Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay

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 Reviewed in THE NEW YORK TIMES!

There’s a new article about Ricky Jay in the Wall Street Journal.










DECEPTIVE PRACTICE: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay

a documentary film produced and directed
by Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein

Josh Braun
Submarine Entertainment
Office: (212) 625-1410

Louise Rosen
Louise Rosen Ltd.
Office: +1 207-725-8215

Shannon Treusch
Falco Ink.
Office: (212) 445-7100
Cell: (917) 225-7093

Molly Bernstein

Alan Edelstein



“Well structured and dynamically edited…”
“…This thoroughly engrossing, highly entertaining docu should delight fans and newcomers alike…”
Ronnie Scheib, (10/4/12)


“One of the most compelling characters in magic gets his due…”
John DeFore, (9/29/12)


“Wonderfully engaging…”
Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine (9/29/12)


“An intriguing…biography of a true master magician…”
Drew Taylor, – The Playlist (10/4/12)


“…An entertaining introduction to the nimble-fingered card specialist.”
“…Offers an intriguing peak into an exclusive but collegial world…”
Joe Bendel, (10/3/12)


“…Visual magic experience…”
“…Inexplicable and entertaining…”
Kurt Brokaw, (10/4/12)


“Like any good magician, this documentary left me wanting to see more.”
Chris McKittick, (10/4/12)


“…An incredible tale of illusionist’s skill…”
Mark Young, (10/5/12)


“[Ricky Jay's] love and infinite knowledge of these worlds and lore gives the film a framework beyond mere biography”
Jason Bailey, (10/14/12)



What happens when documentary filmmakers, whose mission is to probe, explore, reveal, take as their subject one of the world’s greatest living magicians, whose life and art are basically off limits to probing, exploration, and revelation? More than a decade in the making, Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay is the captivating result of this curious conundrum: a mesmerizing journey into the world of modern magic and the small circle of eccentric geniuses who mastered it.

At it’s center is the multitalented Ricky Jay, a best-selling author and historian, an acclaimed actor, a leading collector of antiquarian books and artifacts, but above all a conjurer capable of creating a profound sense of wonder and disbelief in even the most jaded of audiences. In his extraordinary—and extraordinarily popular—one-man shows Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants and Ricky Jay: On the Stem, he proved himself to be the contemporary embodiment of an elite lineage, offering audiences not only exhilarating entertainment, but also a rare glimpse of a secret, lost world.

Told largely in Ricky’s own inimitable voice, Deceptive Practice traces the story of his achievement, from his early apprenticeship, beginning at age 4, with his grandfather Max Katz, an accomplished amateur magician, as well as Al Flosso, Slydini, Cardini, Francis Carlyle, and Roy Benson, all of whom were among the best magicians of the 20th century. Above all it celebrates the remarkable lives of Ricky’s two primary mentors of his young adulthood, Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller. Of the latter, Ricky recalls: “For Charlie a good evening could be asking you to do the same shuffle 16,000 times … It was just endless the variations and the craziness, but it was often as close to pure joy as anything I can imagine.” The film weaves together stunning performance footage from his one-man shows and classic TV appearances, and also includes friends and collaborators such as Steve Martin (who joins him in a hilarious turn on a ’70s vintage Dinah Shore TV show) and David Mamet, who says of Ricky: “He’s devoted to that theater that he alone sees. He has the ideal of magic in his mind to which he’s devoted his life: to teaching it, to performing it, to perfecting it, to researching it.”

By the end of the film, viewers not only have a deep appreciation for the arduous and arcane demands of the magician’s craft, but also for the use of language and storytelling central to the art. And of where this ancient tradition is headed, that shall remain a mystery …


sleight-of-hand artist, author, historian, actor


writer and director

professor of statistics & mathematics, Stanford University

journalist, The Guardian


martial artist
deputy sheriff (ret.) Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept.

