the best.  

And he perfected his card mechanic techniques so well that he has inspired respect from seasoned Las Vegas game protection experts.  

He's so good at manipulating playing cards, he can win or lose at will.

No matter how many times you watch him handle the cards, you can't figure out how he does it.

Eyes Have It - During the film, Turner makes you understand that the loss of his sight is also one of his greatest strengths and that he is able to "see" things others don't.  

Dealt is much more than a documentary about one man and how he overcame his apparent handicap.

It is a convincing story of how a person can overcome anything once he or she positively addresses the situation and has a great support team in place.

During the film, you gain an understanding as to how his blindness affects his family - wife, Kim, and son, Asa. You quickly realize he's a well-rounded man with a great family.

In fact, the segments of the film that focus on his wife and son are almost as inspiring as his attitude toward life, his abilities and his card-handling expertise.  These moments and interviews enhance the emotional richness of the film.

The film also includes Turner's sister Lori who, in spite of also losing her vision, runs a construction company.  

You get to see how two people in the same family approach the challenges in their own unique way.

In a world where people often play the victim, you appreciate early in the film that Richard Turner isn't one of those people and that he refuses to let blindness define any part of him.

Heightened Senses - When his sight failed, Richard Turner put his other senses to work, even becoming a black belt in martial arts.  

During the interview that is interspersed within the film, the crew included a segment of riding motorcycles when he could barely make out the road lane divider lines.

Richard refused to accept any pity and rejected discouragement by mastering martial arts and earning a black belt.  

The film crew accompanied Richard on his performances around the globe during which he doesn't allow the people introducing him or in the audience to talk about his blindness as some type of remarkable feat.

In one interview, he says he cheats because he has ten eyes as he waves his fingers at the camera.   

He rejects the accepted vestiges of blindness - seeing eye dog, cane, or other tools for the visually impaired.  "To Richard, these are signs of weakness," Lori explained.

As you watch him perform his card mechanic tricks and inspirational presentations ("Winning with the Cards You're Dealt") around the globe, you realize he is anything but vulnerable.

"I'm not going to accept anything less," Richard proclaims during Dealt, "even though the less keeps coming."

As the filming progressed, the Dealt team came to know and appreciate his complete dedication to his art.

"No matter where we were at or what they were doing to set up a scene, Turner was nearby compulsively practicing shuffling cards,"
a crew member noted.  "Sometimes, he would be working with two decks simultaneously with one in each hand." 

Post Production - Richard Smythe Entertainment's Andrew Lee stepped away from his workstation to show where he and Luke Korum spent hours, days sorting through four years of film they took covering Richard Turner.  Lee kept the hundreds of hours of irreplaceable content on his OWC storage system.

"No matter how often I watched him while we were shooting and processing the film- even when we slowed the frame rate way down," said Lee, head of Ralph Smythe Entertainment.  "I simply could not figure out how he does what he does."

So seriously, how good is he really?

In August, Turner was invited to appear on the Penn and Teller "Fool Me" TV show (you can see the segment on YouTube).

Fool Me - During the shooting of a recent Penn & Teller Fool Me show, Turner pitted his skills against the experienced Las Vegas magicians.  

The two master Las Vegas magicians admitted defeat and told Turner they were completely fooled.

Korem and the Dealt team did an excellent job of capturing Turner's amazing talent; but
Dealt is more than an interesting documentary about a card mechanic and how he overcame his handicap.  But see for yourself -

The film really makes you put your own life and all its shortcomings and problems into proper perspective.  

Dealt is encouraging, entertaining and inspirational. It makes you want to live every day to the fullest.  It's also one of the best examples of what drives Indie filmmakers we've seen in a long, long time!

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Undercover author Miles Weston has spent more than 30 years in the storage, software and video industry, indulging in, among other things, marketing activities in promoting PC, CE, communications, content technology and their applications . Contact Miles through his editor by clicking here.

Related Keywords:indie filmmaker, magic


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