Director Luke Korem is no stranger to sleight of hand magic. Growing up in Dallas, Texas, Korem’s father was a professional magician in the 1980’s, which influenced Korem to performed magic himself until he was a teenager. It was also through his father that Korem was introduced to Richard Turner, one of the world’s greatest card magicians. Turner just also happens to be blind.
From conception to completion, the documentary Dealt was a three and a half year process. Korem described the experience as “being at the right place at the right time.” The director revealed that hearing Turner’s story reminded him of Tim Burton’s 2003 film, Big Fish. “Everything Richard would tell me just sounded like a tall tale. I mean, the fact that he is the world’s greatest card magician/card mechanic, yet he’s blind, in itself is just like, yeah right… you know that can’t be true.”
When asked about any challenges he faced when making the film, Korem replied, “Richard had two other production companies wanting to make a film about him at the same time.” After Richard showed a friend Korem’s first film, Lord Montagu from 2013, he said ‘hey these guys are good.’ Then the famous magician noted to Korem, “The fact that you grew up in magic, you’re a good filmmaker according to my friend, and you’re in Texas, I’m gonna go with you.”
“I wanted to find a way to really make the audience feel the artistry of what he does with cards,” revealed the director. This is what inspired Korem and his director of photography, Jacob Hamilton, to shoot the dazzling opening title sequence, using macro lenses in order to really get an up close and personal look at Turner’s craft. “Richard’s personality is like the wild, rock and roll kind of guy, so our editor (Derek Boonstra), actually came up with the idea to use the White Stripes’ song, ‘Hello Operator,’ for the opening titles.” After showing it to White, Korem related, “Thankfully, Jack White watched the opening credits then gave his approval.”
Turner doesn’t consider himself a blind man, and even takes it as an insult to be referred to as such, saying, “What does that have to do with anything? I’m just Richard Turner. You can just introduce me as that.” The documentary follows the emotional journey of Turner through a big transition in his life when his son Asa Spades Turner goes off to college. When asked how the story unfolded, Korem responded, “I think that it was a chapter in his life where things were changing.”
“I actually thought the film was going to be different, more of a biopic,” confessed Korem, while reflecting on the time he spent on the production. “There was just a natural evolution happening – a change that was occurring in Turner’s life and I thought it was just really important that we just keep filming, even though we didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Dealt opened in New York on October 20th and in Los Angeles October 27th. It is also currently available on iTunes.