If I had five words to describe this video, they would be:
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”.
That might seem weird, but it’ll make sense when I explain why in a moment. For now, let me share with you a little bit about what you’re about to see, and why this video is quite literally history-making.
Some time in late 2014, I received a call from a friend I hadn’t kept in contact with for about 8 years. She was a good old friend of mine, and naturally, I was both happy and surprised to receive a call from her.
It went something like this:
“Hey Huron! This is Gwen!”
“Whoa! It’s been awhile… What have you been up to?”
“I’m actually a film director now. I’ve been watching your Cardistry team over the past few years, and it’s amazing how far you guys have come and how far you guys are pushing the art. Basically, I’m thinking of doing a documentary on Virtuoso. It’ll be for the Discovery Channel. You interested?”
Needless to say, I told the guys about it, and we jumped at the opportunity to be the subjects of the first ever Cardistry documentary. But just as quickly as pre-production discussions commenced, the first big problem cropped up.
“So Huron, where is the Virtuoso deck made?”
“We work closely with the US Playing Card Company in Kentucky to develop and produce it.”
“Will you be going up soon?”
“Yeah, I’ll be heading up with the rest of the guys in April 2015 for an event we’re co-organizing in NYC called Cardistry Con, and we’ve scheduled a few days to drop by Kentucky, where USPC is.”
“Cool! A portion of the documentary will share about how you guys created the first and only deck designed for Cardistry, and we would love to film the Virtuoso deck coming off the press! Perhaps interview all the people you work with there too!”
And behold – there was an awkward moment of silence.
“Gwen. I don’t think that will be possible.”
“Huh why not?”
“The US Playing Card Company’s manufacturing facility is pretty much top secret. No one we know has ever been allowed to film there because they’re super sensitive about the proprietary technology and processes used. You might be allowed to look at certain areas, but everyone from David Buck to David Blaine has never been granted permission to film anything there.”
“Could you try asking USPC?”
“I could… But everyone who has asked before has been rejected.”
“Uh… just try?”
Well, as the saying goes: You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So a shot I took indeed.
Now here’s where I get back to the whole Charlie and the Chocolate Factory bit. According to Roald Dahl’s official synopsis, the famous story goes like this:
“Nobody has seen Willy Wonka – or inside his amazing chocolate factory – for years. When he announces plans to invite the winners of five Golden Tickets hidden inside the wrappers of chocolate bars to visit his factory, the whole world is after those tickets!”
As you might imagine, putting a Cardist in USPC is the equivalent of putting a kid in a chocolate factory (which is way bigger and better than a measly candy store). Plus the thought of filming the entire place so that all our followers could check it out too? That was just nuts.
In that story, there are five golden tickets to be given away.
In our story, there were no golden tickets to be given away.
And because there were none, we had to ask the USPC if they would be willing to produce 5 golden tickets and give them to the 5 of us at Virtuoso.
Actually, it was more than 5 tickets. They had to make 5 for us, 1 for our trusty cameraman Adam Kerchman… And a whole bunch more for the entire Discovery Channel crew – All so we could put together a video for your viewing pleasure.
And guess what? They made those golden tickets. But it wasn’t easy at all, not even for USPC.
Why? The reason is… for this video to happen, USPC had to stop everything they were doing, get approval on every level for all their high security areas to be filmed, sign clearance and release forms for every single person who would be captured on camera, and make a unique exception on their strict “no cameras” policy.
Long story short, a miracle happened.
Off the Press marks the very first time in USPC’s more than 125 years of producing playing cards that they’ve allowed anyone from our industry to film in their manufacturing facilities.
That, my friend, is why this video is history-making.
Now before you scuttle off to watch it (yeah I know you’ve probably already watched it), here’s something that might add to your enjoyment of the video.
While Off the Press is a short and simple video, it’s packed with lots of little gems which you’d likely miss as they zoom by. So here are some highlights that I thought you’d find interesting.
0:11 – This is the conference room where we had a round table discussion with the key figures of USPC’s custom division on the “future of Cardistry” and how we would more deeply collaborate with them to realize our vision for the art.
0:13 – Yes, we were forced to wear dorky protective glasses, steel toed slip-ons, and earplugs before were could enter the massive place. There’s a ton of machinery in there, which means that certain areas can get really noisy when cards are being made. See the two guys on the right? The guy in the cap is Joshua – the designer of the Virtuoso deck himself. The tall guy behind him is Jeremy, who is behind Virtuoso’s photography, cinematography, and lighting.
0:20 – This one take sequence was taken at USPC’s GP (general production) line. That’s Daren performing Waterwheel, Kevin performing Revolver, and me performing a spring and a flicker combo. This is where the cards get sealed and wrapped in cellophane after they are printed. The footage that follows shows this exact process happening.
0:50 – That’s a glimpse of one of USPC’s MASSIVE storage areas where some of the paper they make (yes they make their own paper) is kept.
