Ross Bertram: Master Magician


Even though Ross had withdrawn from public performing and the general magic community, he maintained his passion for magic and creating material. He threw most of his creative time into creating home movies documenting his work. Here is a brief example of his work:

Ross Bertram performs rub Down

A lifelong student of photography and filmmaking, Ross became proficient at both. He possessed numerous cameras to capture still and moving images. He had a fully-operational darkroom in his basement and took great delight in photographing and developing his own pictures.

Unbeknownst to the magic community, his uncredited photographs grace the pages of many magic publications. He was particularly proud of his photograph of the Magic Castle that graced Genii on numerous occasions in the 1960s.

In creating a film, Ross would storyboard each sequence and draft a shooting script. He created a set in his basement and erected his own studio lighting. He would map out each shot and then call in an assistant, usually his wife Helen, to shoot the film. The film was sent out for developing.

When it was returned, Ross would cut and splice the entire film on an editing bank in his own home. Ross would then copy music from his archive of albums on to a reel-to-reel tape recorder, mixing his own soundtrack in the process. Ross then transferred the mix to a magnetic sound stripe and laid it on the film by hand, trying to synchronize the cinematic sequence with the sound. Each film was a labor of love. 

Ross would create the film around a common theme. 

In his Tribute to Tenkai, for example, Ross performed his handling of numerous effects explained in the Magic of Tenkai including the Tenkai Pennies and the Butterfly and Fan. He also presented some of his own revolutionary work built on the Tenkai Palm. Other films like the Egyptian Cups & Balls presented a beautiful sequence of cups and ball moves, some of classic origin and others of his own creation. Here is an excerpt from his film on the Egyptian Cups & Balls. To watch the whole clip, visit the video archive.

excerpt from the Egyptian Cups & Balls by Ross Bertram

​​​​​​​Many of the films record pure performance, that is, studio performance. In many ways, Ross was the Glenn Gould of the magic world.  He retired from public performances and became enamored with creating magic images in another medium. Several of his films that teach magic are quite instructive in the art of how to teach the subject. I would advise magicians who create teaching videos to look at the way Ross taught magic on film. Each was presented and edited in a very entertaining manner—performance first, behind the scene explanations with many close ups, and the repetition of the performance to anchor the effect and the technique in the mind of the viewer.