There's More Than Meets the Eye with Brock Gill
- Laura MacCorkle Senior Editor for Fun
- 2003 5 May
Illusionist Brock Gill just might have something in common with Hasbro's line of popular Transformers vehicle-to-robot figures. Like the "more-than-meets-eye" toys, he's colorful, animated, and ever changing. But what sets Gill apart is his far superior ability to transform -- whether it be outwardly through tricks and stunts or inwardly in his ministry to thousands of lives he's encountered at his shows for the past six years.
Performing 200 dates a year, the self-taught illusionist finds that while he doesn't fit into the traditional "drama guy" or "preacher guy" category, his ministry is still effective in reaching teens in communities nationwide. Simple card tricks, sleight of hand, death-defying stunts ("The Water Coffin"), and even ping pong balls are used to capture attention and show young people that there's more to life than meets the eye.
Gill's newest outreach venture, "Freedom Experience (FX)", begins next week (May 12-14) at Chantilly High School in Centreville, Va. The three-day event will feature indie rock band Inhabited, Chaos on Wheels (BMX/Freestyle performers who mix high-flying bicycle stunts with personal testimonies), and the illusionist's own dramatic stunts, illusions, and message of the ultimate "freedom experience" through Christ.
Recently, in between road trips, this master of illusions spent some time answering the questions that will hopefully help us all to see that there's more than meets the eye with Brock Gill.
CROSSWALK.COM: When did you decide that you wanted to become an illusionist?
BROCK GILL: I was 22 years old and God just totally got all over me and called me to do it. I’m working in this saw mill asking God what does He want to do with my life, because I hated working there. But I knew He had a plan for me. And just through a lot of prayer, I just felt like God wanted me to go back to school, get my degree and do this type of ministry. At that point, I’d just started getting into magic tricks and that type of thing. As soon as I picked that up and started playing with it … I felt like God wanted me to do it as a ministry. He lead me to really pray a lot and do some fasting. And during that time of prayer and fasting, God built a foundation for this ministry.
I was back in college and the phone started ringing without me having to do anything or tell anyone that this is what I wanted to do. And God just worked it out to where I was able to begin traveling with this ministry. I kind of felt like Noah, you know, “just build a boat…” I was kind of like, “well, what’s a ‘boat?’” and “how am I going to explain this to everyone?”
CROSSWALK.COM: How did you learn your craft? Did you go through a special, secretive illusionist training program or did you just learn on your own?
BROCK GILL: I had no teachers or anything like that. Now, I’ve learned from reading books and things like that. Everything has been self-taught. The whole stage personality and that sort of thing came because I was under pressure. My very first magic show that I was supposed to do -- I really didn’t have very many tricks for it. I ordered a bunch of stuff and received it in the mail right before the first show. But I learned to do everything. Boy, I practiced and practiced and then when I got up there to do it, I realized we were supposed to say something about it. I hadn’t seen a magic show to know, and so I had to create the routines as I was onstage that first show. I did two or three shows the very first weekend, and I was developing the routine as I was going in front of a couple of hundred people.
CROSSWALK.COM: Your ministry is really geared toward teens. Do you think you would have responded to someone like you with "how'd he do that" illusions back when you were a teenager?
BROCK GILL: Definitely. I think because it’s different and because the message is relevant. I was one of those kids that was kind of hard to reach 'cause I’d seen a lot. I grew up in church; I’d heard it a lot. But one of the things I think I have going for me is with my own experience of how I was as a high school teenager. I have developed this ministry to be creative in ways to get people’s attention, but also, the message is not watered down. It’s straight up the truth and right off the bat without any sugar coating which is kind of an odd combination. I’ll do an illusion that will just have a great application or illustration that will just jump right into a very powerful, direct message. And that message is 99 percent of the time evangelistic, ‘cause what most of what we do is evangelism/outreach type stuff.
CROSSWALK.COM: You've got a couple of different shows in your bag of tricks. Which one is your favorite and why?
BROCK GILL: I think my favorite and the most effective is a thing that we call “The Freedom Experience.” What it is ... is a three-night crusade. I’ll bring a team in with me such as a band and maybe a pro-skater team/skateboard team and whomever it takes to make the event right in different cities. But we’ll come in as a team of ministers. We’ll work with the local churches and do a three-night crusade such as a Billy Graham/ Franklin Graham [crusade], but on a little different level of course. Instead of reaching Atlanta, we’ll do a smaller city, under 100, 000. We’ll work with all the local churches. The first night will be the band and then a special personality such as the skateboard team and myself doing illusions and speaking. We’ll do that three different nights, building each night.