Molly Bernstein, Producer/Director/Editor
Alan Edelstein, Producer/Co-director
Alicia Sams and Philip Dolin, Producers
Cathy Greenwold and Terry Gross, Executive Producers
Ronald Guttman, Executive Producer
Edward Marritz, Ben Wolf, Joey Forsyte, Camera
Olivier & Claire Manchon, Original Music
Mark Singer, Michael Weber,  Creative Consultants

Special musical contributions by
Bob Dylan
David Grisman
Duke Robillard

Narration by Dick Cavett


MOLLY BERNSTEIN (Producer/Director)
Molly Bernstein has written and directed documentary profiles of leading figures in the arts, including Bernardo Bertolucci, Estelle Parsons, John Sayles and others for the Sundance Channel and AMC. She has also worked extensively as an editor on documentary films including the 2009 Emmy and Peabody Award winning JEROME ROBBINS: SOMETHING TO DANCE ABOUT, featured on the PBS series American Masters. Other editing credits include WITNESSES TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, an historical series written by Elaine May, and LIBERTY! , a PBS series on the American Revolution produced by Middlemarch Films. Molly has recently made numerous short films with Particle Productions about contemporary artists for the James Cohan Gallery, and about art collectors in China, Japan and the USA for VIP Art Fair and Christie’s. She has an MFA in film from Columbia University.

ALAN EDELSTEIN (Producer/Co-Director)
Alan Edelstein received an Academy Award nomination for his documentary short THE WIZARD OF THE STRINGS, a profile of the 1920′s string instrumentalist and vaudeville star Roy Smeck. He has worked as a writer and producer for Nowak Associates, Great Projects Film Company, and Sundance Channel, among others. A journalist as well as filmmaker, he has written on arts and culture for publications including The New York Times, the Forward, and Transition, a Harvard University publication.

ALICIA SAMS (Producer)
Alicia is a series producer/director of ARAB AMERICAN STORIES, a 13-episode public television series for broadcast in 2012. She is also developing the feature film PEACE LIKE A RIVER, based on Leif Enger’s best-selling novel, at Warner Bros., and CATCH THE MOON, a comedy set in Gaza to be directed by Sameh Zoabi. She was producer/director (with Amy Rice) of the Emmy-Award winning film BY THE PEOPLE: THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA, a behind-the-scenes look at the journey of Barack Obama and his campaign staff that premiered on HBO in 2009. Also in 2009, Alicia was executive producer of Cherien Dabis’ award-winning debut feature AMREEKA. Among the independent documentaries she has produced are: TOOTS, GRATEFUL DAWG, and OFF THE MENU: THE LAST DAYS OF CHASEN’S.

Through his company Particle Productions, Philip has produced and directed dozens of short films about art and artists (including Bill Viola, Roxy Paine, and Beatriz Milhazes); performers, teachers and leaders — for Columbia University, James Cohan Gallery, the VIP Art Fair, Christie’s, PBS and others. He directed a feature film called B MOVIE, starring James Urbaniak and Missy Yager, and produced over 50 hip-hop music videos for renowned artists including Salt-n-Pepa, Kid ‘n Play, MC Lyte, Chubb Rock and Monie Love. He has an MFA in film from Columbia University and was a Fulbright Scholar in South America.

RICKY JAY: A Short Biography
While Ricky Jay has long been considered one of the world’s great sleight of hand artists, his career is further distinguished by the remarkable variety of his accomplishments as an author, actor, historian, and consultant.

His one man shows Ricky Jay & His 52 Assistants; Ricky Jay: On the Stem; and Ricky Jay: A Rogue’s Gallery, all directed by David Mamet, were award winning critical and commercial theatrical events.

As an actor Mr. Jay has been seen in David Mamet’s films: House of Games, Homicide, Things Change, Spanish Prisoner, State and Main, and Heist. He has appeared in many other movies including Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Last Days, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Prestige, Red Belt and The Great Buck Howard. On television he has hosted numerous programs and appeared regularly on the series Deadwood, The Unit, and Flash Forward.

His consulting company, Deceptive Practices, has supplied “Arcane Knowledge on a Need to Know Basis” for more than a score of films including Forrest Gump, The Illusionist, and Ocean’s Thirteen.

He is the author of Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women, and Jay’s Journal of Anomalies, both New York Times “Notable Books.” Among his other works are Dice: Deception, Fate and Rotten Luck; Extraordinary Exhibitions; and most recently Celebrations of Curious Characters. He has defined the terms of his profession for the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Cambridge Guide to American Theater.

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DECEPTIVE PRACTICE was mentioned in the Oct 8th New York Magazine Best of the Fest section.