0:56 – Here, you’ll catch a peek of Discovery Channel’s crew interviewing both myself (Huron), and Kevin Ho for their documentary. We were standing at a single row of their deck warehousing area where all their decks are kept. How many decks? It’s estimated that a million decks are printed at their factory each week, so you can do the math.
0:58 – This is a giant ream of paper (large enough to stand on) that’s about to begin its transformative journey into a deck of cards. What’s about to ensue is pretty crazy. Imagine a train track for paper that zooms around and across the length of multiple football fields, even streaming over your head while being printed. It’s like a city of paper that’s working together to produce countless decks of cards. A fitting word would be “epic”. You’ll have to watch our Discovery Channel documentary to have a slightly better glimpse of all this.
1:04 – That spinning ream on the left will be printed on, sliced into large “uncut sheets”, then punched into 56 cards each. On the right of the screen you’ll have a tiny glimpse of how far the factory extends. And really, if you’ve seen it for yourself, you’ll know that that’s just a fraction of the entire facility.
1:06 – Here’s a clearer view of what a single row of the warehouse looks like.
1:08 That’s Daren performing one of his signature cuts, Squeeze followed by a short combo with V-slide. If you look at the background as the camera pans, you’ll have a slightly clearer idea of the expanse of the warehouse.
1:13 That’s Kevin doing a super smooth combo of Lavender Lapdance and Hotshot.
1:20 That’s yours truly performing a quick little combo that ends with Flicker Shot.
1:28 That’s Daren again performing Tornado VBH. Yeah, he’s fast.
1:37 This is a wooden deck holder designed to hold cards that have yet to be placed inside their tuck cases. Here, you’ll see how a uber skilled worker transfers a tower of fresh Virtuoso decks to be packed. It doesn’t just look impossible, but also gives you a sense of USPC’s soulful blend of proprietary technology and charming old traditional card-making methods… Which we absolutely adore.
1:41 Here’s all of us after a long day of work, wrapping up with a photo with some of the incredible hardworking people at USPC who make the Virtuoso deck a reality. It was such an honor to meet some of the people who craft the very deck that our industry considers to be the very best in the world.
So this concludes a little video that gives you a glimpse of what goes on behind-the-scenes to produce the Virtuoso deck; the first and only deck truly designed for Cardistry.
We know it’s short, and that you might be craving for more footage, but it was ultimately a game of give-and-take with Discovery Channel’s crew as the clock was ticking and both cameramen needed the space to capture the footage they wanted.
While we couldn’t squeeze the thousands of Cardists from our global community into the USPC’s “chocolate factory”, we hope you felt like you received a little golden ticket of your own, and enjoyed this taste of how the best chocolate in the world is crafted.
First of all, a huge THANK YOU to everyone at USPC who made this possible. We understand the significance of this video, and we deeply appreciate everything you guys did to make it possible.
We would like to thank Anamika, the awesome lady in charge of our account at USPC at the time, who has gone the extra mile for us since day one. Anamika, thank you so much for always treating us like VIPs, even before the Virtuoso deck was sold or made its mark in the playing card industry. You’ve celebrated our every victory with us, and we thank you for always rooting for us even though we’re really just a small team of five guys. Thank you so much for going through all the trouble to make this video possible for us. We know it was a ton of work on your part, and we just want to say thank you! Thank you so much for taking care of us not just as clients, but as friends.
A huge thank you to Bill, the head of USPC’s custom division, who took great care of us as well, and brought us for some pretty amazing meals in Kentucky. Thank you so much for your incredible support for us, and for the fantastic discussions we had. We most definitely look forward to collaborating with you on the future of Cardistry, and we’re more excited than ever for all our projects coming up.
We’re also grateful to Nikki, who we got to meet for the first time during our trip to the USPC, and has been a wonderful help to us since the SS15 Virtuoso deck launched. And of course, we would like to thank all the other brilliant people that we got to meet and chat with over at USPC. You guys are amazing at what you do, and we thank you for supporting everything we do, for welcoming us so warmly, and treating us with such immense hospitality.
To the director of our Discovery Channel documentary, Gwen, thank you! It was an honor to work with you to create the very first Cardistry documentary in the world. It’s a milestone for our art form, and we’re so thankful to have had the opportunity to showcase it. Thank you so much for being so patient with us, and for enduring all of our silly quirks over a period of months. It was really fun working with you on this project, and if not for you, we’d never have dreamed of asking USPC if we could film in their facility. Thank you for believing in us, and for being such a key factor in all of this. You seriously rock.
Last but not least, we’d like to say thank you to Adam Kerchman who took time out of his busy schedule to film this awesome video for us. Cheers dude. It was a ton of fun hanging out with you in Kentucky and NYC, and super surreal to finally meet you after all these year of chatting online.
“Off the Press”
Featuring: Virtuoso – Huron Low, Kevin Ho, Daren Yeow, Joshua Tan, Jeremy Tan
Cardistry performed by: Huron Low, Kevin Ho, Daren Yeow
Filmed by: Adam Kerchman
Edited by: Daren Yeow
Music by: Two Fingers – “Better Get That (Instrumental)”