What we do is we use the thing we call the “Water Coffin” as a publicity stunt for the last night that we’re there. We’re telling everybody the whole time that I’m going to get chained up with borrowed locks and chains. I’m going to be lowered into a coffin that’s full of water and locked up, and I’m going to try to escape out of it. We have windows cut in the coffin so they can see me inside. It’s an escape; it’s not a magic trick or an illusion they can see the entire time. We have people right there on site. I will do all of our big, elaborate illusions, as well as different types of slight of hand and just crazy type stuff -- interacting with the crowd. And I will end with one of my favorite stunts. Some people out in the audience blindfold me and tape a bag around my head, and I’ll ride out through the audience down to the back door on a motorcycle. So it’s a blindfolded motorcycle ride. It’s really exciting. I love motorcycles!
CROSSWALK.COM: There's another show that you perform that's a crowd pleaser called "The Lost Luggage Show." How does it work?
BROCK GILL: Well … it’s happened to me or to a lot of my friends who have lost luggage as they fly. I was real worried -- what if I showed up to an event and my luggage didn’t make it? Magicians rely on special props and apparatuses to create the illusions. What if I didn’t have anything? We decided to create a show that’s basically me coming off of an airplane with nothing. No luggage … nothing. I walk up on stage with no special suitcase and no special props and basically do an entire show that’s with nothing. And we’ve asked the audience to bring maybe certain things, such as a deck of cards or a spoon or a hundred feet of rope -- weird things like that or things that you would find every day around the house. And I do a show with things that they’ve brought. Now it’s not random; it’s specific things that I’ve asked them to bring. But it’s just turned out to be an incredible show, and I love doing it.
CROSSWALK.COM: Would you rattle off the short list of what equipment it takes for the “Grand Illusion Show"?
BROCK GILL: Well, we have one 18-wheeler that carries everything. We have a 36-foot trailer that we pull with a freight-liner tractor. Inside the trailer is a car, which is actually not used currently in the show. But that’s taking up part of the space. We have a motorcycle. And then we have the coffin and table that we use for “The Water Coffin.” We have sound equipment, a backdrop and then a ton of illusions, big props, and very big road cases. Two of us are usually on the truck, sometimes three. We pick up six to eight volunteers at each location. And then sometimes in addition we have technical people such as sound people, lighting, video crew -- depending on the size of crew and venue.
CROSSWALK.COM: A lot of people probably wouldn't categorize your ministry as "traditional ministry." Is there a place for what you do ... so that people will accept your gifts as "ministry"?
BROCK GILL: The battle that we have is that people want me to be an entertainment. They want to fit me into the entertainment box. And since I don’t fit in the entertainment box or the “drama guy” box or the “preacher guy” box -- I don’t really fit into any box. I’m having to create a new box. That’s been the biggest battle: trying to convince people that I’m not here to “entertain” your students, so don’t bring me in to do a fundraiser at your church to entertain all the folks. That’s totally not what I do -- even though what I do is entertaining. What I do is evangelism. I’m a creative evangelist. We call it “creative evangelism.”
People are so highly influenced and conditioned by Internet and TV and music and media that just taking a preacher and putting him on a stage and asking people to come and listen to him is not working. It’s not working very well, because a lot of people don’t want to come inside the doors of a church. We’ve given people a reason to hear the message with the illusion. We’ve taken it outside of the doors of the church, and we try to do it in high school auditoriums -- in neutral places such as civic centers and that type of thing to reach this culture where they are.
People come to it, when they normally wouldn’t come. And we see a ton of people get saved at the events. We see entire families in one night get saved. As much as 50 percent of the room or the auditorium or more at times will get out of their seat, go to the back to talk to a counselor and say they’ve given their lives to Jesus. It’s incredible to see young kids and senior citizens turn their lives over to Jesus all in one night. And what we have is an opportunity for people to use ... to get lost people out there so that they can hear the message. That’s how we fit in.
For more information on Brock Gill and Freedom Experience (FX), visit www.brockgill.com or www.freedomexperience.com.