David Blaine Productions
It’s impossible to categorize what this job entails.
The man is an enigma, the real deal. Any given day involves challenges of pure physical endurance, mental focus, science, art, and philosophy. His creative process is clear like a thousand-faceted crystal. It takes a freak to communicate on his wavelength.
During my time on the team, Blaine produced four prime-time TV specials (two including a live event broadcast), a TED talk, five posters by renowned artist Mark Stutzman, a dozen elite card decks, and a slew of small projects including worldwide private performances and celebrity adventures.
I began as a subcontractor on the web team for Drowned Alive, and creative meetings are enchanting; David’s point of view fascinates me. During his week in the sphere, I visit only once, to put a note up to the glass with a promise not to leave my desk until he gets out of there OK. He actually dies—and is resuscitated— before the week-long shift is through.
My technical challenge turns out to be parsing hundreds of thousands of personal messages submitted online by fans during the week that he was in the sphere. I have to propose, design, and implement the solution in a matter of hours, because it had simply not been considered. Blaine stresses the importance of supporting all the fans. A queueing system ensures that everyone gets at least a boilerplate response. The content team gets opportunities throughout each day to review topically relevant messages selected from the database and present some directly to David while he is underwater, getting the response written on a diver’s underwater notepad all the way back to the person who had sent it.
Two years later, I’m backstage at Oprah keeping track of digital assets critical to the establishment of his Guinness world record.
After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, David performs close-up magic in Times Square for three days nonstop, raising over $65,000 cash for the Salvation Army. We’re winging it on zero notice with a skeleton crew, so I’m there in the madness, standing with David mobbed by a crowd, camped out in the van making media, or buying coffee and bagels for the the NYPD to apologize for making a scene.
By 2012, he was electrified in a performance sponsored by Intel, championing everything we had learned over the years, working with Vice and major creative agencies who created a myriad of engaging portals.
In retrospect, it’s a priceless opportunity to have met with YouTube alongside David Blaine during an age of such rapid evolution of film and television.
He’s flattered that so many people had uploaded his TV performances online for the world to enjoy, and he loves those parody videos more than anyone. Yet, he is keen to guide the optics of his legacy.
Battles were fought, lands scorched. And a review of David Blaine’s modern online presence confirms that the foundation we built, the vectors upon which we set, have led to bounty.
Increasingly over my career, solutions are not developed from scratch, since the modern landscape includes options such as SquareSpace and Shopify to allow an artist to focus on the content, instead of hiring software developers to muck about.
I’m proud to have been the last stand of the web team, as it were, ensuring that by the time I handed over the reins of the online platform, it was all turn-key solutions from good public vendors.
Now that we arrive to the information age, I am mesmerized to reflect on how much Blaine “got it” since way back. David has an impeccable sense of product, and the online media themselves were never anything more than opacity for him, waiting to become clear.